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Constant evolution with #HackItFriday

By Walter Kimaro
In keeping with the fast paced tech world and make sure that we #StandOut, we create, we invent and re-invent new ideas, not only to affirm our relevant in the market, but also to stay close as a team and increase our productivity and efficiency.

One of our strict value at iPF is to position ourselves ahead of the curve in any tech-field we are working on. Back in 2018, we realized that if we leave it to individuals within the company to put in effort to stay informed and follow best practices on their own, we might end up with unbalanced skill sets and non standard practices. To counteract that, #HackItFriday was born.

We keep it simple and official, using our official working time. The whole team convene and  committed to one thing: improving our skill sets in terms of the latest technologies and adapting agreed standards and best practices. In rolling the dice, challenges are highlighted, suggestions on best practices in solving particular technical problems are given. The session is climaxed with accepted and written down practice in handling existing challenges.

The Setup

#HackItFriday is made of three major sessions that are setup as follows

  1. Topic Discussion
  2. From The Board ( Start, Stop, Continue )
  3. Team Building
Topic discussion during Hack It FridayTopic discussion during Hack It Friday

Topic Discussion

A topic is picked up based on our daily workflow. The discussion follows everyone's interaction with it. The team come up with rehearsed and informed suggestions on the matter. The discussions are not always on fringe, cutting edge practices, in fact most of the discussions are around day to day practices such as code quality, agile practices,devOps testing, team collaboration, quality assuarance software security... Once best practices have been highlighted, we document our findings and adopt them in our day to day practices.

Here is an example, during one of the very first #HackItFriday sessions, we decided it would be a good idea to fully embrace and use Git and Github for version control in our projects

Note: Git is a version control system or VCS for short. Git helps our engineers collaborate for a project. Suppose we have a project needing about 5 engineers to work on it. Some of them will be working on user interface ( front-end ) others will be on the backend. Now when all the engineers are working in parallel it becomes difficult to manage their individual work. With github we will take codes from each engineer and then merge it on a single system.

All of our projects already had Git at this point but there was no company wide accepted standard on how to properly use it so it was mostly an every-man-for-himself situation resulting in a lot of inconsistency in even the same project. After the session we looked at some of our favorite open source projects on Github and compiled things we liked from them and created a guideline that we follow to this day.

Discussing items on the Start, Stop, Continue boardDiscussing items on the Start, Stop, Continue board

Team retrospective session

We encourage our team members to keep their eyes open for good, bad, or curious/interesting practices in their day to day workflow. To make sure these discoveries aren't forgotten and stay with one person, we post them on the office board that has three distinct sections Start, Stop and Continue. Anytime within the week when a team member comes across new pattern they think we can benefit from, they write a sticky note and place it on the Start section of the board. Similarly when someone notices a recurring bad pattern, they again write a sticky note and place it on the Stop section of the board.

Now during #HackItFriday we go through the board and look at the Start and Stop sections and if there is a practice in the start section that we haven't adopted yet, we have a brief discussion on it's feasibility and should it be 'deemed worthy', we add it to the schedule queue to be a topic in one of the coming Hack It Fridays. If there is a new practice in the stop section we again discuss to see if it actually is a bad practice and discuss on causes and how we can make sure it stops. Practices that have been successfully attended and either adopted or stopped are then moved to the Continue section and stay there for a while then are removed from the board.

Team Building - A quick game of ScrabbleTeam Building - A quick game of Scrabble

Team Building

We make  responsibility of session organizers to come up with creative and FUN activities designed to bring team members closer and cooperative. The activities are normally simple but encourage collaboration. The teams are randomly picked every session to make sure we have as much interaction as possible across the entire teams.

Guest Speaking during Hack It Friday - Lillian Madeje, NiajiriGuest Speaking during Hack It Friday - Lillian Madeje, Niajiri

Guest Speakers

During one of the sessions, we invited one of our partners to talk to the team for a few minutes about their product and how it interacts with tech. The session turned out to be so intriguing and the we learned so much that we decided to make it common practice to set apart the friday of the end of the month for to guest speakers with the intent to one interact with people outside our immediate bubble and hence expand our knowledge making us more relevant while at the same time sharing our knowledge to the outside world.

Take part in #HackItFriday

To take part in one of our sessions please go to Hack It Friday Guest application and fill the form. You might have to wait for a little while before you get invited to a session. It's not because we're any less excited to hear from you, it's just that we only have one Friday every month for guest speakers.