Ensono Digital's Hackternoon: Innovation, collaboration and fun

Joel Lingard
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One of our values at Ensono Digital is "Enjoy doing the work of our lives", meaning we get a kick out of complex problem solving. Recently, we took some time out to down tools, come together in randomised teams and put our heads together for a ‘Hackternoon’.

In this blog, Joel Lingard, Front End Consultant, shares his Hackathon experience and what he learned from it.

The event

Ensono Digital recently came together for a company-wide hybrid Hackathon (or Hackternoon as we called it), which allowed people to participate remotely or from our London and Manchester offices.

If you're unfamiliar with the term, a Hackathon is where teams come together to collaborate, solve challenging problems and build a solution in a short amount of time. The goal of our Hackternoon was to have some fun, get creative and come up with an idea for a new app in Slack that would have some value to our business.

Four hours to hack

In just four hours, sixteen teams, with up to eight members per team, were tasked with brainstorming, devising a proof of concept, developing a working prototype and creating a pitch deck for our Slack hacks before presenting them to a panel of judges.

Teams were purposely cross-functional so that people from all departments got a chance to work with someone that they otherwise wouldn't. From marketing and HR to technical operations and project management, it brought together people from different corners of the business to collaborate with one another.

My team had members from QA, Delivery Management, Data Engineering, Finance, Front End, Java and DevOps. With this mix, everyone had their own ideas, skills and experience to bring to the table. It was great to see everyone come together on a collaborative project, forming relationships as we all worked towards the same goal.

Our idea

My team worked on an app allowing employees to see who has booked a desk in the office so they could come in when their favourite co-workers are around. It would also provide office management staff with necessary data for planning and forecasting, such as which day of the week will likely see a higher turnout at events or to keep tabs on our travel-related expenses and carbon footprint.

My role was to build the prototype in Deno, a JavaScript framework I hadn't had the chance to work with before. I made a simple Slack app that simulated the process of booking a desk in an office and posting to a group channel.

The pitch

Towards the end of the afternoon, teams were divided into three groups, and each team had three minutes to present to their group's judging panel. I was responsible for pitching our idea, which was new to me and entirely different from anything I usually do, but stepping out of my comfort zone felt refreshing.

The judges were looking for the app's potential value to the business, how creatively we met the brief, how close we got to a working proof of concept and the quality of our pitch. We took this as an opportunity to strike a more relaxed tone to our presentation, in contrast to the more professional nature of some of the other teams.

The result

Our team won against the other five teams in our group. Afterwards, the winners from each group competed head-to-head, presenting to the judges from all three groups.

The other two winning apps from the first round of pitches were:

  • "Get Rewards, Go Green" – an app that integrates Slack into reforestation as a service to plant a tree every time you give 'Kudos' to your colleagues and teams for their great work.
  • "Find My Consultant" – an app that records project consultants' location and monitors whether they're on holiday, in training, off sick or what projects they are working on.

We couldn't believe our luck when they called out our team as the overall winner at the end. Even though we were confident going into it, we didn't expect to win first place in the final.

Final thoughts

With such enthusiasm and creativity on display, the Hackternoon showed what can happen when you bring talented, dedicated people together for a common cause. It was brilliant to see everyone innovating together and having fun.  

Here's what I learned after four intense hours of teamwork:

  • It was an excellent opportunity to step away from our day-to-day duties, be inspired, think big and collaborate with people we might not work with on a typical day
  • It was a chance to learn new skills and apply our interests in new ways
  • Everyone has something to contribute; the afternoon brought together people with different perspectives, expertise and mindsets
  • Value to a business can be defined in many different ways, such as boosting morale, having fun and enjoying time spent at work
  • The more we form these strong relationships across the business, the more effective we are as a consultancy
  • It was a fantastic way to spread one-of-a-kind energy across the company

Winning is great, but it's really the teamwork and sharing that made it worthwhile. Great teamwork makes things more fun, and we should always make time to have a good time. The camaraderie established in just one afternoon is something I'll look back on as one of the most enjoyable work-related activities I've done in my first six months at Ensono Digital.

I am grateful to work for a company that encourages creativity and innovation while providing memorable moments and experiences, whether we are in the office or remote. Ensono Digital truly believes that great inspiration can, and should, come from anywhere in our business.

Congratulations to all of the teams for an extremely successful and enlightening Hackternoon. I can't wait to do this again!

Sounds like fun? If you'd like to join us for our next one, have a look at our Careers page. We are always on the lookout for curious and creative people to join our team.

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