2021 December Hackathon: Introduction

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Pulumi’s hackathon tradition continued in the last weeks of 2021 with our 2021 December hackathon. For one solid week, we had teams from across the company focus on improvements across the Pulumi ecosystem, and we brought in people from outside the engineering org to get perspectives on different needs. While there were some projects that were focused on internal work, there were still quite a few open-source projects that we can talk about publicly. We’ll get more details from some of those teams over a few more posts. In this post, however, we’re going to explore a bit about how we worked.

Setting up for success

We set up the teams for success before the hackathon began by starting discussions around project ideas in a Slack channel asynchronously. In in-person hackathons, teams often decide on projects the day of the start of the hackathon. By starting discussions early, we let folks decide on projects they’d be interested in contributing to and drove early architectural discussions so teams could hit the ground running. People also started to get excited about working on the various projects, and they were able to start connecting with folks outside of the engineering team to find time on their calendars early.

Using a survey, we gathered what sorts of projects or areas of the ecosystem people were interested in working on, their timezone, and how they would like to collaborate. By using this data to sort people into teams, we ensured that people who were interested in learning about new areas of the ecosystem could find the right projects, that people who needed to work in a more synchronous environment could be paired with others in their timezone, and that people who worked similarly could find people who worked like them. It was an interesting experiment.

Working remotely

One cool thing that we tracked this round is all of the different ways we collaborated across the different projects. In general, Pulumi is a remote workplace, and none of the teams were co-located for this hackathon. As a result, we had to consider how teams might work across timezones and outside of the classic physical co-located team dynamic. Each team got to pick the best ways for them to collaborate. Our teams' preferences ranged from daily standups over Zoom to collaboration solely on Slack to extensive pair programming and Zoom hangouts. In all, each team used multiple ways to communicate and engage depending on which parts of their projects they were working on. Teams working on explorations of possible solutions often found that pair programming remotely was a great way to brainstorm, for example. Once teams had a solid sense of what needed to be done to get to the next part of a project, many still attended a hackathon-wide Zoom hangout session daily to have someone to hang out with and discuss any issues that arose. The whole org also had the opportunity to get to know one another a little better, and it did not have the feeling of lost time or forced socialization that weekly virtual watercoolers can have after a couple of meetings as many have found during this period of forced virtual interactions.

Showing off what we did

During the demo at the end of the hackathon, we asked teams to self-report which strategies they found the most helpful, what they learned, and obviously what the results of their hackathon project were. We found that everyone level-set to how their team chose to work, and the pairing of people based on location and work preferences helped a lot to have teams succeed.

We’ll have more from each team soon! Keep watch on this space for new posts about hackathon projects.

If you like our way of working and are interested in a new position, we have a lot of positions open right now and will have more in the future! Please head over to our careers page to find out how to apply.