Hack Days at DomainTools

| May 14, 2013

What is a hack day?

For those of you not familiar with the term “hack day”, it’s commonly used among technical professionals when referring to free time at work to focus on something that is outside of your daily, required workload.  I can only imagine that the phrase was coined because it started with a bunch of programmers sitting in front of their computers, hacking away at the keyboard (and drinking caffeine) for hours on end to come up with the next big internet sensation.  The wonderful part of this concept is that it doesn’t really need to take place in front of a computer anymore or involve writing code.

How does a hack day relate to DomainTools?

Here at DomainTools, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in hack days and to be able to fit them interchangeably into the list of the things we, as individuals, are passionate about.  This list includes a few obvious concepts – working on challenging problems, collaborating with team members, and expanding our knowledge and our data reach.  Then we get to the not-so-obvious (unless you know any of us personally or have read our employee profiles) – eating great food, playing ping-pong, and pulling the perfect espresso shot for a morning/afternoon/evening cup of coffee.

If you could take a screenshot of DomainTools hack days you would see …

*** Day 0 – Preparation ***

All of the employees are anxiously anticipating hack day and have begun scheming quietly to avoid giving away their secrets, finding co-workers to partner with, and collecting necessary supplies so that they’re all ready when the day arrives.

*** Day 1 – Ready, Set, Go! ***

Instead of the loud, bustling, craziness, that you would expect at the beginning of an event we have found that the beginning of a hack day session starts with exactly the opposite reaction.  A glimpse around the office on this first day would show the backs of co-workers heads, sound like the rustling of papers or tapping on keyboards, and most likely reveal little to no interaction between people who are not working on projects collectively.  Speed, flexibility, and creativity are essential to getting our projects to an ideal state by the time the hack day session is over.

*** Day 2 – The Finish Line Is In Sight ***

Most employees are still focused and fiercely working toward getting something that will show their creativity and hard work in the past days. Others are sharing bits and pieces of their work with co-workers, in hopes that they can get past a writer’s block or confirm that they don’t have any major holes in their designs.  At this stage, it’s too late to add anything substantial before the time is up.

*** Day 3 – The Grand Finale ***

On the last day, the energy in the office is high as we scramble to put the finishing touches on our projects.  Each project is a way for members of the DomainTools team to show off their creativity and innovative mindset.  The creators of each project are given 10 minutes to present their work to the rest of the team, solicit feedback and sell their project as the next big thing at DomainTools.  Best of awards are voted on by the team members to have a project bubble to the top in certain categories.  The amount of passion that is put into each project is absolutely amazing.  Watching team members talk excitedly about what they accomplished or what they wanted to accomplish shows their dedication to their work and their desire to push the boundaries on what is possible in this problem space.

Closing Thoughts

I hope the majority of you will have the chance to experience this kind of collaborative environment at some point in your careers because it really feels awesome to get your ideas and inventions out on the table.  Stay tuned for some of our hack day projects as they make their debut in the next couple of months.

We would love to hear what you would scheme up for a DomainTools hack day if you had the opportunity.  So please feel free to share your thoughts as comments on this blog posting!

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Category: Domain Tools Updates

About the Author ()

Emily is a Senior Engineer at DomainTools and has been with the company since 2008.

Comments (1)

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  1. Very cool! I’m a big fan of hack days, awesome to see that Domain Tools is making these happen on a regular basis.

    Happy employees = happy company = happy customers…of which I am one :)