The countdown is on for the seventh (!) incarnation of our internal hackathon, Off The Grid (OTG) at NantHealth’s NaviNet offices in Belfast and Boston. This is when we get three days to go off the grid, be creative, and explore something other than our day-to-day work.
Off The Grid: The DetailsHere’s a quick rundown of overall process (as summed up by grown-ups):
- Idea - This is a mix of product ideas, technology ideas, or just something that bugs you a lot that you think can be fixed.
- Self-organize into teams – A mixer has been added make it more like some external hackathons to get people interested in joining teams. In Belfast, we just use peer pressure people into teams, a.k.a “Everyone else is doing it…”
- Work for two days as a team – Participants can travel between sites to join in with the fun. This might include the time I took a Boston teammate away from their nice hotel for on a tour of “famous” Belfast places (because Rhianna may have been there when she was in Belfast) and ended with a kebab shop.
- Present your idea – We have a big cross-site presentation day with A/V setup. If you’re going to present to a big crowd, OTG is where you want to do it, especially since you can choose to have a brewed-for-the-occasion OTG beer in your hand while you present.
- Ideas then become part of NantHealth folklore: People still come to me and say remember that thing that person did that time and we’ll smile at each other and bond deeply with eye contact to the hilt.
Off The Grid Projects
Ah- I see you with your skeptical little face asking “What sort of things can you achieve in 2 days?” A lot, actually. I personally have ridden on other people’s coattails to deliver projects like:
- Location Aware Provider Directory – Mobile Application
- Population Management Offering for expectant Mothers
- Health Tracking Device Aggregation
- Point In Time Recovery for Chef
- That one I fell asleep during that had something to do with people
In all truth, talented people have dabbled with Docker, facial recognition, machine learning and google glass applications. It’s startling what motivated, self-organized teams can do with in that time. Taking my inspiration from the indomitable Kanye West, this year I will be suggesting we only release our products on Tidal. Need I say more? #Winning
Off The Grid: A Few of My Favorite Things
Not only will this year mark the seventh Off the Grid, it is also the seventh time I have participated. OTG is one of my favorite things about our culture and our company. The chance to not only try something new and to work with different people, but also to see what your colleagues can do and be reminded that you work with some pretty smart people. This is going to be our first one as NantHealth and it’s already shaping up to be even bigger than before. We’re an intensely friendly workplace. A lot of the applications really do find a place within the company whether as a developer productivity tool or new application.
Knowing that your employer has enough faith in you to give you the time to go work on something important or interesting to you is great and it’s one of the reasons why I never shut up about Off The Grid. I guess that’s the thing that always keeps me coming back for more: OTG isn’t a corporate shill for projects we can’t get funding for but it is a true opportunity to try something new and sometimes fail so that people can make fun of you in a supportive way. Really isn’t that we’re all looking for in a workplace?