Innovation Week 2021

Challenging the Status Quo

The end of the year is nearly upon us, and the homestretch is busy and fragmented between the pockets of vacations and holidays. Given the outlying characteristics of the fourth quarter, each year at FullContact, we have decidedly conducted our Hack Week during this period.

Hack weeks are when we unshackle our engineers from the day-to-day role of building products and features. Instead, we have an unconstrained blank canvas to work from.

Giving a team this freedom to spread their wings reduces burnout, sparks creativity, and creates the space to tackle nagging issues or learn something new. This forced mindset change prompts the teams to go into creative mode instead of the status quo of ‘pulling something off the storyboard, work it, ship it, repeat.’ Hack weeks are where we stoke the flames of pure innovation.

From the embers of this innovation, we have seen countless ideas, inventions, and innovations sprang from the teams. Some teams created the foundations for what later became new products and features. Others connected systems in new ways to showcase unforeseen insights in the data of how our customers used our products. Others spent the time learning a new programming language or experimented with a new platform or technology. In the end, much of the work done could be considered “throwaway.” But the point of these hack weeks isn’t rooted in deliverable expectations—the fountain of creativity and knowledge that spring forth are the true prize of the journey.

As we approached the fourth quarter this year, where vacations, holidays, and code freezes are like potholes in the highway, we decided to rethink this great culture of Hack Week. Hack Week was fantastic for the engineers, but it left a vital part of the company out of the fun – everybody else.

Why should only engineers get this space and time to create and innovate? Surely, engineers can’t be the only team members who have nagging pains, ideas they want to try out, or something new that they just need some time to learn! Coming to this realization has led us at FullContact to expand the Hack Week principles to include everyone at the company!

With that in mind, we’re excited to announce the newest addition to the rich culture of FullContact: Innovation Week!

The Constructs of Innovation Week

Innovation Week begins on November 29th and expands the scope beyond pitching, building, and demoing at the end of the week. This year we have essentially created daily mini-conferences where there is a multitude of opportunities to learn and develop. Every day has its own theme to highlight the various aspects of our positions, aimed to generate knowledge around four key areas:

  • Know Your Product – Our products are foundational to what we sell here at FullContact. With that, we should have a good baseline of knowledge around them. When we’re all experts in our products, we move faster as a whole, accelerating our ability to grow the revenue.
  • Know Your Customer – Let’s acknowledge that “Know Your Customer” is a total buzzword these days – you’ll see KYC all over the Internet! That’s only because knowing your customer allows you to showcase your specialties in a way that solves their problems and offers excellent customer service. We have a core value around this, of course: “Customer Obsessed!”
  • Know Your Team – The team you work with daily is one of the most important groups of people in your life. You spend most of your daylight hours in the trenches with these people, so knowing who they are is just part of “Being Awesome with People.” This is FullContact’s ultimate core value.
  • Know Your Technology – Being a technological company is a central part of our identity. Our products aren’t tangible–they’re pretty abstract. They solve real-world problems on the macro scale, which means they’re rich with computer science and carry depth in their design. Understanding more of this foundational layer can benefit everyone if we learn what goes on behind the scenes!

The Structure of Innovation Week

The week begins with a traditional “Pitch-a-thon.” This event is where the team generates ideas before soliciting them to a broader audience to drum up engagement and excitement on the topic, whether the goal is learning or innovating. Each daily theme involves learning sessions, trivia, and innovation time.

So, for example, Monday is “Know Your Product.” The day consists of a trivia session about our products and three learning sessions about different aspects of our products, features, and how they work. In regular times, shipping containers are not lined up along the coastal ports, and our SWAG would arrive on time. But alas, the SWAG is still on its way to each team member to commemorate the occasion!

A subject matter expert conducts the learning sessions, intending to flatten the “who is the expert” curve by teaching others. The trivia sessions shake up the day from the presentation format, transforming a learning experience into something fun and competitive. By leveraging a tool called Mentimeter, we facilitate the live trivia with fully customized questions. It comes equipped with leaderboards, various question types, and a weighted score for how quickly you answer! To facilitate further conversation and engagement, we have floating lunch blocks where our fully remote team can participate in their timezone.

We keep the excitement going throughout the week by offering a number of prizes, raffles, and awards. The gamification of the week creates another small incentive for stepping out of the day-to-day routine and learning new things. For most of the day, the teams explore, create and innovate on the topics they choose–based mainly on the ideas generated in the Pitch-a-thon. As the week rounds out, we all look forward to the demos that each team put on.

For me, the demos are the most exciting time of the week. It’s where everyone can see what each team has learned or built, creating a flywheel effect sparking new ideas and curiosities. It’s the ultimate Show-and-Tell, and I know I’m going to leave humbled and blown away at how truly talented the team is!

Driving the Culture Forward

If you and your company have never done something like this, I encourage you to try it out – even if it is the Hack Week version. You’ll be surprised and honored by your team in what they can do for you, given the limited time and space.

At FullContact, innovation and investment in our people are core tenets of our company. An engaged and excited teammate will propel your company forward in unimaginable ways, bringing those around them along for the ride.

Offering the opportunity to ‘reset’ their mental state reduces burnout and sparks creativity, leading to improved revenue or efficiencies. Most importantly, affording people the space to learn and share their findings drives an open culture and benefits everyone. We’re constantly hiring and looking for creative, hungry, and collaborative people, so please reach out if this glimpse into what FullContact is like resonates!

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