Let’s hack this sh*t

Proudly written by Wannes Rosiers — Area Manager Data @ DPG Media

At DPG Media, we have divided our IT department into areas. In an area, multiple teams are working together on one platform or product. One of those areas is brand new, as they are focusing on a brand new product and product proposition. At DPG Media, we think: A new team asks for:

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Although we do not want to tell too much about the new product, it’s worth mentioning that it is a customer-facing product (web and app) including some machine learning magic. Hence the team has a wide variety of profiles, including machine learning engineers, back-end developers, and front-end experts.

As it is really an early stage for the team and the product, we decided to hold a hackathon, which brings the opportunity to grow the band with our future product and form a strong team. As a goal, we have set: “Let’s build that one cool feature that we do not already have on our roadmap.”

Remote hackathon, you say?

Although at DPG Media IT, a hackathon is not unknown — remember ShipIT — a remote hackathon is something different. So how did we do this?

  • Create mingled teams: yes, we had machine learning engineers, back-enders, and front-enders in every team.
  • Joint kick-off: remind the contestants of our goal and that the jury will only look at the bribe (just kidding).
  • Guide the teams to collaboration tools: Miro, Jamboard, Figma, screen.so
  • Remind the teams they have admin rights on their cloud account and are free to use which technology they use.
  • Ideation phase: Everyone can pitch three ideas to the jury to get feedback on whether they are thinking in the right direction.
  • Build, build, build!
  • Convince the jury of your implementation and coolness, of course.
  • The grand finale: appointing the winner.

Both the product and the hackathon organization have full support in all layers at DPG Media, which is shown by the fact that the jury consisted of someone of the BENE direction, the head of the designing team, and a marketing expert. Their presence — even twice — at this event, honest feedback, and warm words gave a boost to the team's morale. Of course, it’s nice to see that they were genuinely impressed by the team's ideas and implementations.

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Please show me some results!

Unfortunately, we can not show the results right now, if you want to see them, I advise you to join our team, as we are still looking for developers:

But to give you some ideas on what we did:

  • The first team translated a concept of a global company towards our product, suddenly enabling opportunities to grow a network within our product.
  • The second team worked on a concrete problem statement, yet expanding the solution to machine learning's ethical usage.
  • The third team found a feature that could become the V0.1 of the product—suddenly enabling us to go live within weeks instead of focusing on a date later in 2021.

All solutions were demonstrable: where the first one allowed for a user experience in Figma, both the second and third picked in on a production environment. The last feature didn’t include any mocked component: in just one and a half days: they have built something which could be shipped to production! This is how fast it can go at DPG Media.

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And the winner is…

We didn’t give the jury much more guidance than our own goal, “build something cool.” They were very impressed with the ideas and implementation. Seeing stuff on live data was not what they expected. We even received the feedback:

As everything was so close to each other, the jury decided to appoint the winner based on what can really fasten up our development. Therefore the winner is Team 3! Big applause to Fabian Guevara, Joris Van Gasteren, Arthur Grava, Berk Gökden, and Wannes Rosiers. Mostly to the first four, they managed to win, even with the area manager in their team.

As closing words, let’s share a message from a jury member afterward:

Such positive feedback came from the team as well! As mentioned before, we are still looking for back-end and Android developers, so if you would like to join such a cool team and build such a cool product: you know where to find us!

We may look like a media group, but we are really a tech company. We are the tech team behind the digital products of all DPG Media’s brands and internal apps!

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