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ShipIt Day at Xero

Posted 8 years ago in Xero news by Beeny Atherton
Posted by Beeny Atherton

ShipIt days are an opportunity for developers to down tools and spend 24 hours working on something completely different. Individuals pitch ideas, form teams, build products, and then present what they’ve made and what they’ve learned.

For participants, it’s a chance to play with new technology, work with different people, and learn new skills. For organizations, the benefits are very much the same – plus people love doing these events and they’re great for motivation.

ShipIt days have been going on at tech firms for a while now. Google employees spend a day a week working on pet projects. In Sydney, Atlassian stop work once a quarter and spend a day building things for fun. Here in New Zealand, Trade Me have had several successful ShipIt days (which they call FedEx days – you have to deliver it overnight).

For our first ShipIt, we chose a theme of ‘making life better for people in Xero tech’. It was a deliberately broad and ambiguous theme to get people to think creatively. We even gave out prizes to encourage people to be ambitious and try things they wouldn’t normally do. We offered a Best Hardware prize, and another for the Most Heroic Failure.

The response we got was huge. Almost everyone in Xero tech took part. And we didn’t only draw developers, we also had QAs, designers, product owners, and release managers involved as well. Special mentions go to Bradley Scott, Global GM of our Practice Products, for cutting code and Rory Smith, our in-house Barista and Facilities Assistant, for acting as product owner on RoryLite.

Things kicked off at lunchtime and by early evening, when we broke for dinner and beer, most teams were deep into the build of their projects. CEO Rod Drury paid a surprise visit as the teams worked late into the night, or grabbed a few hours kip on the couches.

Friday morning the teams reconvened for breakfast before the final sprint. Our code freeze at noon (which everyone ignored) elicited emotions from utter despair to wild elation. Projects were built, or failed, arduinos worked, or didn’t, and 3D printers printed perfectly, or not.

The teams presented to a carefully selected panel of judges. There also happened to be several MPs visiting the office at the same time, so they got to see the tail end of the presentations. Our other offices also tuned into the livestream to see the final products.

The worthy winners were team Logger, with a system which monitors the locks on toilet doors and displays the occupancy. Winners of the Best Representation of Xero Values award was team BreakFast, with a beautiful visualization of Xero code dependencies. Taking out the Best Hardware award was Spotify Cube, with their 3d printed controller for Spotify. Picking up Most Heroic Failure, a team of young devs who took on a big project full of unfamiliar technology, was team Xero Squash.

Everyone involved had a great time – lots of learning, lots of fun, and a chance to work on different and refreshing stuff. We plan to run another one before the end of the year. By popular demand the theme is likely to be “build something that’s going to make CX’s day”.

ShipIt by the numbers:

119 participants

38 proposals

27 projects started

25 projects completed

9 people on the largest team

5 innovative data visualizations

4 hardware projects

4 recipients of the ‘coveted’ premature egitulators award (for committing to github before the official start time)

One comment

Clarion Coughlan
June 2, 2015 at 4.23 pm

Thank you for sharing your ShipIt day experience Andrea 🙂 Sounds like a super intense, but super fun 24 hours at Xero! I especially enjoyed reading about the winning projects…toilet door monitoring – how awesome! It’s definitely given me ideas for how we can improve our SilverStripe hackdays (http://www.silverstripe.org/blog/how-to-run-an-internal-hackday/)

SilverStripe Development Manager

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