Appfire hackathon brings together fully distributed team members for friendly competition

Last month, members of the Appfire family gathered virtually across eight countries for an awards ceremony recognizing the innovations of participating teams in our first fully remote internal company hackathon. The event was an opportunity to share solutions the teams had worked on since July, and a chance for all of Appfire to celebrate collaboration across the globe.

With 13 brand acquisitions and dozens of new hires since the start of 2020, the Appfire family has grown exponentially in the last few years. The recent internal hackathon brought our people together across departments and geographies to forge connections and have some fun leading up to Atlassian’s annual hackathon, Codegeist 2021.

Harnessing talents and building networks

Upon announcing Appfire’s hackathon in July — and with encouragement and organization from Senior Vice President of Engineering Jeff Pierce and Global Head of Events Sharon Tonin — teams formed and ideas took shape across departments and timezones. Interested participants used Atlassian tools to connect and map out initial ideas. App plans were shared in a Confluence page, and a dedicated hackathon channel formed in Slack. Over the next few weeks, participants volunteered to join teams and concepts materialized. From there, teams utilized other Confluence pages to scope out the work, and used Jira to track tasks and progress. Private Slack channels were started by individual teams for asynchronous work, and many teams held synchronous stand-up meetings via Zoom during timezone overlaps. 

The hackathon brought together Appfire’s engineers, product managers, cloud architects, application analysts, and leaders from Marketing, Product Management, Support Engineering, and R&D — with participants and judges joining from Hyderabad, India; Zurich, Switzerland; Warsaw, Poland; Toronto, Ontario; and across the United States, including Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Florida, Kentucky, and Massachusetts.

“Appfire provides opportunities that challenge us to be creative and build stronger connections with our teammates around the world!”

Kat Sandin, Director of Product Marketing, Appfire

The goal: Form teams that include members from across at least two locations and departments in order to expand everyone’s Appfire network and improve our business and technical skills. Teams also used the hackathon as an opportunity to learn more about Forge — Atlassian’s new app development platform — and built apps using Atlassian’s Codegeist guidelines. Submissions had to address a need within DevOps teams for better collaboration, automation, and intelligent workflows; address a need within IT service management teams to deliver work faster and collaborate effortlessly; or address a need to create, collaborate, and organize work across teams in one place.

“With Appfire’s rapid rate of growth, many new team members had joined and we felt that a company-wide event such as this would be a great time for us to get to know each other better and perhaps spark some tangible ideas,” said Jeff. “If a participant wasn’t a developer, they were encouraged to help drive their team and its requirements for building something great or create demo videos and other collateral to help tell the story of their project and product. Everyone had a role to play.” 

And the winners are…

Entries were judged based on team diversity and how well teams worked together remotely, creativity and originality of ideas, execution of ideas, and how well the solutions addressed a need among Atlassian users.

“We [participated] in this hackathon as a learning opportunity… Winning first place was a complete surprise to the team…”

Sunita Patro, Product Engineering Manager, Appfire

First place went to Message from Confluence — an idea from Product Engineering Manager Sunita Patro — which focuses on a quick and simple way to start a Slack conversation and share content with team members right from Confluence. 

“This simple idea — sending a piece of content from a Confluence page to someone on Slack — was born from my day-to-day activities,” explained Sunita. “My first message to my team was clear: We are participating in this hackathon as a learning opportunity. All of us were new to the Forge framework and new to Slack and Confluence integration. After a few initial hiccups, our idea took shape. In addition to the work of our engineers, the presentation developed by our Product Marketing team member was the cherry on top. She added so much value to what we built. This was a complete team effort. Winning first place was a complete surprise to the team, but we appreciated that the judges and our colleagues saw the value and potential in my idea. Appfire should organize and encourage this kind of event every year!”

Other entries included Smart Standups for Jira, a tool to make standup time more efficient and meaningful with automated issue changelogs; Smart Views Plus, which expanded on an idea from last year’s hackathon to help teams more quickly identify solutions to incoming support requests; SMS Notification for Jira, a tool for users who want to receive critical updates on particular issues; and Arthur, a conversational bot that can help users anticipate and perform administrative activities in Jira and Confluence.

“Side awards” were also bestowed, incorporating several of Appfire’s core values. Among them were the Build the flame award — for which the whole company had a chance to vote — which emphasizes blazing a trail in building great things, and the Make it, and make it matter award, which speaks to understanding our customers’ needs to help shape how we develop our products.

“The flexibility of our team combined with all the tools and resources for remote work that we have here at Appfire made collaboration across timezones work really well.”

Kat Sandin, Director of Product Marketing, Appfire

Besides the glory — and newfound connections forged on the various teams — the top three teams each selected a worthy cause for which donations were made by Appfire. They selected Good Samaritans India, EOS International, and a Milaap fundraiser for a kidney transplant candidate in Hyderabad.

A few teams also opted to submit their apps to Atlassian’s Codegeist, and those entries can be viewed here: Message for Confluence, Smart Standups for Jira, and SMS Notification for Jira

Building lasting connections

“Participating in the hackathon with teammates from Hyderabad was such an amazing experience. Being 11.5 hours apart would normally make this kind of event nearly impossible, but the flexibility of our team combined with all the tools and resources for remote work that we have here at Appfire made collaboration across timezones work really well,” said Denver-based Director of Product Marketing Kat Sandin. “There’s so much talent on our team in so many areas, so this was a fun way to come together with people I don’t normally work with and make something cool. I love that Appfire provides opportunities that challenge us to be creative and build stronger connections with our teammates around the world!”

Watch our video about this year’s internal company hackathon to hear from our hackers about participating in this fun and friendly internal competition:

Want even more insight on how to wow your peers with your own hackathon entry? Codegeist may be over, but our tips and best practices for a successful hackathon entry are sure to keep the creative juices flowing!

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