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Calling all innovators – why we’re excited about Pega's Community Hackathon

Matt Healy, 7 minute read

Join developers of all skill levels from around the world to accelerate innovation and digital transformation

If you haven't heard, Pega kicked off the first ever digital Pega Community Hackathon on May 11th. We know that innovators around the world are at home and are looking for an outlet for their creativity. This Hackathon aims to harness that creativity for doing good in light of the changing circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses, economies, communities, and individuals are all facing new challenges – and this hackathon is focused on fostering solutions to those challenges through the power, flexibility, and agility of the Pega Platform™.

Submissions to the Hackathon don't have to be directly related to COVID-19 response – the possibilities for your submission are endless.

Get recognized for your inspirational and innovative ideas

For those who are passionate about using their talents and creativity for COVID-19 response directly – we are giving out two separate awards to the best submissions focused on COVID-19 response. Here are a few ideas we've brainstormed from which you can pull inspiration when developing a submission toward these two categories:

The Inspiration Award: Use Pega's low-code platform to quickly build a solution or application that helps in the fight against and response to COVID-19. Submissions could extend or expand on some recent Pega-delivered solutions in these areas:

The Innovation Award: Use Pega's robust case management, AI, and automation capabilities to build a powerful solution or application that helps businesses address the new problems they face in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and the new nature of distributed work (data connectedness, work-from-home productivity, work-from-home collaboration, etc.). Some ideas from the team at Pega:

  • Can we make it easy for organizations to monitor their physical assets from a distance using IoT (integration, intelligent case management)?
  • Can we streamline customer data collection to help agents better serve their customers (integration, RPA)?
  • Can we automate note taking for digital meetings (RPA, NLP)?

If this is getting you excited, don't worry – you still have time to sign up and participate in the event. Submissions for the Hackathon close on June 22nd – more details here.

What you might not know is that, while this is our first external Pega hackathon, hackathons have been ingrained in Pega's engineering culture for years.

Every year, hundreds of Pega's own engineers bring their sleeping bags into the office for a 24-hour hackathon development sprint where teams chose projects to improve our software and/or internal processes. The event acts as a celebration of our culture, our people, and our innovation.

I (virtually) sat down with Chris Venne, senior manager, technical program management, who started the Pega hackathon initiative at Pega to understand why hackathons are so important inside and outside of Pega.

Matt: Chris, you've run a ton of hackathons, so tell us in your own words: What is a hackathon?
Chris: At Pega, a hackathon has always meant developers from across the organization uniting – forming teams based on common passions, friendships, and interests rather than their organization or team. These teams work on new, innovative, and fun projects to expand our software offering or improve our internal operations and tooling. These are projects that probably wouldn't have gained strategic support otherwise – they're just being done out of the pure innovative spirit of the hackathon team. Hackathons I've seen outside of Pega can vary in structure, but the main themes are always similar – rapid, undictated, fun innovation with a team of friends.

Matt: You started the hackathon program at Pega years back, how have you seen it grow?
Chris: We ran the first internal Pega hackathon back in 2011 – I want to say we had 35 participants in one office, culminating in 15 or so projects. The tradition grew organically year over year, to the point now where we have hundreds of Pega engineers participating from offices around the world – it is really part of the engineering culture now.

Matt: What are some of the coolest innovations you've seen come out of a hackathon?
Chris: We've seen a ton of great innovation come out of these events. A lot of the projects that started off in our hackathons have made it all the way into the product. Beyond those though, we've had some really great failures over the years ... but in the best way. We've had teams shoot for a really ambitious goal and not make it for one reason or another – but they always present how far along they got, where they stalled, and what they learned. Those are the projects from which we always get some of the best engineering insights.

Matt: How can teams prepare for starting a hackathon project?
Chris: My advice would be, before you start hacking, to take a few hours and write out the script for how you want to present the project when you're done. Outline the problem, the impact, the solution, and a demo scenario – almost like a preemptive press release for the project. In a hackathon you have such limited time, you need to stay focused on the end goal – so having a North Star for your project in the form of this pitch can be super helpful at 2 a.m. in the morning when you hit a roadblock hacking and are trying to figure out how to best get around it.

Matt: What is your advice to teams who do run into a roadblock, whether technical or other?
Chris: Developers are very good at finding helpful resources and people to get them past technical issues – it is part of the job. Obviously for Pega, most of those will live on the Pega Community and Collaboration Center sites.

Matt: What lasting advice do you have for teams participating in this hackathon?
Chris: Stay targeted and stay agile. Pick one problem, fix it, and move on to another problem if you have time. I've seen plenty of teams take on massive, ambitious problems to address all at once – they were able to make progress on a lot of fronts but weren't able to completely address any one issue. On the other hand, I've seen teams who structure their projects to address more targeted problems often get more done – as they are able to create a solution to a targeted issue and move on to the next.

We are extremely excited to invite our global community to participate in Pega’s culture of innovation through this hackathon, and we hope you are excited about joining us!


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About the Author

As a Director of Product Marketing for Pega Platform™, Matt Healy helps the world’s biggest brands build, automate, and engage at scale with our best-in-class, unified, low-code platform. 

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