Happy Birthday Usabilla Hack Day!
If you’re part of the SaaS world, chances are you’ve already come across the notion of a Hack Day. But, do you know why these kind of events are important? Why a company should give its employees a “day off” to spend on non-work-related projects? Instead, they should be digging gold out of the software we produce, right? Nope. Wrong mentality! There’s a huge amount of value in a company Hack Day, yet they are so often pushed aside. So, I’m going to tell you a bit about why we do it at Usabilla, and how both our team and our company culture are better because of it.
What is a Hack Day?
What better way to start than explaining the chain of events that lead to the creation of Usabilla Hack Day (UHD).
Once upon a time, a company started growing, and with growth comes focus. Transitions are never easy; people need to adapt, processes have to mature, and results are not always fast. This was an uncomfortable switch for some of us at Usabilla and the limitations imposed by the necessary focus on goals actually led to a feeling of stagnation. The struggle was real to unleash our creativity! I must confess this wasn’t in the eyes of everyone, myself included. But I knew something wasn’t right; I didn’t have a solution yet – I hadn’t even considered one, to be honest.
Until one morning when I arrived in the office and saw a ‘gift’. The unusual, unfamiliar board that had nothing to do with our Usabilla products caught the attention of everyone. Made by Joshua Krosenbrink and George Visniuc, it was a map that showed feedback items coming in from all over the world in the form of small light-up dots. We stood and admired it, you know like kids do in a candy store? From the buzz that was created, a switch was flicked and the idea was born.
Joshua and George had created a really cool thing that had been built in their free time, just for the fun of playing with technology. It was something that was completely unrelated at first glance, but it made me think – there must be so many ideas brewing around the office, why weren’t we using them for something? And in that moment, Usabilla Hack Day was born! Built upon the notion that ideas are easy to get, but cheap and useless until you turn them into actions; the UHD is a place where ideas come to life. Where creativity flows freely, where failing learning is an option as long as you try.
Actually, it’s much more than that. It’s a place where you build relationships with your colleagues. It’s like being teleported to a big workshop where everyone works and experiments together. It turns an already creative environment into an even more colorful place. It might sound like a romanticized vision of what really happens, but it’s actually pretty close to the truth!
How Usabilla benefits from Hack Day
Hack Day brings people together that normally don’t work with each other. It pushes people outside their comfort zone and, some say, it creates a healthy addiction to participate. That, for me, brings the biggest satisfaction of all. It keeps us actively in pursuit of creative solutions, helps cross-department communication flourish and, in turn, creates a better work environment. It’s a learning platform that’s easily accessible to everyone in the company. And people say creative freedom is limited outside of agencies… yeah, right!
The level of freedom and trust that an event like this creates is encouraged by the culture Usabilla provides for its employees. Culture, that I strongly believe, has been reinforced and reshaped by this event. The Hack Day is one of the reasons we, as a company, are able to keep maintain the innovative spark of a startup while experiencing such phenomenal growth.
What about the future of Hack Day?
Usabilla Hack Day is one year-old now and it’s already changing; molding itself into a more diverse event, starting with a small name change. Hack Day is now ULab, which is short for Usabilla Lab. The idea behind the name change was to create a more inclusive environment that appeals to all people, regardless of technical skill. We also wanted to give it more of an experimental vibe, creating less expectation for what is developed in our Lab. We’re not there to build the next big thing, but the fact that we are open to trying it makes it more likely that we’ll get there.
We’ll be sharing more from the ULab across social media and our blog, starting with our current Instagram series. Plus, we’re now working towards expanding the event, by introducing clients and different formats into the equation. The main goal will be to turn it into an even more inclusive environment, where sharing and learning from each other is key. We also want to improve by better facilitating the participation of our satellite offices – which, this year, will continue to pop up across the globe!
Above all, the ULab team mission is to provide a fun, creative place to bring our ideas to life. It doesn’t matter how successful our ideas end up being, what matters is that we learned something and had a damn good time along the way.