Hackathon On! Innovation, Collaboration and NI Culture

Networked Insights kicked off its quarterly Hackathon this week, with a special guest appearance from our friends at Google. Our VP of Product Engineering Stephen Tucker spills the beans on why we do it, and how the spirit of entrepreneurial innovation helps drive development of some of our flagship products.

Happy Hackathon!

In my time at NI, there have been many ways that we have approached building and dreaming up new products. Whether the product be market moving or market demanding, all of us at Networked Insights are entrepreneurs and have equity in the creation of products. In fact, it is stitched into our creed.

New hires at Networked Insights are handed values by which we operate on a daily basis: Collaboration, Ownership, Leadership and Entrepreneurship (COLE for short).  These are the ingredients that we demand of ourselves at NI, and one of the ways that we amplify these values that are centered around innovation is to have Hackathons.

How it Works

Hackathons to us are typically a two to four-day affair. Two days at the office with another two days on the weekend if you choose to continue building and imagining your new idea.

While Hackathons are nothing new to technology companies, we open the door for everyone in the company to participate. Meaning, if one of our colleagues have an idea, they must  present it to the organization before the Hackathon begins. This idea will serve as a forum to recruit colleagues to assist them in implementing their idea in addition to receiving feedback, while also getting colleagues thinking about how this “thing” fits into our eco-system.

As an individual entrepreneur, NI colleagues must own the idea and (hopefully) see it to its end. The meat of the Hackathon is the 2-4 days building a solution that satisfies the idea. This yields a tangible thing that allows our colleagues to present again to the organization the following Monday. At this point, they are making your first sales pitch about what the solution does or what problem it solves. Like many products, the selling must continue past the first sales pitch to achieve any measure of feedback and momentum.

If one of our colleagues have a great use case, the idea could gain adoption from the product organization at NI. A lot of our current products that exist in our portfolio today were born during Hackathons, including one of our most important new products, Audience.ai.

Guest Appearance by Google

Another unique portion of our Hackathon is the guests we bring to the party. We are very happy to have Google participate in this week’s Hackathon. We have had a cloud partnership with Google for close to three years and they have helped us solve a lot of technical challenges.

One example of the biggest challenges we had in the past is our Hadoop cluster. Hadoop is a great technology, but unfortunately it did not match our technology use case, and we were looking for something lighter weight and faster. We chose to move our data to the cloud and do on demand processing using Spark via Dataproc in order to ease operational cost and speed up data processing.

This allowed us to bring data to our customers in a fast, efficient manner. For this particular hack, Google is here to help us unlock more value with their technologies using our data.

So what game-changing insights will our most recent Hackathon product? More to come on this topic next week.