Hackathons are not a new concept at any startup. This marathon day spent finding new ways to solve existing problems or create innovations are also not a new concept at Jana. Every quarter, we hold themed hackathons where Jana team members pitch their ideas to their teammates, recruit help, and execute on a project in 24 hours. Typically, hackathon themes tend to lend themselves better to engineering projects. But this quarter, we wanted to get all team members involved in our quarterly hackathon tradition, regardless of job title.
John Fertitta, Senior Software Engineer, hosted the hackathon and chose our theme: Culture Hacks.
“I decided on the culture hacks theme because I wanted everyone, not just engineers, to feel like they could get involved and make something everyone could benefit from.”
Hackathon day begins team members pitching their project ideas to the rest of the company in an effort to get others to join in and help out. But this quarter, we wanted to make the pitches a little more interesting. We recruited our own Mark, Damon, Barbara, and Mr. Wonderful — four Jana “Sharks” to act as the investors for our own version of the Shark Tank.
Everyone interested in participating pitched their ideas to the Sharks, who each had $1,000 to fund projects of their choosing. The morning got off to a swift start, with Shark Christian investing all his funds into one idea. Shark Katie, Shark Craig, and Shark Brandon were a little more selective about how they invested their money. As the morning went on, other great ideas received funding and the teams got to work. All $4,000 was allocated to projects.
Hackathon: The results
The next day, each project team presented their work to the entire company and explained how they think their project would improve or strengthen Jana’s company culture. Some outcomes of the culture hackathon include:
“It’s better than coffee.” A daily, short workout break for everyone in the entire office, to get them moving during the afternoon slump and help combat stress.
Jana’s mindfulness program. A meditation program which designated our previously rarely-used secret meeting room as a meditation room.
Hustle stats. Like the NBA’s measure of a player’s overall effectiveness on both the offense and defense, hustle stats at Jana would recognize those team members who are contributing to success, even in little ways, not just those team members who may be more vocal or attract the attention of others.
New microphones. Seems simple enough, but higher quality microphones make it easier for our remote employees to hear everyone at large team meetings, improving the experience for everyone.
A new way to receive test phone numbers. Testing our international app here in the Boston office is one of our largest challenges. Pulling an international phone number from a massive spreadsheet is a pain, so one team created a service that easily allocates a phone number from any country for the purpose of testing our mCent app in the office.
Video games. No one likes playing the same video games over and over again. The team took a company-wide poll to understand everyone’s needs around video games, their interests, and purchased some new games for everyone to enjoy as a break from work.
Gratitude phone booth. Similar to the hustle stats, the gratitude phone booth takes advantage of an old phone booth that we rarely use as a method for sharing appreciation for a colleague's work or help on a project.
Own it and get stuff done
While some of these culture hacks are more related to having fun than benefiting the larger company culture, at Jana, we work hard to instill our four core values in all of the work that we do; get stuff done, own it, measure it, and have fun.
“Overall, I think the hackathon went great. A lot of people participated in their first ever hackathon, some old traditions were revitalized, and we even created a few new ones,” John explained.
The best part about this quarter’s hackathon was that every team embodied these four values while working on their projects.
The phone numbers service project certainly owned a problem we had internally.
The hustle stats team put a lot of thought into deciding which aspects of someone’s work would be measured and calculated to form a hustle stat at Jana.
The mindfulness project team had an idea and got it done — within 24 hours, we had a beautiful and peaceful mindfulness room where our employees can go and destress.
And of course, video games are super fun.
Our company culture is owned by every employee, and it's every employee’s job to make sure we live into that culture.
Does Jana seem like a place where you want to get stuff done, own it, measure it, and have fun? We're hiring!