For one week each December, all of us at Sprout take a break from our usual jobs and take part in Hack Week. During this week, we try our hands at new skills; we brush up on old ones; we make new friends and new discoveries. We rediscover what it’s like to have no boundaries but time and our own ingenuity. We embody a core Sprout value: We stay scrappy.
We have a philosophy at Sprout that given the right circumstances, brilliant people will do brilliant things. That’s exactly what we’re out to capture during Sprout Hack Week. We place incredible people on projects of their own choosing, then stand back to see what their passion bears after seven days.
As one of the organizers I may be a bit biased, but Hack Week 2016 was a smashing success. This year we gathered nearly 100 project suggestions ranging from product ideas for Sprout and Bambu, to a new approach to company-wide community service, to ways to make our office and events even more fun. In 2015, some of our projects included initial versions of Landscape, a free social media image resizing tool, Twitter Suggested Replies using machine learning and a Slack integration for Bambu, our employee advocacy platform.
In the end the Hack Week Committee narrowed down the projects to 27 finalists. All employees were then invited to vote for their top three choices, giving us a clear picture of exactly which projects had the most interest. As a result we were able to staff 17 projects with teams ranging from eight to 16 employees and from diverse departments across the company.
Along the way we did hit one challenge: Sprout was set to move our entire office to another floor on the final day of Hack Week. It’s been tradition to cap off Hack Week with an afternoon of presentations from each team as a way to celebrate all we’ve accomplished in such a short time. On top of the move we also had to consider the number of teams presenting. In 2015 we had 13 Hack Week teams who gave three full hours of presentations. With even more teams this year, we wanted to create a more interactive and efficient way for people to explore all of this year’s projects.
Around this time a wise man and organizer of Hack Week 2015, Arlo Guthrie, offered the perfect solution. What if employees could explore the new office while learning about Hack Week projects? Just like that, the Hack Week Science Fair was born. Teams were assigned locations throughout the new digs to set-up poster boards, present slide decks, even hold workshops.
The projects were absolutely deserving of the grand new space. One team reenvisioned our internal wiki; another built a Slack bot to assist our sales team; and my personal favorite team developed a community to openly discuss and promote diversity and inclusion within Sprout and the greater tech community.
So what happens to all of these projects now that Hack Week has come and gone? Roadmaps are being updated; code is being prepared for production; and what were once proposals are being transformed into year-long initiatives.
It’s part of Sprout’s culture to be growing constantly as a company and as individuals. As any engineer can tell you, stagnation can be a slow demise. Being able to switch gears entirely and work on something different—whether you’re a developer working on a marketing strategy or an Account Executive learning how to code—fosters creativity and innovation. It inspires us all to constantly push our boundaries, to always be scrappy and to achieve more in the coming year.
Want to work alongside our amazing team and be a part of our next Hack Week? Take a look at our current openings.