Twice a year at Catchpoint, we hold a company hackathon. For an entire week, teams of 2-5 people from across the company – from different disciplines, departments, and geographies – come together to reimagine what Catchpoint can do. Running the event this year felt even more important than ever, given the outside world challenges that so many of us are going through.
In the words of co-founder and CTO, Scotte Barkan, “The hackathons tap into the original spirit that caused our company to come into being. The co-founders were the members of the R&D team at our previous company (DoubleClick) for the three years prior to our starting Catchpoint. Thus, the hackathons remind us of who we were, who we are, and who we always strive to be, which is innovative, eager to learn, and hungry to deliver.”
In this post, we look at the Hackathon in a creative spirit, taking each letter of the word reIMAGINE to describe our founder’s goals for the Catchpoint hackathon.
Our company hackathons are named “reIMAGINE” because it’s the word that best expresses the goal behind them.
“reIMAGINE is not just a part of the Catchpoint calendar, it’s a part of our culture,” says Matt Izzo, VP of Product. “Taking a week twice a year to imagine and prototype new ideas gives company members an important creative break. It allows people to team up with each other and work across department lines in ways that our day-to-day life might not allow for. The hackathons also serve as a valuable and fun way to innovate and feed new ideas into Catchpoint’s products. Many hackathon projects – win or lose – make their way into real features.”
Some of our products that have been invented during previous Hackathons include:
- Endpoint Monitoring
- Custom Visualizations (out in our latest release!)
- Custom Monitors
- Outage Analyzer
In this winter’s hackathon, there were four winning teams and two joint overall winners. “We always select the winners based on creativity, potential value or impact, difficulty, and completeness,” says Matt. “This year had two standout entries in different categories: one in product R&D and the other in Go-to-Market strategy.”
The product R&D winning team, E=lm², was made up of three software engineers and a product advisor. Its focus was endpoint monitoring and broadening and deepening its capabilities.
E=lm²: “Catchpoint is first and foremost a highly customer-focused company. With this in mind, we wanted to come up with a solution for Endpoint monitoring that would enhance its capabilities and alleviate some of our customer pain points by providing greater visibility to their network and increasing the number of platforms we support.”
“The hackathon is a nice break from the day-to-day journey of an employee and an organization,” says Dritan Suljoti, co-founder and Chief Product and Technology Officer. “It gives you time to stop, rethink items, and try the impossible or unthinkable – and be OK with failing at it. It is a different sort of vacation break. You are still working, but your team has decided the work, and there are no dependencies on anyone or from anything within the organization, other than what your team can achieve.”
“The hackathons are always extremely motivating to not just me and my colleagues in the product team, but to the engineering and the technical teams,” says Vandan Desai, Principal Product Manager. “The intensity rises as the date gets closer. It’s not about getting a prize, but about the concept, you come up with being developed and appreciated by other people, and often becoming part of Catchpoint. I’ve been part of nine hackathons at Catchpoint and in every single one, ideas that have been built have become part of the product.”
Teams are encouraged to be ambitious and bold with their ideas. In second place this year was another fantastic team made up of engineering folks who called themselves Ragnarok.
Ragnarok: “Ragnarok in Old Norse means ‘Fate of the Gods’ – a series of events foretold to lead to the death of a group of Gods who will eventually be reborn, starting a new cycle. Currently, we are improving the agent footprint for a Kubernetes environment, so our team decided to take down some “Gods” of the agent, like TRU and DNS libraries, and replace them with Linux-based tools and new features. A Catchpoint Ragnarok!”
In terms of how the judges select winners, “We use always the same criteria,” says Dritan. “The value of the idea (relative to the theme/company/customers/employees), creativity (did they break walls, rethink it, etc.), and level of completeness (how far did they get in that one week toward building something useful that can be used).”
We encourage the groups to work together to achieve their goals. Teams can work from anywhere with anyone at any time of the day or night. A mix of asynchronous and direct collaboration is fostered – whatever works for the group. The aim is to accelerate the company’s innovation efforts and further enhance our product capabilities. Employees enjoy coming together across the globe to learn new things, bond with one another, and have fun in the process.
Teams can be made up of people from any department to innovate together, whether on new product features or go-to-market plans. The co-winning team with the Go-to-Market strategy, Cloudpointers, brought together employees from marketing, sales, engineering, the support team, and the product. The focus was to define how Catchpoint can help our customers in their journey to “cloud” from design to day-to-day monitoring to cloud migrations and more.
Cloudpointers: “Our team arrived at our topic directly from the needs we were seeing in the field. Cloud migration is potentially the largest and most common IT initiative going on now and for the next 5-10 years. Our team wanted to make sure we linked how essential Catchpoint is to that initiative. What excited us about participating in the Hackathon was the opportunity to work with a cross-functional group of Catchpointers to develop something that would have a real and direct impact on what Catchpoint delivers for its clients. It’s a unique opportunity that we think everyone should participate in.”
“What we try to foster,” says Mehdi Daoudi, co-founder and CEO, “is the next generation of innovators and business leaders. They need to learn it’s not about coming up with a product; it’s about solving a problem.”
The final winning team this winter was CoPilot. This all-star engineering team focused on an initially embryonic idea: to bring a new AIOps implementation to our core systems.
CoPilot: “Our topic was born out of the needs of our team, as well as a desire to hone our front-end skills (since we’re completely a backend team). There are some manual and error-prone workflows that we decided to automate and build a UI to control/manage. It ended up being a success! We got a chance to improve our React skills and we’ve already started to use our new UI.”
To learn more about Catchpoint’s hackathons, check out this blog from a previous year from our founders.