To celebrate and acknowledge World Creativity and Innovation Day, we wanted to take a moment and reflect on the winners of Iterable’s second annual Hack Week.
At Iterable, Hack Week is a social coding event that allows our engineers, designers, and product managers to live our Growth Mindset and Humility values by teaming up and building or improving features that will deliver joyful customer experiences for every organization in the world.
Focusing on Balance, another Iterable value, we removed all meetings from our participants’ calendars, allowed them to form teams, and pursue any passion projects they may have picked. And we’ve seen some pretty impressive results! From our 2021 Hack Week, 21% of hacks were shipped and this year 17% have already been shipped with a potential for 35% total hacks to be shipped.
Because the theme of this year’s World Creative and Innovation Day is collaboration, we could think of no better way to celebrate than by highlighting some of the collaborative efforts from our engineering team.
Hack Week Winners
There are four categories of hacks. Each category had a designated winner—meaning their hack not only fit the category, but resulted in a solution that delivers joy to end-users. The hack names may be subject to change if and when they’re shipped, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at each category, the winning hack, and the team behind it.
The Hack: Journey Fragments
The Team: Charlie Thomas, Josh Jarmain, Krisha Agatep, Alison Chen & Olivia Li
Journey Fragments is an innovative functionality that creates a joyful user experience for marketers by giving them the ability to take their current journeys and exponentially increase their capacity to collaborate as well as evolve best practices.
When asked what inspired them the most about this innovation, team member, Krishna Agatep, said, “When we brainstormed together as a group, I tried to put my user hat on instead of my developer hat. I thought about all the software that I use in my day-to-day life—what makes my life easier, and what sorts of features I couldn’t live without. And that’s what we tried to bring to this project—a feature that is so time-saving that if a user didn’t have it, their day to day would be so much less efficient.”
Journey Fragments was also awarded The People’s Choice award—an open voting category where everyone attending could vote for their favorite hack.
The Hack: Where Are My Snippets?
The Team: Sneha Annadi, Jess Torrez Riley, and Terrance Whittaker Jr.
To win Best Shipped, a hack is either already being used (internally) or can be put into production pretty quickly. This is a challenging category because not only does the hack need to be uniquely creative, it has to pass our stringent engineering standards to be released. The winning team—“Where Are My Snippets?”—built a lookup function to find all templates/campaigns where a snippet was referenced. This was a solution our customers have been asking for and we delivered, making it even easier for them to send personalized messages to their customers.
When asked what he enjoyed most about Hack Week, team member Terrance Whittaker Jr., said, “This was actually my first time participating in the hack weeks, so it was good to work on something different and build pretty quickly. Our idea came together in the middle of the week. I was coming straight off of a vacation, actually, so we only had from Wednesday to Friday to get our idea up and running. It was pretty fun really just getting together and putting it together pretty quickly.”
Best Internal Improvement
The Hack: Terraform Policy-as-Code
The Team: Ming Li and Praphulla Sabbineni
To win the Best Internal Improvement category, a hack needs to be able to relieve the pain for our Iterators and make life easier. Ming and Praphulla built a hack that utilized Terraform Sentinel to enforce Iterable Policies through code. This implementation of making our policy enforcement as code makes life a lot easier when engineers are rolling out features with Terraform. Engineering and Security now have the ability to review when a policy is applied incorrectly. Plus since this is in code, this gives us so much scalability.
When asked how the team came up with the idea, team member, Ming Li, said, “We have a list, but it’s not the top priority. Hack Week gives us a chance to review what are the items on the list and we just saw this one and I looked into it and I said, ‘this is pretty interesting.’ I liked it and then we got to work on it. But, as for the inspiration, the idea is from [another Iterable engineer] Kevin Tham.”
Red Diff Challenge
While Hack Week is all about creating the most innovative and interesting features that will help our customers better deliver joyful experiences, we also wanted to challenge our engineers to think about the “internal customers”—ourselves! For this, we ran a Red Diff Challenge, a competition that awarded a daily winner along with a weekly winner for the Iterator that removed the most lines of obsolete code. Removing technical debt allows our code base to be healthier and more efficient.
Here are our winners:
Monday: Cory Klein, 993 Lines Removed
Tuesday: Ayush Agarwal, 1482 Lines Removed
Wednesday: Elham Keshavarzian, 7899 Lines Removed
Thursday: Ryan Song, 12,456 Lines Removed (weekly champion!)
When asked why he participated in the Red Diff Challenge, the winner, Ryan Song, said, “I joined the Red Diff Challenge because I know that there are many test folders located in our repo. Many of those tests are out of date. And by joining the challenge, I had the opportunity to do some clean ups.”
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
But really, it does. Hack Week gave our engineers a chance to move away from their everyday tasks and tackle something different, with people they may not interact with normally. And, as a result, Iterable gained some extremely creative, thoughtful, and useful innovations to help our customers make their customers’ lives easier.
“Creativity and passion are the lifeblood of a great engineering team. Hack Week unleashes this creativity and talent to solve the most important problems we might not know we have. These projects can range from security and reliability to previously unimagined product functionality. Hack Week gives engineers the permission to pursue the really great ideas that might, at first glance, seem like not so great ideas. These projects are not obvious, higher risk, and potentially the most valuable innovations possible.”
– Bill Press, Iterable’s Senior VP of Engineering
Creativity and innovation are all about thinking about things differently. Looking at the problem from a different perspective can help shed some light on possible solutions. Next time your team encounters a problem, think about how you can inspire innovation from within.
To join our growing team of engineers, check out the open positions.