The Balanced Approach: Hackathons and Marathons

March 2nd, 2013 by admin

The other day a blog post called “Hackathons are bad for you” struck a chord with developers and other members of the technology world.  The post, from Chinmay Pendharkar, a developer in Singapore, thoughtfully called out the code-all-night-drink-too-much-coffee-and-alcohol-and-eat-junk-food mentality.  It received hundreds of kudos from the obviously over- tired and over-caffeinated developer community. “Chinpen” makes a lot of good points, especially when he talks about culture and the glorification of the geek lifestyle.

We also give him thumbs up for making concrete suggestions around healthy hackathons.  (We’ve seen some of those guidelines in place locally  For example, the Battle for the Charles Startup Weekend organizers made great efforts to supply healthy eats and gave everyone reusable water bottles so they could hydrate without generating hundreds of empty disposable water bottles.)

Like everything in this world, there is room for a healthy balance.  Hackathons crackle with creative energy.  They can be a wonderful source of new ideas and inspiration.  Our own team is currently participating in the Intel Ultimate Coder Challenge, and we’re all excited and energized by the new technology and techniques.  We are already looking at ways we can employ these in our everyday work.

Over the last five years, we’ve grown Infrared5 significantly while holding the line on unrealistic release schedules and development timelines that deplete us mentally and physically.  While we have crunch times like everyone else, we offer comp time to make up for overtime. We encourage restful nights and weekends for restoring our creative selves.  Walking the dogs who are our office companions are great times for partner meetings.  Keith and Rebecca have taken up running, and Rebecca plans to compete in 10 races this year including one half-marathon.  She also wants to run a 5K in under 8 minute miles.

And yet it isn’t all bean sprouts and granola — as many of you know, we have (infamous) “The Infrared5 beer:30” get-together on Friday afternoons where we connect socially as a team and do some craft beer sampling.  This is an important part of our healthy balance.

Last week we spent part of this get-together brainstorming our “Wicked Ten” – how we define projects we would all like to work on.  Number 6 on the list was “Reasonable timeline/good budget.”  While this may seem obvious, it is rarer than we’d all like.  Yet, we know that some of the work we are proudest of comes when we work with people who also take time off to rest their creative muscles and exercise their physical bodies.

How are you achieving balance?

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