4 Things We Learned From The Wisetail Hackathon


Don’t know what a Hackathon is?

Well, don’t sweat it, we’re here to get you caught up to speed. Hackathons have their origins in the tech industry where companies would use them as a way to recruit new developers and foster collaboration and teamwork. The Hackathon idea evolved over time and eventually grew to include other departments like sales and marketing. We at Wisetail caught on to the idea after reading about Wistia’s “The Hackening.”

We were inspired by the idea of teams of diverse individuals working together to create cool things. Even in a company with ~30 employees it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day operations and can be hard to interact with other departments. Our hope was the Hackabout would bring together team members who don’t usually work together and give them the chance to team up, learn a few things about one another and create some cool stuff in the process.

Why We Did It

One of the biggest challenges we’re faced with is how to keep a quickly growing team united and inspired. As a company which has nearly doubled in size over the last year, it has been difficult at times to keep the cohesiveness which makes Wisetail a great place to work. The Wisetail “Hackabout” was a way for us to come together as a team and give us each a new perspective about our work, our colleagues and Wisetail as an organization.

The Pitch:

Team members had 60 seconds to convince the rest of the company why they should be supporting their idea.

Unite Your Team:

Every project needed at least two people to participate. Project leads had an hour to try and woo other team members to their team. 

Build the Project:

Teams had 28 precious hours to make something amazing. If a project wasn’t completed by 4 P.M. the next day, that team would have to present on what they had done.

Present It:

In the end, teams had to present their project to the company. They were all judged on the same scale: Usefulness,  Shipability and Flair.

The Pitch

Ideas had to follow a simple set of rules:

Build Something: Don’t get caught up coming up with the best idea ever. All ideas, small and large, are beneficial to you and the team.

Don’t be afraid to fail: Maybe it’s a lot harder than you thought. The value of learning from failures and moving on is enormous. Innovation is encouraged and trying is as much cause to celebrate as succeeding.

We Power Great Places To Work: Every project should either improve the Wisetail client experience or the Wisetail employee experience.

How It Turned Out

Overall, we had a ton of great ideas, several of which got enough buy-in from people to have them move into the build phase. Everything from new survey tools to an incredible looking culture book and even a doggy play area were all planned and constructed in just under 28 hours.

Everyone was abuzz with excitement in those hours. The Wisetail office was a caffeine-fueled madhouse for a day as everyone worked to get their projects completed. It was awesome to see team members from different departments working together to achieve a common goal.

After the dust had settled, we sat down and put together a list of the things we learned from our Hackathon experience.

wisetail lms hack-about or hackathon group photo

4 Things We Learned

1. The Hackabout Brought Us All Together

It can be hard for all our team members to stay connected, especially as our team continues to grow. The Hackathon gave everyone the opportunity to work with people they may never collaborate with doing their day jobs. The opportunity for team members to spend uninterrupted time together working on a project not only helps form deeper personal relationships but also creates an understanding of what the other person does in their professional role.

2. It Reinforced Values We Preach At Wisetail

Working fast, working as a team, and delivering innovation are all things which are stated in the Wisetail manifesto. It just so happens these same principles are also foundational to a good Hackathon. The ability to work fast and be agile on projects is central to how we run our company, the Hackabout helped to reinforce those principles.

3. It Taught Us To Have A High Tolerance For Failure

Fail often and fail quickly. The Hackabout reinforced the idea that failure is a process of innovation and that failing quickly is an essential part of creating quickly. Instead of debating the viability of a project at the beginning, teams were forced to act and plan quickly. Because failure had no repercussions in a Hackathon environment, it allowed teams to dream big.

4.  The Hackathon Gave Us Tons Of Great Ideas

Even projects which didn’t get backed by enough people were awesome. It brought to light projects which never would have seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for the Hackathon. Giving our team the ability to dream big about projects created a number of great ideas that may someday find their way into a product or help out the office.

Read more about our company culture here: