Twice a year, MuleSoft hosts an internal hackathon to allow teams to focus on passion projects and unique ways of using our platform. Last week, we hosted our second hackathon of the year with the theme Scaling MuleSoft.
“Hackathons are a great way to have engineers bring new ideas that they can turn into products, improve our existing products, try out new technologies, and mainly have fun,” says Mariano Capurro, VP of Engineering at MuleSoft. “it is incredible to see how many of the projects end up as part of our products after each hackathon.”
Hackathons span teams and continents
At MuleSoft, our Engineering organization has a unique structure as well as a culture of innovation and collaboration that gives our hackathons a bit of a twist. We work in a scrum environment on small, product-focused teams of about 4 to 6 people on average so we can build and move quickly. While our teams are small, we work together across continents; many engineers work at our HQ in San Francisco, and our other engineering hub is in Buenos Aires, Argentina; most teams have people in both places.
“Our hackathons have our San Francisco and Buenos Aires teams working together, even though they aren't necessarily hacking together in person,” says Mariano. “It's critical to our culture and reinforces the fact that we are one company and one team.” In fact, half of one of the winning teams was in San Francisco and the other half was in Buenos Aires; they collaborated using GitHub and Slack.
In addition, hackathons at MuleSoft are an open opportunity for teams outside of Engineering. “Every hackathon is a little different, but this time around, we had Product Management, UX, and IT teams participating as well contributing interesting projects, which is really cool since we all work together so much already,” says Steven Butt, Senior Software Engineer on the UI team.
He adds, “I love that MuleSoft lets you pick the project you want to work on and the people you want to work on it with. The company genuinely wants us to expand our skillsets and work on things we're really interested in.”
Many teams collaborate regularly because of the nature of the product they work on. For instance, the Core Services team, which provides the base APIs on top of which Anypoint Platform is built, like auth, identity management, and other system-wide components, naturally must work with nearly every team within Engineering, Product Management, Quality, Infosec, and others in order to support them as they scale the platform as quickly as possible. Hackathons allow them to work together on things outside of their main focus and play different roles in the project than they do on their everyday teams.
“Our regular hackathons allow us to get away from the regular day to day and explore an idea that we've been mulling about and haven't had the chance to work on,” says Somesh Sasalatti, Senior Software Engineer on the CloudHub back-end team, which is focused on building out microservices to scale our product. “It's something fun to do that benefits not only us as individuals, but we get to contribute our skills for the greater good of the company.”
How to scale MuleSoft
Last week's hackathon had more than 70 participants form teams of up to five people, choosing any area of focus that interests them. Participants are encouraged to work with people from different product teams to get exposure to technologies they don't use in their usual role.
“Hackathons are fun, and obviously, free food is a big plus,” says Steven. “It's also unique that MuleSoft offers multiple judging categories and prizes, which helps ahelps support the increasing number of people we add to our team as we're growing.”
The two-day hackathon had four award categories and prizes for each:
- People's Choice—All participants vote on the project they like the most
- API-fication Enabler—Judges choose the project that brings MuleSoft closer to our goal of total api-led connectivity.
- Scaling MuleSoft—Judges choose which project solves pain points for any MuleSoft team, in or outside of Engineering.
- Best Addition to Product/Innovation—Judges choose the project improves an existing MuleSoft feature or creates a new and useful one.
To help get creative juices flowing and give people something to do when they need to take a break from hacking, MuleSoft CTO Uri Sarid has a tradition of bringing a bunch of LEGO sets to the group (Uri actually has a giant set of LEGO blocks he uses to explain the connectors on MuleSoft's Anypoint Platform, making the toy all the more appropriate to play with at work).
“It's nice to have something to play around with in the office that's tangible. I can go start building something and then go back to my desk, and someone else will come by and add to what I started,” says Somesh. “It's funny, our LEGO structures could be considered some of the projects that come out of our hackathons.”
The 40+ projects were submitted via homemade videos to a drive for judging—some complete with ‘80s hairband music in the background, voice overs, or animation. After judging is complete and prizes are awarded, some of the projects will go straight into use by the teams they help out, some will continue to be built out, and some will be welcome additions to our product. Others will become awesome additions to our office, like the Muleadore 64, which came out of our spring hackathon. For that project, the team turned a Commodore 64 into an IoT device, using MuleSoft to enable it to tweet and do other commands. Since then, the team has even added a Slack integration.
Continuing our culture of innovation
“The hackathons here are pretty awesome, and I love the fact that we try to do these multiple times a year,” says Somesh. “It's always interesting to see how people mix things up and spend time coding with people they usually don't share time with.”
We're excited to keep the momentum going and keep the spirit of continuous innovation and experimentation with whatever technologies we can get our hands on as we grow and scale our teams. If this kind of culture is interesting to you and you want to learn more about working in Engineering at MuleSoft, check out our open positions or drop me a note. We'd love to hear from you.