By    |    September 16, 2020
After our first fully remote hackathon, we think so.

Hackathons are all about collaborative innovation, and this year’s PEAK6 Capital Management Hackathon—our 6th semiannual event—was no different. Except that it was actually very different—it was our first-ever fully virtual hackathon.

A global pandemic may stop us from convening in person, but we’re continually finding ways to work and create together.

In a year of vast change, on August 27 and 28, over 50 CapMan employees across technology, trading, and other business units came together to innovate around our theme, Zero to Peak60: The future of remote work, trading strategies and technology.

The CapMan Hackathon builds on our belief that there is lots of room to innovate on how to work together remotely, how to trade in a new regime, and how to develop the technologies that enable us to accomplish these objectives. The Hackathon’s structure enables participants to get outside their normal routine and give their creativity a boost—to think big, work with new partners, learn, and have fun!

“The Hackathon is an amazing display of what our people can do together in a short time. It builds bridges that support and foster growth and success, both within and across teams,” said PEAK6 Capital Management CEO Tom Simpson.

How our Hackathon worked

Ahead of the event, folks across CapMan were invited to post their project ideas, and garner interest and input from others. Using the same communication tools we’ve leveraged for trading and building since going fully remote helped the ideas flow and grow.

Idea originators pitched their ideas to participants in a live Zoom caucus. Potential team members connected in breakouts, formed teams and started brainstorming, collaborating, and planning their approach to turn their novel ideas into reality. Projects ranged from optimizing the speed of our core infrastructure, to innovating the functionality of our user interfaces, to analyzing performance in order to drive smarter trading decisions.

The full product lifecycle in hyper-speed

Participants dedicated two focus days to their Hackathon projects.

Teams communicated, brainstormed, designed, built, iterated, and reached out for feedback—essentially going through the full product development lifecycle in hyper-speed.

Their goal was to develop a prototype or working deliverable.

Throughout the Hackathon, public Slack channels allowed others to follow along, learn, and help, and also provided a durable record of the team’s ideas, process, and final product. Even colleagues not officially on teams were able to get in on the action by acting as consultants and subject-matter experts, offering useful insights and experience to multiple teams and further showing the value of collaboration. Teams also interacted with each other, incorporating ideas and solutions, and even planning for how different teams’ projects could work together after the hackathon.

After the focus days, teams presented to about 140 PEAK6 employees via Zoom. The judges – including CapMan CEO Tom Simpson and members of trading, technology, and trading and clearing services – rated projects on their collaboration, delivery, and how much their product moved CapMan forward to future success. The crowd also got a chance to weigh in via multiple collaboration technologies.

How do we evaluate Hackathon projects?

Collaboration — Did the team leverage diverse skillsets? Did every member contribute? Did the team coordinate effectively while hacking remotely?

Delivery — Did the team deliver something that actually works and is additive to what existed before the hackathon (rather than just a new idea or potential to explore)?

Moves us forward — Does the product apply to our business and/or organization to drive change? Can it be used? Is there opportunity for it to deliver value?

In the end, all the projects were great, and for the first time ever, we had co-winners, as both the judge and crowd ratings tied exactly! Which projects won this year’s CapMan Hackathon? Let’s just say that a number of projects are going into production soon. We’re excited to track their progress.

Collaboration, connections, cross-pollination—and results

Our first remote CapMan Hackathon was a terrific way for people to connect and collaborate and learn from one another across teams and disciplines.

“Being able to work and interact with people from different teams and organizations made this feel more normal, like we were back in the office,” commented Aadithya Pramod, software engineer and event co-organizer.

Micah Lange, trader and co-organizer, agrees. “The new connections you make are super useful—especially for younger employees and newcomers to the organization.”

Trader Steven Shen summed it up nicely: “You have a bold idea going into the Hackathon, work with people with different skillsets but who you don’t necessarily know a lot about, and the whole team focuses on delivering the best outcome possible in just two days. That whole thing is amazing.”

Here’s to more connected teamwork, creativity and collaboration in 2020 and beyond.