As a company built on an active developer community, hackathons are a long-standing tradition at Mambu. Six years of tradition, in fact. This year’s internal event, ShipIT, was ran by thirteen distributed teams of about 70 people addressing different areas of the business. We followed a high-tempo process which enabled us to come up with ideas, find solutions, and validate hypotheses in just a few days. We even had time to throw a couple of parties!
The 2018 event resulted in an 80 adoption rate, which set the bar high for 2019.
How we organised our ShipIT
The North Star of this event: improve product capabilities and engineering efficiency. And as the story goes, it all starts with an idea. First was ThinkIT where Mambuvians had a week to contribute with ideas. The result of this phase was 28 inspiring ideas that impacted or interacted with our products in some way. Following idea submission, everyone was invited to self-select or recruit their team by outlining what could be (the vision).
This phase was followed by BuildIT where Mambuvians implemented 13 of the ideas powered by takeout food, coffee, chocolate, and a healthy dose of humour.
Finally, it was time to demo the solutions and boast shamelessly about the level of genius in the team (a.k.a. RunIT phase).
We can’t tell what the ideas and their solutions are just yet, but we can share that they range from simple to jaw-dropping.
"The time is short, but the people are excited and doing their best to make the ideas come to life. We're working to improve Mambu from development processes and CI/CD pipeline to internal processes and communication between teams" (Anca Adascalitei, software engineer)
What we loved about ShipIT
1. Experimenting rapidly with different technologies and ways of working
In the business-as-usual mindset, the fear of taking a wrong step can be crippling. So, we challenged the conventional wisdom about how we do our work and dared to ask “what could we achieve if we start from scratch”? Or “what would surprise us?” And we were surprised with the outcomes.
"The best part of Ship It is knowledge sharing and collaboration. Time is flying, which is a good indicator that we also have fun on the way" (Juri Tichomirow, software engineer)
To achieve successful outcomes, we leaned on our colleagues’ superpowers. For example, we learned that our team mates are microservices wizards or catalysts for a major change in how we release features to clients. Superpowers don't have to be about flight or strength. Instead, they involve critical thinking, proactivity, autonomy, and working within constraints.
"The most rewarding part for me is working more closely with people I haven’t interacted with as much. The most frustrating thing about Ship It is that there are many great ideas I wanted to be part of, but I can only choose one" (Traian Morosanu, software engineer)
2. Completing implementations that don’t get prioritised in regular development
Those annoying, buried-in-the-backlog problems that kept engineers talking to themselves like crazy people is a distant memory. Everyone embraced the devops mindset by working on removing handovers and putting observability and proactive monitoring front and centre. Armed with more efficient tools and automated steps, solving clients’ problems while also creating new business opportunities becomes a walk in the park.
According to Ben Goldin, Mambu's CTO: "It was amazing to see how much we could achieve in two and a half days by focused and undistracted working on something meaningful, bringing immediate impact to the organisation and the product."
3. Finding solutions that we believe can last
What we quickly realised was that while we may find multiple ways in attacking an issue and finding solutions, the alignment in a growing company has proven paramount in achieving complete implementations.
Finally, we stand by our belief that the demo itself was no finish line, just continuous improvement. Which made the following conversation a fun thing to watch:
Ciprian Diaconasu, VP Engineering said: “What should I, as a developer, do starting next week?”
Team: “Release to production. We are ready!”
Until next time!