Driving innovation through hackathons at Uplight

By Maia Stone on

Uplight Orchestrated Energy Kick-off

Every quarter Uplight holds space for two events centered around planning and innovation. Big Room Planning is a multi-day event bringing engineers and engineering leadership, product managers, designers, and others together to align on goals, business objectives, and expectations. Just before planning, we hold a two-day hackathon with a designated theme.  Uplighters appreciate spending time with both new and familiar team members, working on self-directed problem solving, and sharing their ideas with the entire organization. The best projects receive additional support to continue to work on and are implemented. 

Our latest theme was Learning, giving 22 teams the opportunity to form from various departments across Uplight, challenged to dive into the energy industry, learn a new tool, a programming language, or some other technology related to our work and product domains. Hackathon themes are directive while leaving plenty of room for interpretation and creativity. 

For each event, the judging criteria changes. For the Learning theme, teams had to consist of at least three people, and winners were decided into five categories:

Learning Growth: Demonstrate the depth of growth your team achieved

Winners: The Jaguars are a recently formed team who came together to learn about the new marketplace product they inherited, taking the time to dig into the business and technology, down to the architecture of the code.

Technology: Engineering skill demonstrated or code quality

Winners: In response to a recent security challenge our engineering teams faced, the Catalyst team worked to explore how to automatically rotate or eliminate the need for Service Account keys.

Presentation: Best write-up and presentation

Winners: A team of Product Managers, UX copywriters, and Product Designers, calling themselves the Grid Edge Mad Men, decided to answer the question, “How can we educate end-customers about energy efficiency, Time of Use rates, and Demand Response, and motivate them to change their behavior willingly?”

Inspiration: How much excitement and love we have for the idea

Winners: The Librarians of Confluence formed a team of engineers, engineering managers, and directors to handle the challenge of unwieldy documentation caused by several companies merging and years of adding to, but not cleaning up stale information.

Business: Business value (for a learning hackathon, the business value can come from getting people trained in a technology we use or want to use or evaluating an idea we may want to pursue)

Winners: We had a three-way tie here, with two teams already winning categories above, Jaguars and Librarians, and a new winner, Put This In Your Pipe and Test It. This team set out to speed up feature delivery with confidence by developing a Customizable Data Generator that leverages the Mockaroo API to generate realistic test data based on user-defined scenarios.

A prior hackathon theme was Radically Faster Delivery, shining light on ways we can generally deliver faster, and automate tenant configuration and launches. Coming up next quarter, the theme will be Observability and Deployability, again looking for our teams to guide the company forward with ideas that will either improve observability, the ability to measure a system’s current state based on the data it generates, or the ability for teams deploy more often–more confidently or more efficiently. 

Whatever the theme, the Uplight team is up to the challenge and excited to bring new ideas to the organization, working across teams and departments.

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