One hundred Hackathon participants and a judging panel of executives poured into the Eastside Tech Hub in Austin, Texas for Favor’s hybrid Hackathon. The Texas-based delivery company rounded up team members both in person and virtually to build new products for the company in just 48 hours.
Unlike traditional Hackathons, Favor leaned into their core values around inclusion and opened participation to any team member in any department, not just engineers. This effort highlighted the varied skill sets required to create innovative technology — and it showed in the presentations.
Evan Green, engineering manager, opened up the event by reprising his role as “Evan Greenbucks,” a character dedicated to performing hijinks and putting a smile on everyone’s faces while hyping the cash prizes for the top three winners.
“The Hackathon was very much Favor culture on steroids,” said Maddie Martel, a group product manager and Hackathon winner who has been at Favor for nearly four years. “It was a lot of fun to have our own inside jokes; it really added to the excitement and the feeling that we’re all in this together.”
For first-time Hackathon-ers like Support Manager Jacob Hollowell, the infectious energy reflected the company’s focus on people, especially those who might not have been to the office before. “I haven’t seen the office this abuzz in so long [because of the pandemic],” he said. “It was packed, and it was really great to see new faces, new people and a lot of really good energy.”
Favor also made sure that the contagious atmosphere would reach those who couldn’t make it out to Austin, as part of its commitment to both a flexible and a people-first work environment. Dallas-based Ghaida Alatoum, a newly-hired backend software engineer, felt involved despite attending the event through a computer screen. “I still have some impostor syndrome, so the fact that I went through this — and was sought out to join the team — shows how Favor made this whole experience comfortable [no matter how long you’ve been Favor],” she said. A major goal of the Hackathon was to expose team members to career growth exploration, and Alatoum is a perfect example of this in action: She found a new interest in the mobile side of engineering and hopes to explore it in her career path.
As if the cash prizes weren’t enough, even Santa Claus showed up to deliver Whataburger and beer on behalf of one team. “The judges and audience were bribed,” joked Martel. “That’s something I’m bringing in next time!”
To get a deeper look behind the event, Built In sat down with Hollowell, Martel and Alatoum for their retrospective.
What were some of the most memorable moments from the event?
Hollowell was fond of the final presentations, even if there were a few comical bumps in the road along the way. Four minutes into his presentation, Hollowell’s slides froze. “Just as I was getting to my big bang slide, my computer wouldn’t move forward. I was yelling to stop the timer so I could fix it and run through [our] numbers. Sitting through 17 presentations can be daunting, but I think it was engaging. I had fun the entire time.”
Martel amusingly recalled what an exciting surprise it was when her team won second place — the moment caught her off guard a bit! “We went on stage and I totally blanked. I’d spent so many hours building and testing this project, and it was such a rush of exciting things happening and so many great ideas that I think I was preoccupied celebrating everyone else.”
Alatoum’s favorite part of the event was seeing how many unique ideas came out of the 17 teams. Plus, the experience made her feel comfortable working on all aspects of the company without the nerves that can come along with being a new team member. “Signing up for courses after the Hackathon so I can prepare for the next one was fun, too.”
“Everyone felt like they had a job to do.”
How did the Hackathon foster a sense of inclusion for all team members?
“I loved that we were encouraged to have cross-functional teams. Typically, Hackathons are for engineers only, and maybe a product person. I loved that we got a bonus point if we had engineering and product team members along with someone from another department,” shared Martel, which exemplifies Favor’s understanding that every role in a tech company is important.
Hollowell explained further, “[The organizers of the event] really pushed to make sure we had representation across the company from every department. Everyone felt like they had a job to do. I heard that, for the majority of the teams, people got to learn some new skills and get out of their comfort zone. It was very inclusive in the sense that you don’t have to have a specific hard skill to actually be able to contribute to the project.”
Alatoum experienced inclusion through a hybrid Hackathon team with tools like Slack and Zoom. “Most of my team was at the office [in Austin], and I was working from home in Dallas. The fact that they had a [Slack] channel with fast responses for any tech needs showed that we weren’t given less importance [as remote team members]. It was actually empowering us to go ahead and come up with ideas.”
“I think the Hackathon was a natural transition to a lot of the conversations we’re continuing to have today.”
How did the event reflect the company culture at large, specifically its emphasis on collaboration and innovation?
One of Favor’s company core values is Keep Running, which speaks to the organization’s tenacious spirit and fearless approach to setting goals. The Hackathon was a great way for team members to embody this core value as they channeled their creativity and pushed boundaries while working with their Hackathon teams.
Martel shared that “[The Hackathon] made us think about how [we can] continue to do things in a more agile and fluid way in the future. We’re always asking those questions, but I think the Hackathon was a natural transition to a lot of the conversations we’re continuing to have today.”
Even further, Alatoum shared insights into the company’s culture and how Favor likes to make their day-to-day work exciting for all. “I wanted to continue working on [my team’s] Hackathon idea, so I brought it up with my manager. Favor appreciates their team members and allows them to do what they like to help the company move forward.”
Finally, Hollowell gave us insights into the healthy, collaborative competition that goes into Favor’s culture and contributes to moving the needle in the tech industry. “I think we’re a little competitive here at Favor, which is a good thing. As you know, there can be a lot of hoops and hurdles to get things done, especially when you’re talking about budget, roadmaps, and things like that. With an ‘anything goes’ mentality, it was really cool to see the creative ideas people were coming up with. It’s cool to feel like you’re moving the needle in pretty large ways over a two-day span.”
Martel perfectly summarized how the collaboration and innovation at Favor truly makes it an enjoyable place to work. “Four years ago, I happened to put in an application for Favor and didn’t know much about it other than the fact that I loved the product. Then, I met the people here and fell in love with them.”
Rosemary Roller, copywriter at Favor, also contributed to this article.