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Hack Days at Mode

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Curtis Mitchell, Software Engineer

September 16, 2019

3 minute read

Marshawn Box

When the idea of instituting regular hack days began at Mode several years ago, it started—as it does for many companies—as a way to break out of daily business routines and explore new ideas. But Mode’s version of Hack Day needed to be just as much a reflection of the company’s ideals and values as anything else we did. Here’s what we decided to make it.

Hack Day is a joyous time when we can come together and work tirelessly to create things that the world has never seen (and, in some cases, should never see). Hack Day is…

  • For everyone. Everyone from any area of the company is welcome to contribute and participate either as part of a team or individually.

  • Creative. It’s a time to push yourself to be creative and try things that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Remember your outcome doesn’t have to be polished, shipped, or really make any sense whatsoever.

  • Challenging. It’s a time to challenge yourself, to challenge the common view of what can be done or how it should be done.

  • Focused. It’s a time to put serious energy and hard work into your hacks and take pride in creating something new.

  • Respectful. It’s a time to appreciate the incredible intelligence, ingenuity, and spirit of your colleagues.

  • For hacking. Don’t be ashamed to present, even if your hack turns out broken and janky.

  • Optional. Like all of Mode’s activities, but contribution and participation are encouraged.

May 2019 Hack Day

Our most recent Hack Day once again exemplified this spirit, with a wide variety of projects—ranging from using Terraform for stateful management of Mode’s API, to transforming our all-hands microphone into a mini version of our company mascot.

A microphone version of our company mascot, Marshawn the goatA microphone version of our company mascot, Marshawn the goat

The Scripts to Rule Them All team spent Hack Day simplifying the installation for Mode’s Java-based repository using the “scripts to rule them all” pattern popularized by GitHub. Now, this important repository has Bash scripts for easy installation and dependency updates, which is ever more important as our team grows 🙏.

Team “That Aha Moment” brought people together from Design, Analytics, People Ops, and more. Their project was a mural visualization of real Mode usage data—the average number of times new users in Mode share something that they’ve created in the app, broken down by hours in a week. The piece is now a permanent part of Mode’s headquarters.

The “Wall of Aha Moments” HackThe “Wall of Aha Moments” Hack

Following short presentations of each project, the hack day judges deliberated and then passed out several awards in various categories. These included the “Hackiest Hack” for a tool to allow customer support personnel to log in as a customer with that customer’s permission and supervision in order to observe reported bugs, while the “Super Star” award went to the team which designed a tool enabling employees to more easily carpool to-and-from Mode’s office.

Lindsay Hertz winning the Best in Show awardLindsay Hertz winning the Best in Show award

However, the Best in Show award went to the Mode Query Scratch Pad project, a stripped-down version of Mode’s SQL editor. This feature would allow users to more quickly verify the results of a SQL query without needing to create a whole new report. At the same time, they could take that query and potentially add it to an existing report, use it to create a SQL definition (one of Mode’s features that lets users save SELECT statements they can use in other queries), or kick off the creation of a new report with the query and results.

Mode’s spring Hack Day showcased the wide range of technical and artistic skillsets our team possesses. If you’re interested in participating in the next Hack Day, we’re actively hiring across a range of engineering disciplines. Check them out at careers page. Come join us!

By Curtis Mitchell | Software Engineer, Mode

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