The 10 best moments from Hack Week 2019 at Insider Inc.

Thomas Greaney

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Originally posted on the Insider Inc. Engineering blog.

We just finished our best Hack Week yet here at Insider Inc.

You might be wondering what Hack Week is. Hack Week is a quarterly initiative when our Tech and Product teams pause current initiatives to brainstorm, collaborate, and develop new innovation concepts. And it all happens in one week.

This go-around we had a theme: Save Seconds. Our goal was simple: Create hacks that would save time. The simple focus was finding a way to recover valuable time (seconds, minutes, hours) for our team and for our audience.

We produced some great stuff, had a fun time, and learned a ton. It was our best Hack Week in my 4 years at Insider Inc. These were my ten best bits from the week:

  1. The ambitious ideas on Pitch Day

We kicked things off with Pitch Day. We invited the entire company to share ideas or pain points which if built or fixed, could save seconds. More than 50 pitches were presented, while we chomped down on 96 slices of pizza. There were loads of big and small ideas that had everyone fired up for the week.

The most tantalizing  —  though ambitious  —  idea? A delivery drone that would transport Sweetgreen salads from the 8th floor (where the company has an outpost) to the 9th floor where the Product and Tech team sits. Why waste time burning calories walking up and down stairs when a robot could bring you a salad?

2. The project reveals during the kick-off stand-up

We kicked off Hack Week with a department wide stand-up. Everyone got together in our biggest conference room and each person or team revealed what they were working on and how their hack would save seconds. This is always one of the most exciting moments of Hack Week. The very last moment before we get to work and start turning the ideas into reality.

3. The week-long teamwork and collaboration

It was great walking around the office all week and seeing teams huddled together, having intense discussions and working with new stakeholders. Scrum Masters got to be Product Managers, Product Managers got to be Developers, and everyone found a way to look at issues and our product with a fresh perspective.

4. The accountability during production emergencies

During the week we had three production emergencies that were deftly handled by members of our super accountable tech team. It was great to see people step up and take ownership of some major issues whilst allowing everyone else to keep on hacking.

5. Presentation Day idea delivery!

I’m the Product Owner at Insider Inc. My focus is on what we can build with finite time and resources, I spend every day thinking about what we should and should not be working on. So Hack Week presentation day is always extra exciting  — and a bit nerve wracking. The team delivered the best work, ideas, and presentations I had ever seen at the near four years I’ve been working here.

6. The “Popular Vote”-winning hack, Flamewheel

Our popular vote winner was Harry Hope, with his invention, Flamewheel. Harry, a member of our senior leadership team who spent much of Hack Week putting out site issues, somehow found time during Hack Week to create Flamewheel!


A challenge we have at Insider Inc. is finding a simple way to see how stories are doing traffic-wise. So Harry created a real-time, accurate, and simple tool where internal users can simply click a Flame button for instant analytics about their post. It won the most votes within our department.


Harry also made some progress on the Sweetgreen salad drone. His “semi-autonomous" drone” wowed the crowd despite some skeptics saying it was just a toy remote control car with a day-old salad taped to it.

7. The “Best Presentation”-winning podcast hub

We have some great podcasts  — like This Is Success and Household Name — which are produced by the audio team at Insider Inc. This hack, called 6 Peas in a Podcast, brought 6 “peaple” from the team together to create a super cool podcast hub. Using the hub, a user can get any podcast they want with a live sticky audio player on the page. The team presented their hack with their very own live recorded podcast, winning them “Best Presentation.”


8. The “Save Seconds”-winning hack to help our Insider Picks team

Cathy Dinsmoor created a tool to help our Insider Picks eCommerce writers. Cathy made a Chrome extension to allow editors to enter a Amazon Product and to receive web-scraped data from Amazon to auto-populate product fields. The writer then has the option to edit that data before saving. It also auto-generates an affiliate URL associated to our Insider Picks Amazon account and saves that with the product. Pretty cool and certainly something that can save seconds and probably hours of time.


9. Every project was great

We saw everything from Machine Learning story summaries to a tiny CMS fix that our editors have been dreaming of. We had Product Managers coding cool features and teams grouping together with stakeholders to create real products in record time.

10. Finally bringing the hacks to life!

It’s been a few weeks since Hack Week, and we already have a handful of ideas from the week live on Business Insider and INSIDER. The work was tidied up, the code reviewed and QA’d to our normal high standard, and the hacks are now delighting and simplifying the lives of our team and our audience.

If you would like to join our next Hack Week, we’re hiring for Engineers, Product Managers, Scrum Masters, Designers and Data Scientists. Learn more about career opportunities and apply today