In-house hackathon operation led by a novice DevRel manager

Good day. I’m Somma, the DevRel manager at goorm.

The 9oormthon RAID WINTER, the second in-house hackathon hosted at goorm Square from December 14 to 15, 2023 (hereinafter referred to as 9oormthon Raid), took place. This event, exclusive to members of goorm, involves teams of 3-4 individuals developing a service within a 24-hour timeframe. As the inaugural in-house developer event I orchestrated upon joining goorm as a DevRel manager, meticulous planning was undertaken to ensure participant satisfaction and to prevent any perception of wasted time among attendees.

Despite encountering some challenges, notably being the sole all-night event among the company’s activities, I found inspiration in witnessing the dedication and collaboration exhibited by the participating goormee throughout the brief duration of the hackathon. To preserve this memorable experience for posterity, I am documenting my concerns and reflections from the planning and preparation phase of the two-day event.

written by somma 
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A hackathon is a fusion of “hacking” and “marathon.” It’s a competitive event where developers, designers, planners, and other professionals convene within a limited timeframe and space to brainstorm ideas and iteratively refine them to yield tangible outcomes within a short span of time.

Initiate the planning process for the 9oormthon Raid event.

Approximately one month after joining goorm, I was assigned the task of organizing and executing the ‘9oormthon Raid,’ which was nearing the conclusion of the 2023 DevRel Roadmap. My responsibilities encompassed both the planning and execution of this in-house hackathon event.

The 9oormthon Raid is designed as an avenue to depart from routine tasks, leverage innovative technologies to materialize ideas, and foster a culture of growth through collaborative endeavors. As the event organizer, I delineated three primary objectives: ❶ Encourage increased participation from goormee, ❷ Facilitate collaboration and collective growth during the hackathon, and ❸ Enhance overall productivity and efficiency by leveraging technology to address pertinent challenges.

Let’s review the outcome of the initial incident. The primary challenge stemmed from a variety of documents, including planning, lot, and operational documents, resulting from the participatory survey1. As the participants were other customers of the DevRel team2, we prioritized listening to their feedback and scrutinizing additional documents to identify positive aspects. This approach proved beneficial as it enabled us to focus on augmenting areas that fell short.

“It provided an excellent opportunity to experiment with a new tool.”
“It was gratifying to collaborate with fellow squad members and bring my envisioned project to life.”
“I suggest infusing a bit more of a hackathon atmosphere. Perhaps incorporating some humor into the award names would enhance the experience.”
“Team matching proved challenging.”

After reviewing numerous responses, what resonated with me was a sense of affection and optimism for improvement. It was evident that participants were left with positive sentiments, and I felt compelled to reciprocate by organizing a hackathon that would exceed their expectations.

❶: Enhance productivity through the outcomes of the hackathon.

Imposing numerous restrictions on the hackathon’s theme often leads to uniform outcomes. However, for this hackathon, we focused on enhancing productivity and efficiency for all participants while limiting the use of technology to ChatGPT API, Slackbot, and goormIDE. This approach enabled us to explore new technologies beyond our usual repertoire, fulfilling our desire for experimentation.

One of the key competencies for developers is the adeptness at acquiring new technologies. Given the rapid pace of technological evolution, most technologies undergo cycles of emergence and obsolescence every 3 to 5 years. Hence, the hackathon served as an invaluable platform for cultivating the capability to swiftly adapt to and learn new technologies. It also functioned as a testing ground for the introduction of novel technologies. Direct hands-on experience fosters a deeper understanding compared to mere theoretical knowledge.

Additionally, to enhance the productivity of ‘all of us’, it was imperative that the outcomes generated during the hackathon were effectively utilized. To ensure this, we incorporated a prerequisite during the planning phase, which involved interviewing stakeholders in relevant fields to gain insights into our internal challenges. We emphasized the importance of soliciting input from all members, as their perspectives were deemed paramount for fostering widespread participation and engagement.

❷ To facilitate broad participation among goormee.

During the hackathon’s planning phase, a key task was to address the question, “How can we encourage more goormee to participate?” In conversations with hesitant individuals, it became apparent that concerns revolved around fears of impeding team dynamics due to a competitive focus on winning awards. Additionally, the prospect of working through the night posed a significant burden for many.

While competition can serve as a catalyst for growth, excessive emphasis on it may yield adverse effects. My vision for the hackathon was to transform it into a celebratory event where everyone could partake in the festivities, rather than a platform solely focused on competition. Winning wasn’t the primary objective; instead, I aimed to cultivate an atmosphere of camaraderie, placing greater significance on collective participation to alleviate any burdens felt by individuals.

Furthermore, hackathons provide opportunities for team members to experience both leadership and followership roles through collaboration and communication. While achieving tangible results is crucial, the softer aspects such as building rapport3 among team members are equally significant outcomes of the event.

To enhance the enjoyment of the event and foster team bonding, we organized several activities during the hackathon. These included an ice-breaking quiz designed for team members to get acquainted with one another, as well as a Nintendo Switch game event aimed at providing a refreshing break from the intense hackathon schedule. These activities were curated to inject fun into the event and alleviate potential boredom.

We recognized the importance of generating interest in the hackathon.

We opted to leverage phrases and designs reminiscent of street flyers rather than employing conventional notices found in typical documents. These promotional materials were then disseminated across both the Slack channel and the goorm Office platform.

To alleviate the strain, we’ve established a mentoring system and provided items such as anti-fatigue pills and sleep masks to help mitigate physical fatigue.

We’ve scheduled an internal assessment of the outcomes approximately one week following the hackathon, ensuring that the evaluation reflects input from team members directly engaged with the hackathon results. This approach underscores the significance of assessing perspectives from those who will utilize the outcomes. By conducting this in-house evaluation, we aim to foster understanding of the hackathon’s purpose and generate interest among members who may be less familiar with such events.

❸ This collaborative effort aims to facilitate goormee’s growth through mutual cooperation and teamwork.

The prevailing sentiment voiced by participants during our inaugural in-house hackathon was, “There’s an abundance of talent within goorm.” As the saying goes, “Wherever three gather, one is sure to be a teacher,” indicating the presence of noteworthy skills or knowledge to emulate. Recognizing the potential challenge of pre-arranged team formation, which may lead to clustering with familiar individuals, we opted for a different approach for this hackathon. Instead, we opened participation applications and implemented a team-building program designed to randomly assemble teams.

Our aim is to leverage this opportunity to collaborate with individuals outside our usual circles, fostering rapport, discovering each other’s strengths, and collectively advancing.

However, forming teams randomly may result in varying levels of proficiency in planning, development, and design. To support individuals who may require assistance in these areas, we enlisted Illium, who contributed to the previous hackathon, to provide guidance in planning. Additionally, we engaged Paul, the leader of SQD, and James, a senior engineer, to mentor the development phase.

Operation Review: Every Experience Counts

The hackathon we diligently prepared for over three weeks concluded triumphantly. Despite my initial reservations about the outcomes achievable within a mere two days, the results surpassed my expectations. It proved to be a profoundly impactful experience, revealing previously unnoticed inefficiencies in our surroundings and enabling us to implement practical solutions.

Having participated in numerous external hackathons, orchestrating and overseeing an in-house event presented a fresh set of challenges and considerations. Despite the complexities involved, the success of the event was made possible by the unwavering support and participation of the goormee community, who wholeheartedly embraced the event’s purpose.

“This hackathon proved to be an immensely meaningful experience for me as a participant.”
“It presented challenges, yet was enjoyable and rewarding.”
“As a developer, it provided an invaluable opportunity for me to immerse myself in development and gain significant inspiration for further study.”

As the event drew to a close, goormee smiled and expressed genuine satisfaction with the outcome. Inspired by their positive feedback, I made a personal commitment to enhance my preparation for the next hackathon, striving to elevate the experience even further.

Despite not being a member of the DevRel team, goormee played a crucial role in fostering participation by offering silent support and guidance behind the scenes. Without complaint, goormee provided invaluable advice and insights, contributing significantly to the event’s success. Additionally, goormee continued to share various feedback and impressions after the event, demonstrating a commitment to the community’s growth and development.

From the initial stages of hackathon planning through preparation and execution, I encountered numerous concerns and uncertainties. However, thanks to the invaluable input and active participation of our members, we successfully navigated these challenges and concluded the event on a high note.

“The Intern” indeed delivers some memorable lines. One of the most impactful is:

Experience never gets old. Experience never goes out of fashion.

The Intern (2015)

All experiences, whether they lead to success or failure, hold inherent value. Beginning with our in-house hackathon, we’re committed to sharing stories of our members’ interactions and growth. Stay tuned for more inspiring narratives on the goorm technology blog! ☁️

  1. Not only the DevRel team, but all organizations at goorm find areas for improvement through satisfaction surveys and retrospectives after events or projects and reflect them in the future. ↩︎
  2. DevRel’s customers are internal and external developers. ↩︎
  3. It refers to an empathic human relationship between two people. ↩︎
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