Wayfair was invited to be a sponsor at this year’s Beanpot Hackathon (link: http://www.hackbeanpot.com/), held last week at the Microsoft NERD center in  Cambridge.  The concept of a hackathon is so closely related to our core values, that we jumped at the opportunity to participate.  Wylie Conlon, along with others from the nuACM (link: http://acm.ccs.neu.edu/), did a great job organizing this event.

For those unfamiliar, a hackathon is a fantastic display of creativity, technical skills, team work, problem solving, and time management, all compressed into a single marathon event. The beanpot hackathon produced 17 demos, impressive considering the event only lasted about 24-hours.

As the event got underway, the dinner area was buzzing with excitement.  Groups of people informally huddled together, some with a white board to their side, drawing sketches and getting feedback, others researching stuff on their laptops, everyone engaged in the discussion bouncing ideas back and forth.  As different teams solidified, they moved to the main conference room to start building their project.  The one theme that was consistent across all groups was passion for technology, and enthusiasm to get something ready for demo.

Most groups worked through the night, taking short naps between bursts of coding.  We had some of our engineers available as mentors, although most groups seemed to be heads down and not looking for outside assistance.  Near the entrance to the conference room, Wayfair setup a duck pond, available for those needing a fun distraction from their project.  There was a fishing pole, and you could pull a duck from the pond to win a prize.  The rubber duck also serves as a good sounding board for ideas, or debugging code when you are stuck. (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging/)

By the time Saturday evening arrived, I was blown away by some of the projects that teams put together.  Not only were the demos some cool application, or something that solved a problem, but the presentations were well done.  In many cases, the presenters talked about their inspiration, thought process, and where they saw the idea going next.  Questions from the audience were often constructive and suggested improvements.

Looking back on the event, I think one of the reasons we aligned so well with this particular event is because of the similarities to our work environment — Smart people using technology to solve problems quickly and get things done.  I see that demonstrated every day in our engineering department, and it was refreshing to see so many talented students come together for an event like this.  On a related note, we are hiring for summer internships in our software development group.  If you were a participant at the beanpot hackathon, or this type of environment sounds good to you, please get in touch with us (link: eomeara@wayfair.com)

Brad S.

(contributors: Elias Y., Nishan S.)