Hack, hack, hack! Introducing Zenefits Hackathon Team, BetterSyncs

May 4, 2018

Congrats on your amazing work in the hackathon this year! Your creation, BetterSyncs, has us excited for various reasons, but the fact that we can now more effectively and efficiently record outcomes from our 1:1s has us pumped about improving our feedback loops and job performance overall.

How did the idea for BetterSyncs come forth? Was it from a customer? A colleague? Inspiration from another product? When did you know that this was the area you wanted to focus on for the hackathon?

[David Hirtle] I knew right away this was the idea to focus on. I had a few other ideas, but this one won out because it meets a concrete need I’ve experienced myself, both as a manager and as an employee. The status quo was not particularly efficient: figuring out a quick agenda in-person and each of us recording a few (easily lost or forgotten) notes.

I also really liked the visibility of the end result. We were looking for a product we could build and freely share with the world, whether existing customers or just friends/colleagues in other geographies that Zenefits doesn’t serve yet. During the hackathon, I even collected feedback from my wife, who could use this in 1:1s with her direct reports.

Your team spans offices and teams. Was it challenging to collaborate effectively and not all be physically in the same room (or time zone)? How did you make it work? 

[Mason Mohkami] We used different means of communication to make sure that everyone was included in the decision making and development process. Slack was our main means to do that when not everyone was physically present. We also utilized video conferencing for our brainstorming sessions as one of us was working remotely at the time.

What was the most rewarding moment in building and building BetterSyncs? Did you have an “aha” moment? 

[Vlad Berteanu] The most rewarding moment was acquiring the bettersyncs.com domain and deploying our application. We really wanted to end the hackathon with a fully functional app that we could use right away to better manage our 1:1 meetings. It was also very exciting to see Zenefits employees requesting access to the app right after the presentation!

[Melody Siadaty] For me, it was when we saw the first working prototype and the beautiful logo and domain, with all the avatars next to our names! “Better syncs” could start right there and then!

What is your biggest hope with the launch of BetterSyncs? (Melody)

[Melody Siadaty] Internal adoption so that everyone at ZenNation can have more efficient and productive 1:1/sync meetings – and then have our product go viral to our customers and the outside world! 

Why participate in a hackathon? What’s your favorite part of getting involved in these quarterly events? 

[Taha Abdelsamad] I think everyone would agree that it’s super rewarding to be able to bootstrap an idea from scratch in just a few days. Especially when you see people get excited and start to use your app right after the Hackathon!

[David Hirtle] For me, it’s a chance to work with people that I don’t normally get to. It’s healthy to mix things up periodically. The format also encourages teams to get a little competitive, which I always enjoy.

Did you ever hit any major speed bumps along the way? How did you work through them? 

[Mason Mohkami] Being new to the team (and Zenefits), I had an assumption about the UI components that would be available to us, but since that was not used frequently in our system it was not a part of the shared components. With some research, we figured out how we should go about implementing it and I believe that our platform team now has put it on the list to be added to the shared components.

[David Hirtle] There were a couple, but nothing too major. The largest (loudest?) hiccup was a late addition where we added recommended 1:1 topics you can choose from. Unfortunately, that part of the form became somewhat buggy and we didn’t realize how bad it was until too late.

We were able to work around this during the demo and then fixed it promptly after.

Please note: The BetterSyncs product is not yet available to the public, but stay tuned for its release!