Hack day events have long been part of Rescale’s culture of breaking out of patterns to pursue creative problem solving. Whether intended to drum up new product ideas or encourage the cross-pollination of ideas between different teams, interdepartmental hackathons give employees the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other. Earlier this year at Big Compute we even saw how hackathons are a great way to foster community around the question of “what problems could we solve if compute power was virtually unlimited?”.
This summer Rescale tried something new – Instead of a single day dedicated to this creative collaboration, we dedicated a full week to hacking – and we did it as a distributed team.
Similar to many other technology and cloud-based organizations, 2020 has meant transitioning Rescale employees to a fully distributed collaboration model. And we’re happy to report that the first ever Rescale Hack Week, based on a first ever fully distributed Rescale team, has been nothing short of an exciting success!
With the goal of unleashing disruption, this summer’s Rescale Hack Week focused on brainstorming, collaboration, and innovation, without constraints on how work or teams should be structured. Nearly 40 different project proposals were submitted, with 12 making the cut for teams to double down on. Most of these ideas were inspired by the needs of our customers or novel ideas from our engineers looking at problems with fresh eyes. Hack week teams were comprised of Rescalers from engineering, product, design, security, and HPC teams all working together to build features that have the potential to create 10 times more value for the customer. Mixing up teams sparked new conversations, challenged assumptions, and changed up routines which generated promising new solutions and ideas.
“This was an inspirational event that challenged everyone’s creativity,” said Romain Klein, Technical Direct of Rescale’s EMEA team and hack week participant. “It’s important to collaborate on ideas outside of the norms of formal account requests. This way we can consider solutions that the customer may not have thought to request of yet.”
Rescale has talent in many corners of the globe, many of whom previously worked in an office with teammates and frequently spent time on-site with customers to understand their challenges. Hack day-like events are critical to bridging the divide of our home office spaces and invigorate the way we work.
Serge Sidorov, Rescale Application Engineer and member of this hack week’s winning team leveraged the visualization technology of a small Norwegian company to enhance Rescale’s visualization capabilities. Unique insights like this, paired with reimagining the user experience can lead to exciting things. “During my first week at Rescale it occurred to me that our product could be more transparent and interactive and ultimately give users insight and catch errors faster,” Serge said. He didn’t expect to win, but hoped his idea would gain some traction eventually.
Without regular customer interaction, you have to work harder and smarter to stay connected to the user experience. Without regular side conversations passing through hallways, you have to put in extra effort to ensure that valuable anecdotal feedback is captured and shared, not lost in the crossfire of ceaseless chat notifications. Once product roadmaps are set, should we put blinders on in separate teams to sprint through a roadmap of set requirements? Of course not! Our hypotheses need to be tested, teams shuffled, constraints removed, and ideas refreshed on a continuous basis. Hack Week reminds us why agility and customer focus sometimes require a break from the norm.
Rescale front-end engineer, Steven Snyder, found that the inaugural hack week delivered both internal and external value. “We have to have unique processes to tease out important ideas,” he said, “and having a week gave us enough time to bring the best ones closer to fruition.”
In the end, three winning teams took the podium, which means their ideas will quite possibly be woven into Rescale’s product feature roadmap. Not only are engineer ideas being recognized across the company, but they will start to show up in the very product updates rolled out to customers in the future. This is no surprise, as many Rescalers first started using the Rescale platform as engineers working for other organizations.
With such strong participation in this year’s Rescale Hack Week, this will not be the last. In fact, the spirit of this event has sparked other internal programs encouraging rotating collaboration and mentorship across Rescale. This can only contribute to the resilience of the company and adaptation to a new working style that is likely here to stay. We are excited to see the fruits of these programs.
Rescale is committed to hiring the most talented and curious minds around the globe who care about the future of computational problem solving. We are constantly growing our now distributed team and invite anyone interested in our careers to apply to join our team here. We look forward to meeting you and hope to see your bright ideas entered into future hackathon events!
In the end, a company is only as good as its people, and we’re grateful to work amongst great people.
Hack week not only showed us that we don’t have to be working in the same office to do something great as a team, but by empowering our engineers to be creative and innovative with their own ideas, we can become even greater.