Alfa’s Hackathon: All About Teamwork and Problem Solving
Each year, Alfa holds a company-wide Hackathon which brings teams together and challenges everyone to think outside the box and get some great ideas really growing. Here’s the lowdown on the most recent event, held in September.
A time for all to work on something new, everyone in the company is invited to the Hackathon. We’ve seen some incredibly useful, effective and time-saving solutions come out of previous Hackathons, many of which are now part and parcel of our everyday life.
Prizes are up for grabs, with teams competing for the best new idea, the most efficient and creative way to do something, or the most novel elimination of something we just don’t want in our lives anymore!
Each team delivers a two-minute presentation, which can be in the form of a demonstration, a proof of concept, or a narrative which sets out the context of the problem and how the idea conquers it. Everyone then votes for the winners in various categories. The event also weaves in some valuable social time. Pizza really seems to fuel innovation at Alfa!
We took some time out from hacking to grill a few of the attendees on what the Hackathon experience meant for them. Brittany Rea (Dallas, US), Ben Trotter and Charles Hilton (both London, UK) all joined Alfa in 2021 via the graduate program.
What were your expectations of Alfa’s Hackathon event?
Ben: As a new joiner I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I could sense the excitement amongst the other Alfa employees. Everyone was discussing and talking about creative and innovative ideas that they had come up with and were trying to form teams around these ideas. The warm-up sessions really got everyone in the mood and ready to collaborate on new ideas.
Brittany: In college, I remember friends staying up all night coding in the library for Computer Science Hackathons and it looked like loads of fun. I thought it was so awesome that Alfa does something similar and encourages their employees to work on new functions in Alfa or various passion projects.
How did you find and decide on your activities?
Brittany: I spoke with some of the new joiners in my intake about finding a team a few of us could work together on. Having gone our separate ways after training, it was nice to be able to work together again. We thought our perspective, as we had just joined, would be useful so we could make some really meaningful improvements to a key internal resource.
Ben: Our group was made up of graduates who had recently joined Alfa. We brainstormed the different issues or problems that we face, and we found that we had little knowledge of the surrounding area and its places to eat. Therefore, we decided to build a resource that catalogues each lunch spot around the office, providing useful info and allowing employees to leave ratings and reviews.
Were you able to get something meaningful done?
Brittany: I think so! We had the most hilarious presentation in the world thanks to one team member, and we think the project we worked on could turn into something super useful, for both existing and future Alfa people.
Ben: Yes - despite the short time available, we managed to work on a project that will hopefully benefit a lot of people at the company. This really motivated us to keep working on the project to get it delivered on time. Also, the competitive nature of the Hackathon encouraged us to make something that would stand out.
How important was collaboration to your participation?
Charles: Collaboration is a key element of the Hackathon. For our project we needed the help and knowledge of the wider Alfa community, and it was great to see such enthusiasm from the rest of the company in their lunch recommendations!
Brittany: Wider collaboration was important to our project. We met up and spoke frequently, each volunteering for tasks. We also worked in smaller groups on some of those pieces. Everyone’s opinions and ideas were welcome.
What parts were the most fun or rewarding?
Brittany: It was super great meeting and working with new people. Everyone at Alfa is so unbelievably friendly. It’s also fun to have a fast deadline and to work on something different from the day-to-day.
Charles: The Hackathon was great fun, and it was great to see our idea so widely applauded. The other presentations were fun and exciting to watch and really showcased the talent and innovative people at Alfa. As a group of new joiners it was really fun to work and bond with the other graduates.
Brittany: Watching the other project presentations gave so much insight into the culture of Alfa. I was so impressed by the amount people managed to get done in such a short amount of time. You could see how excited everyone was to see some new capabilities people created to make work easier or to make Alfa better.
What does the Hackathon mean to you and Alfa?
Charles: The Hackathon is integral to the innovative culture at Alfa. Having only been with the company for two weeks, the lead-up and the whole Hackathon experience really embodied Alfa’s encouraging and supportive values.
Brittany: To me, the Hackathon shows that Alfa cares about its employees and is willing to invest in their ideas. It’s really nice to know that everyone is so valued.
Charles: As recent joiners with limited technical ability, we were encouraged to participate, and felt valued and supported from the outset. It was a great start to our careers as we won our category - the Starry Blue Sky!