Snyk reached a crossroads with their 2022 company kickoff. With the Omicron variant raging and almost half of their employees newly recruited, they considered skipping all hands altogether.
In this case study, we will learn how Snyk led a company-wide online hackathon for over a thousand participants worldwide, how they got over 90% of their people to cooperate voluntarily, and how they achieved high levels of adoption of the submitted projects.
Snyk is a leading cyber security platform, helping developers locate and deal with vulnerabilities in their code.
The company, headquartered in Boston, started out in London and Tel-Aviv, and now has over 1000 Snykers around the globe.
In November 2021, Tali Warhaft, Global People Experience specialist at Snyk, contacted BLEE about their 2022 all hands kickoff event.
The Mission: All Hands
Can we run a quality online hands-on activity for a thousand employees, following a year of 100% growth in human capital, as part of the existing All Hands lineup?
The Solution: Build Day
“When Snyk first turned to us,״ says Dvir André Tzanua, CEO and Co-Founder of BLEE, ״it was evident that we needed to think of something different”. The key difference points were:
The activity had to fit in with the rest of All Hands.
Hackathons are usually associated only with developers.
New employees might not feel comfortable in a competition.
After an internal tailoring process in BLEE, a new format was planned, which would be:
simple to understand
a space for everyone to express their ideas
a celebration of creativity, innovation and vision
We called this activity “Build Day”.
Build Day Structure
The Build Day process consisted of three parts:
Before All-Hands, people created or were assigned work groups.
Teams work on their projects on their own time, supported by mentors
Booths showing what the teams woked on via videos, slides, documents, etc.
The projects in the expo would include:
Any other way to showcase your project!
Tali Wahrhaft, Senior Global People Experience Specialist at Snyk, was skeptic about the build-day at first, because it was going to be the first time that they are doing such a big virtual event, with many employees around the globe.
Once we established the general plan, it was time to sort out the details. There were several dilemmas along the way:
How do we make sure people get in diverse teams?
We offer bonus points for diverse teams.
What do we do if people fail to get into teams on their own?
We design an algorithm that connects “singles” into groups by geography and topic.
How do we design a schedule that fits so many time zones?
We let people work at their own time, and make sure resources are available 24 hours (videos, mentors, support, etc.).
How do we get people to stay engaged for 2 days?
We offer “quests” that pop up at random times. Completing these missions can get your team a better location in the expo.
How do we make sure everyone understands what they need to do?
We base the activity on templates and forms that are self-explanatory.
How do we avoid losing people in the process?
A friendly support team that actively reaches out to teams to get their status.
How it Worked
The initial announcement of Build Day was made as part of a preexisting company event. The five missions were presented by their Mission Sponsors.
Registration was done using Slack mission channels and a dedicated website. Over 90% of the employees registered!
Coordination was critical as Build Day was part of the overall All Hands event. The production company, ThisPlay, worked with BLEE’s experts to make sure everything was in sync.
The event platform chosen for All Hands was Hopin. Each team had a private room, in addition to the support lounge (with live mentors and downloadable guides), a workshop room for storytelling sessions, and a VOD library with explainer videos.
The Expo was facilitated on Hopin. Each booth included a slide deck outlining the team’s project. The teams were encouraged to enrich their decks with videos, charts, business plans, demos, or any media that would make them stand out.
Choosing the finalists was done by a panel of judges and popular votes. That pushed teams to actively promote their booths on Slack channels using slogans and banners.
The Expo exceeded expectations, both the quantity and quality of the outcomes. The benchmark for success was set at 60 projects, and the expo ended up with 113 (!).
The expo was planned for 3 days, but the demand was overwhelming. Group managers across Snyk asked for more time to review the projects and pick ideas for implementation. Eventually, the expo was kept open and active for weeks after the actual event.
A panel of VPs picked the four official winners, but group managers all across the company inserted new ideas into their pipeline.
The participants were thrilled. They made a real effort to develop projects that would have a significant impact on the organization and the world. The support they got from mentors allowed them to turn their ideas into practical plans that could be backed by management. Most of all, they loved working together and meeting new people.
Tali Wahrhaft, Senior Global People Experience Specialist at Snyk summed it up nicely:
“If we were skeptic before this build day - it worked even better than we thought it would! It was so successful that I wouldn’t think twice whether or not to do it again.”
Here are our 3 key takeaways for organizing a virtual all-hands hackathon activity:
Make sure you present an authentic opportunity. People will not put in the effort unless they feel it’s a real opportunity to make an impact and gain visibility.
Consider the preferences of different audiences. Your developers might be very different from other departments, so make sure your activity is flexible enough to serve different tastes.
Set the rules but don’t micromanage the game. People need clarity when it comes to deadlines and expectations, but otherwise, give them the freedom to manage their own time and work.