It’s Saturday February 20, 2016 at 00:00h, and I cannot for the life of me get to sleep. Knowing that in a few hours I should be awake & ready to head to Smooch HQ for final packing & coordination for my very first hackathon sponsorship keeps me wide eyed & counting- counting items, approximating volumes, ticking off lists until they are imprinted in the back of my eyelids (shouldn’t there be some imaginary sheep involved at this point?). There’s always that feeling of forgetting something crucial which cleverly conceals the building*... excitement? anxiety?* I’d wager it was a bit of both.
At 04:00h a melody & vibration next to my head stirs me. Four hours of rest feels like the blink of an eye; nothing makes you appreciate the trickling nature of time passing by like the dawn of a deadline! It’s a messy Montreal morning as my taxi makes its way to my second home, Smooch HQ. While my teammates slowly arrive to help pick up our gear & get ready to go, the anxiety dissipates- it’s time to be on, to make things happen. Time to herd the cats! Leading our small convoy with the company car, we slowly crawl through the snowy streets towards McGill's campus, greeted by the enthusiastic grin of a McHacks coordinator. “Oh, so you're the one with the Tesla!”. It feels nice to be expected.
Sexy parking angle? Nailed it.
Our newest hire, Smoochbot, says hello!
With team members scattered here & there, we unload our rather large inventory of coffee, cookies & schwag, newly printed banners, laptops, cables, extensions, speakers… not to mention snacks, energy drinks, a tent, and sleeping bags for my team.
I had pretty much prepared for the hackpocalypse.
Awaiting the LED rig for the car display & the pour-over station I had built the night before, I occupy myself with my smartphone- messaging people to be here or there, flipping from Slack to Twitter to E-mail to Google Drive, forwarding schedules, account information, exchanging times & places, wheres & hows. We finally make our way over to the opening ceremony, seated nonchalantly in a single, purple-clad row. We get a couple “hi’s” from ex-colleagues at RadialPoint, and I manage to snap & tweet a group pic before we launch into McHacks.
Nice group shot with our awesome photographer, Danny (3rd left), making an appearance!
Our Head of Product, Mike Gozzo, is crushing it (we watch a lot of Silicon Valley at Smooch) with his presentation of our SDK & APIs, conversational commerce, and the upsweeping trend of messaging-based interaction in the B<>C world. He speaks to the students the same way we hear him speak at the office: methodical, humorous, and no-bullshit. I smile to myself as he jokes about his fear of touching our CEO’s car (I can never drive a regular vehicle again now that I know)!
Rare shot in the wild of a boss being a bawss.
And so it begins...
Inside the hall, the energy definitely picks up. Hackers start to arrive & assemble into teams, I meet our booth neighbours, Nuance & Maluuba, and the crowd descends upon us, asking who we are, where we’re from... are we hiring? (Hint: Yes!) The next few hours are a juggling act between talking to attendees & sponsor reps, setting up the perfect brew system with my new coffee contraption, and trying to tweet & manage info requests on Slack while curating our Spotify jams.
Andrew & Stasi ~~playing around~~ working away (such focus!)
It’s amazing how organically things come together, my devs & engineers know exactly where to be & when; they live for this stuff, and it really shows. After a quick 3-hr nap, I am amazed to arrive back at our booth at 4am to see hacking teams littered around our table while I am still wiping the sleep from my eyes. I muse to myself as to whether or not I am still having a delirious caffeine-induced dream, but in reality, I know that my team is the dream team.
Mario is the coolest, says everyone ever. True story.
Meanwhile, our Tesla is looking foxy in the midnight rain.
Morning shift goes by relatively fast as everyone is rushing to finish their demos for 12pm sharp. I run around delivering coffees to hardworking students, taking “tickets” for assistance from our devs all the while. “OMG you’re an angel.” sighs a tired but focused hacker when I deliver his first cup of the day, “I want to treat you guys like I treat my team- this is how we work at Smooch, no matter how small the task we’re here to support each other!” I grin, and bustle away to the next group of students waiting for assistance.
It's all about dem pour-over brews.
Soldiering on through some technical difficulties, our numbers diminish as the event comes to a close, and we're finally able to see demos of some of the projects that our team coached students through during the hackathon. In all, there are 12 projects submitted for our prize, 10 of those demoing running code using Smooch. The tension builds as we step on stage to award our Montreal Tech Weekend prize package… "And the winner is an amazing team with heart, for their project 'Dr. Heart'"! The crowd goes… medium wild?
The key is a tiny scale model of the Tesla!
Smooch looks good on everyone.
Well, after a 24h coding sprint, we could definitely cut them some slack (everyone is le tired at this point). Congratulations & contact info exchanged, and Smooch schwag gifted to our winners (stay tuned for the story of their awesome MTL Tech Weekend adventure!), we prepare for the voyage back to HQ, tired but entirely satisfied with this amazing weekend. Although no hackpocalypse had come to pass, our supplies are pleasantly fewer (and lighter!) than at 08:30h the previous morning. We part ways with a goofy smile of accomplishment plastered on our faces; the Tesla rides off into a magnificent orange glow sunset, just like it was always meant to be.
Pretty much exactly like this.
Now that we’re back home at Smooch HQ, we can’t wait to participate in more events, meet more awesome people, and see all of the amazing things you’ll create with the product we’ve lovingly crafted by hand. Catch you on the flip-side, McHackers- it’s been a wild one! ;)