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The G-Research Engineering Hackathon

The G-Research Engineering Hackathon

8 November 2022
  • Software Engineering

Last month, G-Research hosted its first ever internal Engineering Hackathon, designed to promote innovation and collaboration across our Engineering function.

Tom Perry, Data Engineering Lead at G-Research, talks us through the idea behind the Hackathon, how we got it off the ground, as well as the winning entries.

Photograph of participants being briefed at the G-Research Engineering Hackathon

Our first Engineering Hackathon has been in the pipeline for a while and it finally came to fruition last month.

When we first came up with the idea, we had several goals in mind, the main ones being to:

  • Promote innovation throughout the organisation and give the team a clearly-defined opportunity to be creative and forward-thinking
  • Allow collaboration across functions to get to know and work with people that you might not normally
  • Solve some tough problems – with no distractions – that have the potential to be really impactful
  • Have some fun!

Participants in the Hackathon

With those goals set, then it was just a case of getting the idea off the ground…This meant:

  • Gauging interest across the business – is it a good use of time? Do we have support? Would people show up?
    • This proved to be really simple as there was great level of enthusiasm from the whole team
  • Bringing together a small organising group
    • We were lucky to have some passionate volunteers come forward from our Engineering function
    • We then started coordinating with a number of teams including Facilities, Events, Internal Communications and Marketing, who helped bring all the moving parts together
  • Crowdsourcing tough problems to solve from Engineers
    • We ended up with 39 diverse and interesting ideas being submitted, covering a wide range of business challenges
  • Encouraging enough people to sign up and join a team to try and solve these tough problems
    • We ended up with 45 people forming 12 teams, with more people joining on the day to hack and have fun

On the day

In total, 53 engineers, spread across 12 different teams, joined us to work through our shortlist of 12 business challenges, including:

  • Good search across G-Research infrastructure
  • URL shorteners and shortcuts
  • Acronym expander
  • App to support squad health
  • Pandas, Spark and SQL simplification
  • Predicting coffee queues and a Just Eat (we get £15 a day to spend on lunch) buddy

Photograph of two participants sat at laptops as part of the G-Research Engineering Hackathon

Over the course of the next 10 hours, our engineers hacked, hacked and hacked some more, until all 12 teams were ready to pitch to our judges, who were looking for:

  • Most innovative idea
  • Best solution to a problem
  • Most impactful on our business
  • Most fun presentation

The winning idea came from GR-yaml-ins, who presented a brilliant simplification of our yaml configurations, just pipping Mikey B’s Magic Beans (no, I’m not sure why either) and Team WAT, who also focused on simplification of existing processes and internal navigation.

Despite the quality of the entry from our winning team, the aim of the day wasn’t just to get oven-ready solutions we could roll out across the business, it was also to encourage ideation and innovation, and communication and collaboration among our brilliant engineers.

What we saw from the presentations to judges demonstrated that we met those aims, which means we’ll be back to the organising board to get our next Hackathon lined-up, right after we’ve put some of the solutions into production!

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