MPC IT Shark Tank!

Our latest initiative to keep things fun and solve those pesky challenges that live in the shadows of our main projects.

This month we launched a new initiative we’re calling MPC IT Shark Tank. It’s sort of a mashup between a code hackathon and the TV show Shark Tank. It works like this:

  1. At our quarterly all-IT meeting, we will have a pitch session during which “idea champions” will pitch an idea for a small-scale coding project. The only requirement is that the project must address some existing pain point or gap or provide some new capability to the MPC IT world. After hearing all the pitches, audience members can then choose to join a team, or no team at all - participation is not mandatory.

  2. Pitches which successfully recruit teams will then become the “hack projects” for the quarter. For our first quarter, we have 4 teams. During our code hunker Fridays1 each week, the teams will meet for a couple of hours to work on their project.

  3. At the next quarter’s all-IT meeting, the teams will present their final results. The audience will then anonymously vote and one project will be crowned the best, coolest, most impactful implementation.

  4. We will organize a celebratory happy hour after each quarterly meeting to recognize all the teams. There will be prizes and other benefits for all who participate (such as free food/drink, geeky toys, etc…) plus some sort of highly visible recognition in the office.

Office glory will follow, legends will be made! And the cycle starts over again.

MPC IT Shark Tank was designed with two main goals: first, to give staff members from different areas of MPC IT a chance to work across teams on interesting projects; second, to provide time and structure to address some needs that don’t fit within our primary mainline projects. Every organization has these types of potential projects lying in the shadows. For us, they are things like tweaks to our work tracking system (Redmine) to make it more pleasant to use, integrations using our HipChat Hubot so that we can control and get more information from our infrastructure from within the group chat environment, and creating a simpler web-based alternative for doing simple edits to our metadata. We also hope to use it not just to solve pain points but also for “wants” on occasion - ideas that provide some new capability rather than solve an existing issue. Perhaps some novel data visualization tools or a creative “Internet of Things” way to communicate system status or activity through the physical workplace.

We have no idea if this will work, but we’re excited to try! If you’re reading this and have done something similar in your workplace, please share your experience in the comments. I’ll be following this idea here on the blog as it develops, so look for followup posts in the coming weeks and months.

  1. We have a lounge reserved each Friday for the purpose of code hunkering. People use it to peer program, run ideas by devs from other teams, or just to do their coding in a more social setting. Also, the Donut Fairy tends to visit the hunker. 

Dialogue & Discussion