Looking back at What the Hack V4
In this article, I write about what a TomTom hackathon looks like, and how organizing something like it can positively impact your business.
What is a TomTom hackathon?
There are hackathons, and then there are TomTom hackathons. A TomTom hackathon brings together a cohort of software engineers and other specialists from all corners of the organization and the world. It’s an intense experience where we solve tomorrow’s mobility challenges over a span of 24 hours. And the best part is that we solve these challenges together, in one place, rather than at our own desks. The time at our hackathons reminds us how much we enjoy our work and the company of our colleagues. This vision of a hackathon goes back to my days at the Chaos Computer Club in the 80s and 90s.
On the eve of the fifth edition of the TomTom Hackathon taking place on 19-21 November 2019 in Eindhoven, let’s have a look at some numbers from the previous event. The fourth hackathon took place in Berlin on 22-24 October 2018, and brought together:
- Almost 500 participants from multiple disciplines (software engineers, UX designers, architects, product managers, marketers and many more)
- Representatives from every single unit in TomTom
- 4 external companies and academic institutions
- 39 challenges designed to solve real customer problems
- 24 hours of coding
- 6 winning teams receiving 6 fantastic prizes
- 2 noted external speakers
There was music (check out our “What the Hack V4” public playlist on Spotify), great food and loads of fun. And a tiny bit of sleep. Events like this don’t just happen, of course. There was another amazing collaboration behind the scenes: the way our volunteer organizers from the business donated their time and effort to make the event a success.
Why do we run hackathons?
As the world’s leading independent location technology specialist, TomTom has a big task: to create technology for a moving world.But creating the tools for a safe, connected, autonomous world free of congestion and emissions is no easy feat. It’s beyond the capability of any one person, or any isolated team. To make something this big happen, we need to make the best of what our collective minds can create. As Ken Blanchard says, “none of us is as smart as all of us”. The TomTom Hackathon brings all of us together. It creates that “all of us” feeling that binds us together for the rest of the year, across organizational and geographical boundaries.
Why should you run a hackathon?
Here are four solid reasons to organize a hackathon.
1. It brings everyone together
Even when they’re working on the same projects, many of our teams are based in several countries and made up of several disciplines from software engineers to product managers and UX designers. Getting on the same page and meeting in person is often a luxury. And coding can be a lonely thing, so it helps to be reminded that you are part of something bigger, and to see the real impact you make to the success of a product.