Last month, Qualia’s engineering team held our summer 2021 hackathon. We host hackathons a few times a year. They’re a full workday dedicated to new and exciting ideas. During these days our team takes a break from existing projects to dive really deeply into some experimental or side projects we’ve been interested in. It’s also a time for us to regroup, recalibrate, and reconnect with one another. This hackathon stands out because it was also the first time many of us saw each other in person in over a year.

HOW WE RUN HACKATHONS AT QUALIA

Ideas for Qualia hackathons are crowdsourced from the entire company in the weeks leading up to the event. Anyone can make a suggestion, whether it’s a customer request heard by our Customer Success or Sales teams, a tool that might simplify work internally, or even just a bug someone has been wishing would get solved. By requesting input from the rest of Qualia, we’re able to better see where small improvements can be made or even which direction we might want to take our products in the future.

Hackathon projects typically fall into one of three categories—

  • Features: Projects that come from customer requests or could improve one of our products.
  • Internal tools: Developer tools that we or potentially other Qualia teams can leverage internally.
  • Experimental: Projects that won’t necessarily go into production, but are explorational, innovative and unique.

We encourage everyone to choose an idea they’re passionate about, regardless of whether they want it to eventually get pushed to production or launched internally. We’ve had a number of past hackathon projects get released to our customers, such as in-app doc editing (which allows title companies to easily prepare legal document packages without leaving their software) and Order Doctor (an internal process that expedites getting the right customer support tickets, with the right information, to our support team). Qualia’s video chat feature, released in early 2020 to support remote work for our customers during the pandemic, was also first developed at a hackathon.

QUALIA HACKATHONS NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

When Qualia went fully remote at the start of the pandemic, we pivoted to hosting our hackathons from home. This meant having to stay even more organized than we already were. In addition to ensuring the basics such as everyone having strong wifi, all hackathon-related materials and guidance were shared well in advance. It also meant finding new ways to deliver short and entertaining presentations, since everyone was having to tune in individually, rather than in an engaging group setting. The team grew so much over the last year that we had 35 demos at our final hackathon of 2020, so this was no easy feat.

A few examples of the wide variety of projects the team presented—

  • A huge UI refresh of Qualia’s reporting feature, making reports crisper, clearer, and much easier to read and filter overall. We’re excited to release this update to our customers later this month.
  • Improving multi-service consistency by supporting multi-server, multi-database transactions. This works by transmitting the active session and transaction identifiers across DDP between the servers and initializing those transactions with the relevant databases.
  • The “Sound of Qualia,” which transforms home closings into a digital symphony. As information is added to an order in Qualia, a unique note is attached to each step, creating a unique piece of music with each transaction.

We hope to share more stories about some of the hackathon ideas that have eventually been set loose in the world and released to our customers. Stay tuned!

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