in Engineering, People

Our 2018 HackaTRON

This Summer, GoCardless’ Product Development team held an internal Hackathon. This year, we went digital and themed everything around TRON.

The start to any good Hackathon is the ideas. What kind of hacks do people want to build? Do they need to be work-related? What if people don’t know what they want to work on?

To help with this process, we tried something new: The Wall of Ideas. To start things off, we had some seed ideas alongside some blank sheets for people to add their own. Any ideas were welcome – no idea was too big or small! Other members of the team could then add their name to a project they’d like to work on.

The day before the Hackathon, we gathered to pitch our ideas and recruit more people in to teams – by the morning of the HackaTRON, we were ready to hit the ground running!

Entering the grid

Our IT team rode in on their Lightcycles (or so we imagine) and tested out everything we needed in the venue before the hack day, which allowed everybody to get started without spending time setting up workstations or connecting to the WiFi. (One of them even managed to get back to our office in time to deliver the talk and host the London Apple Admins meetup. Truly a superhero.)

It wouldn’t be a GoCardless event with swag and our Design team did a great job, kitting us out with HackaTRON T-shirts and stickers.

We were also treated to a sweet surprise in the afternoon as the team at Doughnut Time came up with these absolutely Instagrammable TRON themed doughnuts!

Greetings, programmes

The wall of ideas produced lots of fantastic hacks – here are some of the highlights:

Shipping to production

Recently, GoCardless launched two-step authentication, issuing one-time SMS codes for users of our dashboard. Some of the team decided to take this a step further and implemented the authentication feature with an authenticator app that generates time-based, one-time codes, such as Google Authenticator or Authy. It was so well done that it’s actually being rolled out to our customers as part of the feature soon. :shipit:

Learning new skills

It’s important for our hackathons to be a collaboration between all members of the Product Development team, whether they have programming skills or not. Several people were up to the challenge and pushed themselves to learn something new.

  • Learning React - Product designer, Blanca, teamed up with front-end developer, Bianca to learn React and built a question and answer application that could be used for our internal company meetings.
  • Sorting the post - Currently, our Office team have to manually sort through parcels and notify each person when their post has arrived. One team decided to solve this problem by creating an application that can scan the label of a parcel and use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to identify the recipient and automatically ping them on Slack.
  • Making it rain - Intern, Jai, built a JavaScript game using our mascot, GC Cool – including a ‘make it rain’ feature, which everybody was hoping for.
  • Building a FoodBot - Every week, our People team organise Lunch Roulette, and invite six lucky people from across the company go out for lunch together. At the minute this is a very manual process. One team decided to make their lives easier by creating FoodBot. The bot randomly selects people who have not been for lunch together, and notifies them by adding an event to their calendar.

Work hard, play hard!

GoCardless processes millions of payments every day, and as we expand these transactions are increasingly between banks all over the world. One team built a real-time payments map to visualise all of the payments that GoCardless processes. We are excited to see how the map changes as we expand in Australia and beyond.

One of our hacks from last year came to life this time around as Site Reliability Engineer, Chris had another go at his project from the last hackathon.

His app takes you right back to the 00s and the days of sitting on MSN after school – taking the song you are listening to on Spotify and pulling it through to your Slack status.

Level up: Going forward

This was the biggest GoCardless hack day to date, and we’re excited to see where we can take them in the future. As the team grows, we look forward to working on bigger and more ambitious projects and increasing the frequency of these events to once a quarter.

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