'What the Hack' happens when TomTom’s hackathons go fully virtual?
I just finished participating in this year's event – my first hackathon ever – and I am walking away impressed and energized by all the incredible ideas that came out of it.
Our hackathon – which we lovingly call 'What the Hack' – happens every year as part of our innovation program, TomTom Lab. The difference with this year, as with the last, was that our traditionally in-person event went virtual. But what changes when we go virtual? I'm going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at four things I experienced as a participant of a virtual TomTom hackathon!
Innovation has no location at TomTom
At TomTom, we have a fully flexible way of working. Together with our teams, we choose to work in the office or from home (or even from abroad) depending on the activity. So, while we may miss some of the glitz and glamor of an in-person event, myself and the 600+ global participants are used to hybrid working – the online format didn’t impact us.
We also worked with product managers, pitching coaches and senior graphic designers, who supported us online and in person throughout the entire hackathon. It felt like everyone was looking out for each other, like we all knew this was bigger than just a competition. We're all developing important technologies that empower us to give location meaning at TomTom.
There's no debating that TomTom'ers will turn up to our hackathons by the hundreds to create, innovate and perfect solutions that affect the lives of everyone around the world. This is what drives TomTom'ers, no matter where they are.
Hack-a-grams: A hackathon essential
It's always great to get cheered on, and the TomTom hackathon organizers invented a whole new way of sharing the love during the event in the form of 'hack-a-grams'. Hack-a-grams were digital letters that TomTom'ers could send to hackathon participants with words of motivation and encouragement. Think of them like the tributes in the Hunger Games that fell from the sky when the participants needed them most (except our competition was way more peaceful).
I received a few hack-a-grams myself, and it was things like this that kept me connected with my fellow TomTom'ers and inspired me to push on to the finale.
TomTom hoodies transcend space and time, kind of
We were also sent goodies at home to help us feel connected to the virtual event, including one of our sacred hoodies, sent to the doorstep of every hackathon participant around the globe. No, we are not a sportswear brand, but our TomTom hoodies are legendary and symbolize the commitment and hard work participants invest into our epic events.
In addition to the sacred hoodies, there were plenty of other goodies to get us in the mood for the two-day virtual hacking event, as you can see from the photos below.
More time zones mean more hacking hours
During in-person hackathons, participants are all in the same place, as we all work in the same two-day timeframe to deliver prototypes and pitches in time.
But now, being fully remote, it was a different story – we were able to hack the time zones. Thanks to the virtual setup, my team and I could look to our team leader in the U.S. to finalize what we were working on, giving us about six extra hours from the time we were finished in the evening from our HQ in Amsterdam. I'd consider this a golden tip for anyone else taking part in a virtual hackathon – always invite someone to join your team from other time zones!
Solving real problems that matter
There you have it! These are four things that defined my virtual TomTom hackathon experience.
Exciting stuff, right? Do you wish hack-a-grams were delivered to you while wearing a coveted hoodie? Great news: you absolutely can. Check out our open positions and apply today to join me and hundreds of other TomTom'ers on our mission to solve real-life problems that matter, both during hackathons and every working day in between.
Who knows, maybe you'll even receive a hack-a-gram from yours truly one day.
People also read
Why hackathons matter, according to a winning team
Taking the lead on innovation: TomTom Lab builds new ideas and connections
The TomTom Lab: a bottom-up approach to product innovation