It has become one of the most awaited weeks of the year at Nezasa and this edition did not fail to live up to the expectations. The 2022 Nezasa Hack Week brought us exciting projects, inspiring ideas and the perfect opportunity to reconnect.
For one week in Lisbon, our Software Engineers and QA Testers got together from all corners of the Nezasa world with one goal: present the company with an outside-of-the-box idea to improve and enhance our product suite.
Eight different teams competed amongst each other to be one of the two winning projects. And even though there was a prize at stake, the main priority was to experiment with different approaches, new technologies, and click pause on the everyday hustle to come up with the perfect creative environment.
We followed our teams in the Lisbon offices during Hack Week to understand exactly what excites them about these special days. We got away with a sense of wonder about how much can be accomplished in such a short period of time.
Here’s how it went.
A word from our Software Engineers
The first person we talked to about Hack Week was João Ferreira. Our Senior Software Engineer was given a different role this year and seemed perfectly happy as the coordinator behind the project as well as a team member. João was part of a TripBooster revamp project, but he also arranged groups, gathered topics, organised meetings, prizes and even the celebratory dinner.
When we asked him exactly what makes Hack Week so special, he pointed at Nezasa’s philosophy:
“It’s just part of our DNA to think outside the box and create new ideas out of nothing. This is the perfect chance to be bold in a safe working space. It’s a great opportunity to actually implement those ideas you have in the back of your mind that don’t see the light of day in between the usual workload.”
João believes that mixing team members from different Engineering squads is part of the secret to success. “It’s not only the opportunity to try out new technologies, it’s actually an opportunity to build a working relationship with people you basically don’t work within your day-to-day tasks.”
On that topic, the opinion seems to be generalised among the participants. The chance to develop something with co-workers they would normally not work with is a huge part of the appeal and something to look forward to.
“It’s so useful to work with different people, with different ideas. We always establish a much deeper working relationship after Hack Week”, said Artur Alkaim, Nezasa’s Software Engineer, who presented a project around CI/CD options during this week.
For Bárbara Pereira, Nezasa’s Junior QA Tester, the main aspect that comes with working with new people is freedom. “These are not your usual team-mates, this is not your usual task. It comes with a lot of freedom and helps us discover new ways of thinking.”
It’s not all about winning…
It goes without saying that something that involves so many people can never be just about who wins what. Behind a very friendly, but at times fearless, competition, there’s a company that wishes to build on new ideas.
No project is supposed to be left behind, as they all add something unique in the short run. And for every single idea that did not win the final prize, there is now space for continuous development and implementation.
“Some projects have a huge impact right now. They are meant to be implemented into our products straight away. Others force us to explore something new. And that is equally essential”, said João about the different topics being covered by the teams.
To Marco Pereira, one of the Software Engineers working on a project around AWS Graviton 2 implementation, this truly is a perfect opportunity to reflect on ways to improve Nezasa as all:
“If every single one of us feels free to share their own ideas, Nezasa gets a perfect chance to reflect on its practices as a company. The idea that we get to implement something on the spot, without the many product restrictions, is the most important thing here.”
However, leaving the so-called “restrictions” of the product doesn’t mean the week was any less busy. While trying to catch up with Ricardo Valim, another Engineer just about to finish his project, he only added: “Very, very busy. So much fun. But very busy”.
And that is part of the recipe for so many creative concepts: to be forced to think and act in a very short period of time made Hack Week into the perfect hub for eight equally innovative ideas.
But someone has to win.
Two winning projects took home the prize of Hack Week champions 2022. The voting was done by all of Nezasa, even by non-product-related teams, after a short presentation of each individual project.
Guiseppe, a virtual travel chatbot created by Eugene Zhoga and Tito Penã, was one of the most praised projects at the end of the week and won by a landslide.
Through Natural Language Processing, the team created a chatbot capable of complex user guidance for first-time TripBuilder users or simplifying more complicated booking and planning processes.
“The motivation was to provide a better customer experience while planning trips”, said Tito Penã, one of the minds behind Giuseppe.
The other great winner was a project presented by Pedro Palma Ramos, Andreia Matos and Derk van Mourik. Entitled “Tracking Configuration Settings”, the team presented an idea to record all the setting changes happening on TripBuilder at all times.
The project gives a complete overview of every single change in settings as well as who was responsible for it.
“It was amazing! I really wanted to implement this, and the perfect opportunity came. We got to work on something we really wanted to do, face-to-face and in a very short period of time. Just perfect”, stated Pedro Palma Ramos, one of our Senior Software Engineers, about his win.
At the end of the presentations, we briefly caught up with Andrea Weisskopf, Nezasa’s VP of Engineering, and asked him what’s his take on this year’s Hack Week: “I’m very impressed by what our teams have achieved. It’s amazing to witness what happens when you create this Hack Week environment. And it was a perfect learning experience for all of us on the outside. I’m proud of our Engineers.”
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