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Virtru Hackathon 2019

Last week, we had our second successful Hackathon here at Virtru.  We built on the success of last year’s Hackathon, making only a few small tweaks to ensure continued alignment and even greater participation across the company. Since it was such a big hit last year, we already had our playbook and were ready to execute.  

The few changes we made highlight the new addition of our SDK, which we released this past summer. We first adjusted this year’s hackathon theme “to promote collaboration, innovative thinking, and creativity to increase engagement with our SDK platform within the development community or that aligns with our company goals.”  Last year our main focus was on customer impact, this year, with the public launch of our SDK, we wanted to see what our awesome Engineers could come up with using our SDK’s. Customer focus remains foundational to all we do, as ease of use and customer impact will always be a key differentiator for us here at Virtru. We also voted on the naming, just like last year, to keep things fresh. The hackathon process and structure are described below, with a brief overview of some of the projects. Over the next month, we’ll also post more detailed overviews of these projects on our technical blog.  

Format

Day 1: We encourage anyone in our entire organization to pitch ideas, and to convince other members of our organization to join their teams.  Importantly, the hackathon is not just for engineers, we want the whole organization to participate. There can be a spot for anyone on any team, from helping build slides to testing what they have to user feedback.  Team building is one of the big benefits of these types of events; getting people who don’t normally work together to collaborate.

Day 2: The Hackathon! After teams are formed, it’s time to get to work.  Not every idea ends up with a team working on it, and not everyone who pitches an idea ends up working on that idea. This is totally fine and expected.  We have seen people pitch multiple ideas, and then decide they want to work on something else completely, or a team rallies on an idea that someone else pitched, where the person who pitched the idea didn’t end up being on the team.  

Day 3: Demo Day. This is where the entire organization gets together to see what the teams accomplished.  It’s not uncommon for ideas to shift, or to be presented partially complete given that there are only 24 hours from start to finish.  It’s also not uncommon to see a few folks opting to work late into the night (or even into the morning), trying to get the last mile done for the demos.  For each presentation and demo, there is a quick question and answer. Questions vary based on what they saw, which could be something like “What could the use case be for our current customers?” or “How quickly can we integrate this into our daily processes?”

The Hackathon is also scheduled around our holiday party, so we can get our remote employees together and announce the winners at our year-end All Hands Meeting before taking a break to celebrate and relax at our Holiday Party.

This Year’s Winners

We had 23 submissions this year, with 14 ideas that made it to the Demo Day.  Most submissions utilized our SDKs in some fashion, but not all. We also had a few demos of non-technical solutions like these two:

  • Design a Virtru font based on our logo
  • Survey: Shifting Perceptions of Security & Privacy

We kept three main awards and introduced a rotating award that we can adjust based on our theme or goals.  We have found that, for our engineering team size, having four awards works really well to keep the teams competitive without watering down the achievement.  The panel of judges consists of cross-functional leaders in our organization to vote on the Innovation Award and the SDK Platform Award, and the other two awards are open to a survey which are the People’s Choice and Engineering Impact Award.  Explanations of each award are below.

  • Innovation Award: The solution that is the most innovative, forward-thinking, creative, and original.
  • SDK Platform Award: The best use of our Virtru SDK’s, with the biggest possible impact on customers.
  • People’s Choice Award: The best overall project, including business potential, “wow” factor, and innovation.
  • Engineering Impact Award: Engineer-selected solution that has the greatest impact on the engineers and the engineering process.

Here is a shortlist of this year’s winners and runner up:

  • Secure Application Logging Using Virtru SDK
  • Virtru Ansible Module: Securing Secrets Using Virtru SDK
  • Virtru SDK on Raspberry Pi
  • Virgil TruBot: Virtru Assistant
  • Data Loss Protection Scanner

Takeaways

We had so many great projects, it was hard listing only a few without getting into more details!  Fortunately, this is the first part of a series of posts that will go into detail for multiple projects from this year’s Hackathon.

Last year, multiple hackathon projects became productized. With the release of our SDK and the awesome ideas our Hackathon participants came up with this year, that trend will likely continue.  The event has been a success at Virtru for so many reasons. We will continue to have these events moving forward, and there has even been talk about doing it more than once a year!  

The excitement the event brings to everyone throughout the organization is truly remarkable, including from Marketing, Business Development, Sales, Support, Executives and Engineers.  We are already thinking about the next event, but in the meantime keep your eyes out for the upcoming blog posts that will go into detail on some of the innovative solutions that were constructed this week.

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