Twice a year, Dealer.com’s engineering staff breaks into teams with one mission: to create something spectacular.
The format is simple: propose an amazing idea; join a team to work on an idea based on personal interests and passions; crank away for 36 hours to bring the idea to fruition; after a day and half, present ideas to engineering peers and company leadership.
The reward? There are no significant prizes or trophies for participating. Instead, it’s the opportunity for participants to step away from their typical technologies, applications, and specialties to focus on something completely new, to showcase a brilliant idea, to work with different people. For everyone else, it’s an inspired opportunity to witness passionate professionals show off what they can do in a short period of time.
While there are a few fun, peer-voted awards (Most Cyclomatic Complexity, anyone?), the actual reward is the satisfaction gleaned from displaying the results and the empowerment of being given free reign. Sometimes projects evolve into Dealer.com products, but, paradoxically, the ideas that ‘fail’ are often some of the most important because of what the team learns about the technology and approach.
While inspired from other Hackathons around the world, Dealer.com’s unique take avoids the hardcore competitiveness or ‘must-deliver’ nature of other Hacks. Valuing curiosity, passion, and exploration first means participants are unleashed with no fear of failure. They go big, take risks, and try to achieve something special.
A Culture of Innovation
Such intensive collaboration among Dealer.com engineers on projects with complete autonomy results in creativity found in few other places. And that’s the point. Technological wizardry manifests itself in most projects, but even that isn’t a set rule. Participants follow their own desires, whether that leads to creating an arcade cabinet, obstacles for the roof-top miniature golf course here at Dealer.com headquarters, or a company event where teams race around the Burlington, Vermont, area solving puzzles. Exploration leads to innovation.
One of the most memorable projects to come out of a Dealer.com Hackathon was the “Virtual Lot,” allowing users to manipulate an automobile on a big screen by simply moving their hands – an idea so popular, Dealer.com took it to NADA where attendees got to experiment with it.
Hackathons are just one way Dealer.com continues to push for engineering excellence, inspiring employees to innovate and invent while exploring their passions and supporting their curiosity. It’s just one remarkable thing about working here.
Chris Yager is the Director of Enterprise Systems at Dealer.com, and organizes Dealer.com Hackathons