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February 5, 2024

The First Week of the Year at Tilled: Anything But Typical – The Story of Build Week

Tilled Build Week 2024

From AJ Silverberg, Director of Product Strategy at Tilled

At Tilled, the tech teams have held several hackathons, which were awesome events for team building, flexing our creative muscles, showing off our skills, and generally just something that we really enjoyed doing together. It’s also, I think, very rejuvenating. Taking a break from our day-to-day routines to mix things up at work is refreshing. We talked about doing a whole company Hackathon before but the timing was never right and we weren’t totally clear how we could pull it off. So a few months back, towards the end of 2023, Caleb came to me and said we would like for the product team to lead a company Hackathon focused on solving internal problems. We already have a pretty decent backlog of linear tickets and other ideas for improving processes and changes that we want to make to our internal systems. This was a perfect opportunity to organize all of those ideas and come up with a plan where across the company, everyone would be empowered to contribute and knock some of these things out that we haven’t been able to find time to prioritize. 

The Inception of Build Week

I felt that the name Hackathon wasn’t really appropriate because ultimately, we actually wanted to build technology and processes and documentation that weren’t hacked together, but provided real value for our team and set them up for success in 2024. So that’s where the idea of the name build week came from. 

We invited team members to share their ideas in our #build-week Slack channel. The product team then organized these ideas into a FigJam board, focusing on what could be achieved in less than a week. We ended up with 10 goals, ranging from enhancing our internal admin tool, creating new marketing content, and optimizing ZenDesk support workflows. The full plan, outlined on our FigJam board, is available for those seeking inspiration on implementing this in their teams.

build week logo

I couldn’t help myself and created a special logo using AI, which turned out amazing. It didn’t exactly meet our brand standards (sorry, Marketing), but it embodied the energy we were aiming for and included some of our team’s symbols: a bird and a hotdog (don’t ask…). 

Team Formation and Roles

Teams were formed with diverse skill sets (think pairing engineers with support team members), each led by a Captain. Members focused on their assigned goals (‘Focus’) or contributed ideas and feedback (‘Feedback’). This allowed for a collaborative and versatile approach to each project with a subject matter expert at the helm of each goal. 

Launching Build Week

To kick off Build Week, we held an all-hands meeting. Keep in mind, this was the first business day of the new year, with everyone returning from Christmas and New Year’s vacation. It was nice to return to something fun rather than have to dive into a full inbox or backlog of Slack messages. In the all-hands meeting, Caleb set the tone for the week and shared the schedule. A couple of fun thing came out of the all-hands meeting. Firstly, people showed up wearing their special edition Build Week T-shirts, which had been sent out and arrived the previous week. Additionally, we announced that everyone would receive a DoorDash gift card. This was a delightful gesture – being a completely remote team, we rarely have the chance to gather for lunch, so this was our way of sharing a meal experience, albeit remotely.

Teams then broke off and began working on their projects. Day one was focused on gathering requirements, determining scope, and, most importantly, picking a creative team name!

Showcasing Our Work

The week concluded with over 20 impressive demos, highlighting the teams’ hard work and creativity. The demos also showed off significant outcomes that each team had achieved. Some of the themes and key takeaways I observed were that:

  • We ventured beyond our usual routines, embracing new challenges.
  • Our efforts directly enhanced our daily operations, benefiting our team and customers.
  • Collaboration across different departments brought fresh perspectives and new connections between team members.
  • The demos showcased the diverse talents and capabilities within our company; it was awesome to see and hear from team members who don’t typically have a voice at all-hands gatherings.

I’m really proud of the whole team and their contributions to making our first Build Week a success. We’re always striving to be better and it was very important we got feedback from the teams about what went well and what we could improve. The following week, at our company all-hands, we had an open discussion where we chatted about ways we could improve for next time. We haven’t landed on the exact cadence, but I’m looking forward to continuing this tradition.

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