Tooploox remote hackathon 2020 | Tooploox

Alicja Wojcik

Dec 2, 2020 - 

7 min read - 

Tooploox remote hackathon 2020

Tooploox remote hackathon 2020

At Tooploox we love to learn, to create and to spend time together. Combining all of these together is nearly the definition of a hackathon, so we also love hackathons. Even the pandemic can’t stop us from organizing and being a part of one.

The world has been changed by coronavirus for nearly a year, and even the toughest of us have had moments of being tired, angry or just sad. In fact, in this past month 36% of respondents in the U.S reported symptoms of anxiety disorder and from the beginning of the pandemic this number nearly never fell lower than 30%. 

In the UK, 45% of the population feel anxious and 18% reported that they feel lonely. It’s a hard time for all and what can we do to try to maintain the most normal life as possible, to stay safe and still be together? Have fun, learn, and create exciting things. That’s why, at Tooploox, we decided to organize our company hackathon remotely.

Internal hackathon – why is it important for the company and employees?

This wasn’t the first internal hackathon our company has hosted, but it was the first hackathon we’ve organized with a fully remote team. Even though we sit in our own homes, some things haven’t changed, and we can still point out the same hackathon advantages for the company and employees as we pointed out 3 years ago, when a pandemic was only in sci-fi or the history books. 

  1. Integration – we mentioned above the human aspect of the hackathon and we believe it’s crucial, especially right now, during the pandemic. At Tooploox we put really great importance on social interactions, online as well, and the hackathon is another opportunity to not only maintain relationships with colleagues from work but also spend some time with people from different projects or departments. 
  2. New knowledge, new roles – during the hackathon employees can not only see how the work of their colleagues looks but also try new skills and prove themselves in new roles by forming teams for the event. Getting to know how other people work is important, but also having the chance to get to know themselves better and see new opportunities and fields to develop is especially important at Tooploox. Thanks to our holacracy, employees can improve their skills in different circles, try new roles, or decide to change their work path. 
  3. Solving problems – the hackathon is a great opportunity to focus on solving some issues in day-to-day work. The hackathons participants have time to create something which can either help them at work or will be helpful for the company. They might build the full product, but they can also just brief it and then the company can decide whether or not to develop it.

Hackathon projects – opportunities found and problems solved 

Three hackathon teams joined the event, each one with a great idea for the project, but there could only be one victor. But there are more winners despite only one team officially claiming victory by collecting the most votes from all Tooploox employees. All teams win a great time and new skills, and the company gains new ways of resolving issues, of simplifying tasks and new points of view on existing projects. 

But enough with general talk, let’s go into the specifics and give the floor to the hackathon participants, who best describe their own projects.

Startup recommender – the winning project by Adam Słucki (ML Engineer) and Krzysztof Piłat (Business Development Manager)

The issue

Ultimately, no company can exist without clients. But finding the right clients may be hard, even if we know where to look. Direct outreach, although effective, is time-consuming. It’s only possible to contact a very limited number of leads, so one must choose them wisely.

The solution

To solve that problem, we’ve created a recommender system. As we provide services mostly for startups, we aim towards identifying startups similar to our previous or current clients – our tool, developed during the hackathon, does exactly that.

How does it work? 

We had access to a medium-sized data set containing details regarding startups. We transformed all the details into numerical values based on our domain expertise and internal preferences. For example, instead of an industry a given startup operates in, we used information about the total financing for that industry, and the location of a startup we encoded as a rank depending on what locations we were most interested in.

Having numerical values we could, after some further transformations, calculate the similarity between startups – in this case using cosine similarity.

With our implementation of content-based filtering, if you know a startup that you consider a good client you can easily find another, similar startup – as there is a good chance that they’ll become good clients as well.

As some extras, in our web application we included an option to save selected search results for later along with a summary of interpretable similarities and differences between searched startups.

What else?

Participation in the hackathon was, for us, an opportunity to get familiar with problems and technologies we don’t usually work with – like the development of web applications or enhancing them with fancy effects like this: https://vincentgarreau.com/particles.js/

Virtum for browser – the project by Software Developers Olek Cieślak, Michał Cieślak, Szymon Płaneta, Adam Chudaś, Rafał Ruciński (Frontend Developer) and Product Designer Łukasz Łanecki

The issue

Our goal was to create a web-browser client for Virtum HP – a digital histopathology-dedicated cloud-based application that offers virtually unlimited storage and computational resources, which allows one to access, manage, process, and analyze WSIs in collaboration and by a distributed team. We have already developed a desktop client for Virtum HP, however, we feel that coming up with a browser application would allow us to reach more people and make Virtum HP far more accessible.

The challenge

There was one problem, though – the current Virtum HP team had no experience in creating browser applications. For quite a while this was a blocker for us and prevented us from kickstarting Virtum for the browser. However, the hackathon seemed like a brilliant occasion to team up with other colleagues who have not been not working on Virtum HP, but have excellent frontend skills. 

The team

Leveraging the occasion, we established cooperation with Łukasz, a Product Designer, who helped us with the UX and provided us with beautiful designs that simplified the user interface, so we could actually implement them during the hackathon, and Rafał, an experienced Frontend Engineer. We knew what we wanted to do, Rafał knew how it could be done – a match made in heaven. However, we didn’t want Rafał to simply implement all the features and finish the project all by himself. We wanted him to define the technical stack for the application (so our silly choices wouldn’t cause us trouble from the very beginning) and teach us these technologies. So, as homework, we started with learning from tutorials before the start in order to be as productive as we could be during the hackathon.

The work

The hackathon started at 9 am on Friday and so did we. We were hacking for the whole day and night, fighting with sleep and bugs. The front-end newbies were put through a baptism of fire – trying to implement all the features, and Rafał was busy tackling all the hard cases, doing code reviews, unblocking the team, and putting out fires. Eventually, we managed to cover the whole scope of what we defined for this event and assembled the browser MVP.

The most important thing

What’s most important is that we had a great time bonding and learning new technologies. We can’t wait for the next hackathon!

CV creator – by Maciej Wróblewski (Digital Marketing Manager) and Anna Warda (Brand Designer)

The issue

With 100+ developers working with clients, a problem that keeps reappearing is how to maintain a database of up-to-date CVs/profiles in a consistent layout. Currently, the process puts quite a strain on the graphic designers, who have to deal with ad-hoc requests, as quick communication with potential clients is very important.

The challenge

The easy part was to update the layout of the CV/profile in a modern way, which reflects the current trends of moving away from classic CV layout and more towards profiles similar to what we see in social media. The tricky part was finding a scalable way of updating them with information from over 100 developers. At first, the plan was to involve the developers, but finally, we had to move on without any programming skills, which was an additional edge to the challenge!

The team

Ania, our graphics designer, was responsible for bringing a beautiful document to concentrate on the presentation of the main skills and experience of the developers to life. We aimed at prioritizing key areas of interest for clients, who often look for specific things – technologies, areas of expertise, interesting projects, etc. Maciej, our marketing manager, took it on himself to complete the task of automating the process, in order to lower the amount of manual work necessary for each CV/profile.

The work

After creating the design, we looked into ways to automate the process. As we wanted for it all to be cloud-based, we looked for a way to input data directly into a document and then export it into a PDF file. Google Forms seemed to be perfect for that, as it also allowed us to better control how much information was being put in, as well as giving clear directions for each field. It also had the option to attach an image, which would automatically be inserted into the document. Every time a form would be submitted, a document would be created in a dedicated folder, with the name of the file also using one of the input fields “{{Name}} – Tooploox Profile.PDF”.

The most important thing

It was really exciting to be able to automate a process, which at first seemed impossible to do without any programming help. But as marketers everywhere are trying to gain more independence, it was a clever way to generate results without a single line of code. And the design has already been adopted by the whole company and some of the clients were already impressed with our new profiles!

Summary

The results of this hackathon were not only three great projects, but also something else. Something which is not possible to count. In the project descriptions above, we can see passion, the joy of learning new things, the willingness to create and just simple happiness that the authors of these descriptions can’t help but express for being able to participate in the hackathon.  

We hope the next Tooploox hackathon will be at our office and that we will all be together. But, to be honest, we can see the remote hackathon is also a great opportunity, and being remote doesn’t interfere with our spending a great time together. 

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