Saturday was a special day at Far Reach. It was our inaugural Operation: Make a Difference hackathon! Our whole team spent the day together, building a mobile-friendly online treatment binder for the Children’s Cancer Connection, a Des Moines-based nonprofit that serves the families of kids with cancer all over the state of Iowa.
We’re super excited about this project because it really ties together what we stand for at Far Reach. Each of our eleven Core Values is reflected in this one, very special project.
#FRCV1: Make a Difference
I won’t belabor this one too much because it should be fairly obvious. We try, every day, to make a difference for our team and our clients. That’s great and everything, but we feel compelled to think even bigger and make a difference beyond that fairly intimate circle. What better way to do that than use our specialized skills to help people who really need it?
#FRCV2: Be Positive
I don’t know too many pessimists who spend a lot of time giving to others. It takes a certain amount of optimism, I think, to see the upside of helping those in need. The thing is, freely giving of oneself has been shown to improve happiness, which, in turn, increases optimism. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle of #winning for the giver and the recipients of their good deeds.
#FRCV3: Open & Honest
We’ve found that communication is pretty much the foundation of every successful project we do. Without it, conveying the big picture and coordinating the details of a project, especially of this size, in this short amount of time, would literally be impossible. For projects like this to be successful, information has to flow freely so everyone knows what’s happening, who’s working on what, and where things are going.
#FRCV4: Embrace Change
Under the best of circumstances, projects are unpredictable. Add the constraint of a 12-hour project timeline to the mix and the effect of even the smallest change can be huge, requiring the team to take the unexpected in stride and make the most of whatever resources are at their disposal.
#FRCV5: Simplicity & Quality
The word “Hackathon” may conjure up images of an out-of-control free-for-all in which the focus is solely on cranking out a down-and-dirty solution. It certainly would be easier, with a project like this, to cut corners in an effort to get more done, faster. We don’t feel that’s a worthwhile trade-off, though. The people who will be using what we build are under amazing amounts of stress. The last thing we want is for them to struggle, even a little bit, with the application. The whole point is to make their lives easier, and by remaining focused on building a quality product that’s easy for them to use, we accomplish that goal.
#FRCV6: Learn & Grow
Because the work we do is custom for each client, the learning never ends around here. In a situation like this in which the whole team is chipping in to get the project done in a day, people are required to step out of their comfort zones. They will very likely have to do things they haven’t done before—learning on the fly and chipping in wherever needed, just to get it done. It can be challenging, for sure, but it can also be incredibly invigorating.
#FRCV7: We’re a Team
Projects always require a team effort to yield the best results, but, just as with communication, the need for working together toward a shared goal is amplified by the very short timeframe of a project like this. On the flipside, a project like this can do a lot to pull a team together. It’s a bonding experience the effects of which we hope linger for a long time.
#FRCV8: Work Smarter, Do More, Kick Ass
12-hour project timeline—need I say more?
We generally refer to work/life balance when we talk about this Core Value. In the case of Operation: MAD, though, balance comes in to play as we decide what can be done in such a short timeframe and what can’t. We have to balance the utility of a feature with its complexity and, consequently, the amount of time it will take to build. Identifying a set of features that is feasible to build in 12 hours, and that provides enough value to make the effort worthwhile, requires a somewhat delicate balancing act and some give and take.
#FRCV10: Have Fun!
It may come as a surprise to some of you that we could actually have fun working a whole Saturday doing the same thing we do all week long, but it’s true! Nerds are kind of funny that way, I guess. We get a real kick out of tackling challenging projects like this. It feeds our creative souls and inspires us to do our best work and to have fun with it, too.
#FRCV11: Be Humble
We were fortunate enough to have three Children’s Cancer Connection families come in to share their stories with us today during our hackathon. I can pretty safely say there is nothing more humbling than hearing about and observing the strength displayed by these kids and their families in the face of something so incredibly scary. It inspires not only humility, but admiration and a sense of awe as well.
The journey these families travel is a long and arduous one and if what we accomplish today makes life even a little bit easier for them, we will consider the first Operation: MAD a straight-up success.
Look for updates on the project in the coming weeks and we round things up and get ready to share it with the world.