Driving Innovation at Outbrain

|Dalit Heldenberg

How many times you thought to yourself during work – This process must be improved! or I wish we had the time to think this through… or even better, I have this great idea, I wish I had the time to implement it? For me, a lot of times.

In the last two weeks of 2011, our R&D (located in Israel) and whoever wanted to jump in from the company, took the time off and had Quality Time which was spent learning new technologies, improving inner processes, and (the best part) participate in 3 days of a Hackathon where we each chose an idea/project, implemented it in a limited time, and presented the final product or working demo outcome to the company worldwide.

To begin the Hackathon, we divided into groups with one caveat that each group should be composed with people that do not usually work together. The result was a great bonding opportunity for everyone.

I joined from product management and had the pleasure to collaborate with 3 great software engineers (Dan L, Harel B, Asaf L). In our team you could actually see the real team spirit — after intensive brainstorming, we had a goal and we really wanted to come up with a working product. We stayed up late (a pizza night) and implemented a real-time dashboard that catches the essence of the large amount of traffic that runs into Outbrain pipelines, but in a visual way.

The Hackathon finished with a fun session of good food and drinks, and each group presented its product in front of the entire company, including all Outbrainers around the world.

There were amazing Outbrain-related products such as machine-learning probability of CTR, fascinating wall recommendations, 3D representations of Outbrain data and many others, which were overwhelming, especially when you come to think about the tight schedule of this adventure.

Other team members chose to flex their creativity with out-of-scope projects such as a mobile app that calculates the probability of a genetic trait to appear in an offspring, or an hardware project at the hands of our CTO, Ori Lahav, who built a flexible sit/stand desk prototype to fit the Outbrain engineering environment.

Some of the new projects are already in use and integrated into our daily work.

It turned out, the Hackathon was a good practice for Minimal Viable Product (or MVP) — a technique that is important to Outbrain — first iteration deployment where each group chose the features that are crucial to focus on and implement. It was also a good experience to practice with the marketing and presenting of an idea to the whole company.

This event is part of the company DNA that encourages innovation and creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and teamwork towards goals. I’m really proud to work in a company that supports innovation and give its employees the chance to express themselves. I’m already looking forward to the next Outbrain Hackathon.

And in case you’re wondering, We’re hiring!

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Dalit Heldenberg

Dalit is a Product Manager at Outbrain who loves the web world. She holds Computer Science & MBA degrees and... Read more

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