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Hackathon Chronicle 1: Rekindling the ‘lost touch’!

Last year, when the pandemic hit, like most companies, we at Udgama too, started working remotely. Not that we didn’t have the infrastructure or tools to work and communicate from home, it was not the same.

Even decorating my work desk at home could not make up for the fun work banter, the brainstorming sessions, the random jokes, lunch break discussions, and break-time game escapades that we shared back in the office. While working from home, even though the learning and the work continued, the banter dwindled. I could no longer pat someone on the shoulder or wheel my chair to their desk to resolve my doubts. Somewhere, I had begun to miss the ‘vibe’.

So, when we were told that there’s going to be a Hackathon, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous. Had we been in teams working together in the office, discussing prototypes, finding names for projects, would have been a breeze. Not this time. For every small discussion, there would be a call that had to be scheduled–but somewhere deep down, I knew we’d be able to do it.

For Hackathon 2021, we had 15 days in which we had to build a complete up and running app. We were divided into teams and my team had Pradnya, Snehal, Ritik, and Shraddha (oh, that’s me).

My nervousness got a notch higher when I was told that I’d be the captain of this team. Keeping that thought parked on the side, the team and I got into action.

To begin the project, we had to first decide what we’re going to build. The guidelines were to come up with a few options of what we could build in 15 days, at they should offer a solution to a real problem.

Finding the right idea

Like every other team, we had to present some options to the entire Udgama team and together take a judgment call on what we wanted to build. The other teams had come up with four app options to choose from. However, until a day before the decision day–we just had three app ideas. Since we didn’t want to leave much to the last moment, so we had our presentation done, all set to share our concepts.

Not a fan of doing things at the 11th hour, when I got a call from Pradnya at 11 (quite literally!), I panicked. She said she had a fourth idea and that she was certain that we’ve got to put that in the presentation.

The three concepts we had so far were:

  • Read It Later App: An app that would be a one-stop bookmarking tool for all links, documents, posts, and audios that a person wants to save for later. It would keep them all in one place.
  • Invoice Generator: A automated solution that would create templatized invoices based on information shared by the user and allow them to share it directly.
  • Motivational Content Suggestor: A tool that would share motivation musings with the user, from across the web, based on their preferences.

And then there was Pradnya’s idea–A Performance Tracker. It would essentially empower sales managers to track their sales teams’ field operations, get their location and meeting updates in real-time. It had a dashboard to review performance, shoutouts to appreciate salespersons, and options to share meeting updates, etc.

Both Pradnya and I didn’t want to take a call on making the addition at the last minute, so we waited to discuss with the team. The next morning- The D-day, we did end up adding the Performance Tracker. And guess what, it was unanimously like over the other three as it had more features and functionalities to explore and learn and was a unique solution.

Hence, began the journey of building TrackPa–that’s what we named it!

Building as one

Once we had the features decided, the functionalities in place–and the technologies we’d be using for developing the app–we sprung into action. Our techstack had:

  • React Native
  • Cognito
  • Amazon S3
  • Heroku
  • Hasura

Before we knew it, everyone had owned one segment of the development and was acing their bit. Snehal, the most senior team member, took charge of the backend, where I helped out a bit. Pradnya was the creative bee on the team. In fact, the name Trackpa was her idea–as was the concept of developing this. At the same time, she played her part in developing the frontend as well. Then, there was Ritik, the youngest member of our team. Well, he chose to surprise us all by not only proactively sharing ideas about how we could make the UI/UX of our app better but also working on bits of the frontend and nailing them completely. He was always busy researching better ways to design or develop something.

However, things were not as easy as they may sound. Until our first demo, we had a very minimalistic set of features implemented for TrackPa like the user registration, login, and the functionality to submit form details. We knew we needed more. So, we shortlisted two more explorations to add to the app. We had to find faster and better ways to implement the “send invite” and “location tracking” functionalities in TrackPa. We were completely focused on getting that up and running.

Together, we had the app up and about within the given time frame–the Hackathon had turned us into one unit–a unit that worked fascinatingly in tandem with one another as if we were each a piece of a puzzle.

The good old days

The Hackathon definitely brought in a lot of learning. We worked on end-to-end app development, tried new tools, worked on branding design and visual design of the app ourselves. Each of these learnings would definitely go a long way.

However, the Hackathon gave me so much more. It gave me the camaraderie that I’d been missing for the past year. Given the excitement and the time crunch–we were working together, getting on calls randomly, pulling late nights, just discussing, sharing, and helping each other out. Wherever I got stuck, I called Snehal in a jiffy, and she took care of it all. It was like having her desk right next to mine in the office. The bonds, which may have faded a little over the past year, were rekindled. And nothing was more fulfilling than reliving the good old days–the days where we worked together, learned together, built together, and grew together!