We’ve been doing something rather interesting for the past few years that I think you should know about.
It’s called Hack Days. Every three months, we take a break from our regular work and for two full days everyone in the company has free reign to work on whatever project they want – as long as it adds value to Shopify. There’s no limit to the creativity or scope of the projects, there’s only one rule to Hack Days: employees must ‘ship’ their projects no later than 4pm at the end of the second day. At this point, everyone meets in our staff lounge to pitch their finished projects.
Here’s what it looks like:
We treat Shopify Hack Days like a sandbox to try new ideas. The best ones stick and become innovative new features for our merchants and our internal infrastructure.
Here are just a few things that were created during Hack Days:
The Dating Game
The Dating Game is our in-house applicant tracking system. We use The Dating Game to manage our entire hiring process from job postings or head hunting calls to the signed offer.
With The Dating Game we know who has interacted with every candidate and what the outcome was of the conversation. We even automated data entry with a ‘grab’ function from Github and LinkedIn.
Shopify Stories is a collection of videos that capture the story behind our merchants. Through short videos we tell the tales of how our store owners started their business, why they decided to sell online, and how it’s changed their lives.
Instead of using Craigslist to buy, sell or trade our household stuff we decided to build our own classifieds app. With Shopify Classifieds staff can easily browse products their co-workers are looking to get rid of.
Expensely is a hosted expense reimbursement system that allows managers to approve and seamlessly upload into both our accounting and payroll systems.
We even built a mobile version of Expensely so employees can take a picture of a receipt and instantly upload into the system.
Fraud Filter is a free Shopify App that gives our merchants greater control over their checkout, allowing them to block repeat fraudulent orders. Obviously, this is just an extra layer of protection on top of the security measures and fraud detections we already have in place, but it gives store owners some more flexibility and extra safeguards.
Brick-And-Mortar to Brick-And-Click
A few of us teamed up with a radio station to hold a contest for local retail shops. We built the winner an online store in one day and filmed some of the fun.
The War Room
Since not all of our team are programmers or designers, some of our employees contribute in other ways. Our office is already pretty cool, but when one of our marketing guys wanted to build a “War Room” we couldn’t resist.
Hack Days aren't just about building awesome things in two days. They’re about taking a creative break from regular duties. They’re about having fun and giving our employees autonomy to act upon their pent up ideas. They’re about team building and getting to work with people you usually don’t get to work with. And Hack Days are about taking a project – no matter how big – from start to finish in just two days.
Hack Days are a tremendous learning experience with tangible outcome, and for that have become an important part of our cultural repertoire of things we do to challenge ourselves.