Alex Watt

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Hack Days

There’s nothing like a couple workdays to put aside your regular work and do whatever you want. No regular meetings, no pings. You can work alone or on a team. What you do is up to you. Maybe you want to make something, fix something, or learn something (Bill Gates “Think Week” style).

Hack Days are about giving people that autonomy and freedom. It’s like a hackathon, codefest, etc., except it’s not limited to creating software.

My primary experience with Hack Days comes from Shopify, although I had a similar opportunity at my previous job. I’ve seen a lot of great things come from Hack Days at Shopify:

I don’t mean to suggest that every project should spawn a team, but I wanted to highlight that projects can lead to that. I think there’s a lot of reasons why companies should organize regular Hack Days, including:

I’ve seen these things in my experience. I’ve always gotten a lot of energy from the creativity, I’ve always met new people across the organization, I’ve always learned something, and I’ve always had some breakthroughs on ideas I wanted to work on but hadn’t had the time for.

Essential ingredients

Hack Days probably means different things to different people. Here’s what I think are the essential ingredients:

Give it a try

If your organization doesn’t do Hack Days, I hope you’ll try it. It seems like a win-win to me: folks who want to participate enjoy the autonomy and creativity, and the organization gets benefits from that too — the connections, the learnings, the breakthroughs, etc.

If you already do Hack Days, I’d be curious to hear about what works and doesn’t work for you.

And finally, if you liked this post and want to hear more of my thoughts on software and work, including Hack Days projects I can talk about in public, you can follow me on Twitter.

Posted on 17 Jan 2022.