Hack Week: Nurturing Innovation at Weebly

There are two characteristics unique to technology professionals who write code for a living:

  1. They have a strong passion to innovate, create, and solve problems which is what attracted them to the profession (software, hardware, ops, support, QA, etc…)
  2. Successful technology companies want to retain their talent

I challenge you to ask one or more members of your technical team(s), “What is the biggest obstacle to you innovating for our [your] company?”.

You’ll likely receive answers relating to one or more of the following:

  • Time / Priority
  • Bandwidth / Workload
  • Autonomy / Freedom
  • Culture / Propriety

Weebly created a unique solution to remove these blockers of innovation and encourages our staff to step into the realm of possibility, we call it “Hack Week”.

Man-standing-in-front-of-projector

Hack Week at Weebly is a bi-annual event held during times of the year which are least impactful to our customers and business operations. Hack Week enables our team members to explore, develop, and present new solutions and ideas for Weebly, its customers, and developers.

We completed our most recent Hack Week on December 7th 2017, and I was granted the opportunity to help with the event.

In the remainder of this post, I will share the key aspects of Hack Week, some of our success stories, and lessons learned in the hopes of helping you while exploring how to nourish your technologist’s passion for innovation in your company!

Key Aspects of the Weebly’s December 2017 Hack Week

  • 5 days in length
  • Sprints were lightened to accommodate
  • Work is done during normal business hours
  • Teams can be any size (recommend five person max)
  • Projects can address any subject
  • Participation is optional

We experienced solid participation with over 23% of all Weebly employees across six (6) different departments who submitted twenty-two (22) different projects on Demo Day!

Each iteration of Hack Week makes an attempt to improve upon the previous event. In the most recent Hack Week event, we organized projects into two main categories with cash prizes for the winning teams (1st, 2nd, 3rd places):

  • Product-Specific Projects (customer-facing, and/or related to our products and services)
  • Non-Product Projects (internal, operations, creative, or discovery focused)

Additionally, we offered three recognition-only awards (bragging rights, but no cash prizes):

  • Best in Show
  • Best Customer Project
  • Founder’s Award

Our Success Stories

The scope of Hack Week projects was to focus upon making Weebly better for employees, customers, partners, and developers.

About half of the projects submitted were developed for internal only use as means to improve efficiency or resolve technical, business, or daily-work challenges:

  • Increasing adoption of new technical resources with builders and tools
  • Decreasing on-boarding time for technical new hires
  • Improving interoffice engagement
  • Automating development tasks to reduce GTM release time
  • Increasing understanding of our cafeteria demand and consumption

The remaining half of projects submitted were developed for our customers, partners, and developers and ways to improve their lives:

One of the metrics used while evaluating projects was the team’s estimate for the amount of time/effort required to ship their project to production.

We are announcing one of those projects today, the new Node Weebly CLI (more on this in a separate blog post later). We are working to get the remaining projects into our development/workflow pipelines as soon as possible.

Lessons Learned

Over the past four (4) years working as a developer relations team member, I have participated in nearly fifty (50) hackathons, but Hack Week at Weebly is something altogether different and I learned a lot from the experience. There are plenty of good resources online about how to hold a hackathon, but not so for a week-long event held during normal business hours.

  1. Hack Week is NOT a normal hackathon
  • No late nights
  • Not ‘regular’ work, but not free time either
  • Emphasis on building value
  1. Keep the rules simple
  • You have to enforce any rules you add
  • Participants regulate themselves (mostly)
  1. Participating and simultaneously helping coordinate the event are ill-advised
  • Don’t do both, you’ll fail at one or both
  1. Provide ample time between submissions and demos/judging
  • Use this time to improve the Demo Day event quality and preparedness
  1. Keep judging simple
  • Don’t confuse your audience/judges with complex criteria
  • Encourage everyone to participate in judging
  • We could benefit from simplifying further even
  • Automate as much of the judging as possible
  • Be impartial

If you’d like to know more about Hack Week, feel free to DM me on social media or via email.

The Winners!

Let’s close out this blog post by giving credit to our winning teams and a little information about their projects!

Best in Show Award - The Dream Team

A video documentary project highlighting the importance of the pursuit of employee happiness and interconnectivity at Weebly. Our automation touch points make us feel connected to our office, as it becomes a responsive environment. By diving into the real office woes, our team has gained new insight into our coworkers, and a new appreciation for those that make our office better in other ways.

Group-picture-of-prize-winners-with-pug

  • Matt DeClaire
  • George Sukara
  • Kelly Fitch (and Otis, the official Weebly office mascot)
  • David Pearson
  • Yeuh-Lin Chung

Founder’s Award (tie) - Weebly Assist & Weebly TV

Weebly Assist is your small business digital assistant that you can talk or type to. Ask Weebly Assist "How's my business doing?" to get an update on sales and site traffic. Want to know if you have anything you need to act on, but you're busy driving, no worries, just speak to Weebly Assist and ask "Do I have any orders I need to ship?".

WeeblyTV is a dashboard for the most important insights to your small business – on the biggest screen you have, your TV. Graphs of your store's traffic, sales, and marketing metrics are viewable in a gallery, or in full-screen, where a swipe left or right explores each day. If you pick a few favorite insights, they'll be automatically rotated with a quick tap of the "Play Favorites" button. Sit back, and watch your business grow.

Group-picture-of-prize-winners-in-Front-of-Weebly-Sign

  • Eddie Kaiger (Weebly Assist)
  • Steve Uffelman (Weebly Assist)
  • Piyush Agarwal (WeeblyTV)
  • Lokesh Dhakar (WeeblyTV)

Best Customer Project Award - Team DollaBill$ (no team photo available)

Team DollaBill$ completed work on a feature within Weebly’s new internal application used by our Customer Service Advocates (CSA). The feature we developed replicates the manual process our CSAs currently perform and automates that process to identify opportunities we can offer our customers to bring their business one step closer to success!

  • Brad Shaffer
  • Matt Porter
  • Michelle Sastri
  • Bo Han
  • Kris Krost
  • Ashley Klein

Non-Product Project Prize Winners

1st Place - The Dream Team (photo, team members, and description above)

2nd Place - Project Pluto

We created a visual user interface that allows any employee to quickly build a fully functional prototype with our internal front end framework and design system, Orbit. Our prototype builder generates the code needed to create the prototype without having to write any code, and is always synced with the latest version of Orbit's components. Our project's goal was to reduce prototype, development, and design time with an easy to use, visual UI.

Woman-on-microphone

  • Matthew Mewton
  • Patrick Khensovan
  • Linnea Watson
  • Michael Bonds

3rd Place - Master Chefs

The Master Chef team built a code playground that would make it easier to test, share, and save recipes leveraging Weebly's internal framework and component library: Orbit. The primary goal with the project was to help our Weebly squads build quick prototypes for our product and share solutions so everyone can learn from each other and build a better product for our customers.

Group-picture-of-prize-winners

  • Landon Durnan
  • Elizabeth So
  • Zechariah Campbell
  • Erik Pukinskis

Product Project Prize Winners

1st Place - Weebly Assist (photo and description above)

  • Piyush
  • Lokesh

2nd Place - Cheers (no photo available)
We created a project to make our our customers look like heroes by enabling them to send cheerful messages to their users celebrating achievement milestones!

  • Enrique Perez
  • Ethan Kalm
  • Nick Masters
  • Kolbe Bowring
  • Alex Auger

3rd Place - MiniCheckout API
Team members have asked for their project/faces to remain private

  • Yerkebulan Tuliberganov
  • Norman Chou