Why every company should host a Code Camp! Ideas and Experiences from moovel’s Code Camp 2015.
Many innovative and successful companies from all over the world are experimenting with flexible, creative working time models. Usually companies offer their employees the chance to spend a defined amount of working hours on personally developed, innovative projects. This can range from a limited time off-duty to a percentage of time during regular weekly working hours.
These models share the goals of fostering creativity and motivating employees to think outside the box. The company benefits from innovative ideas and prototypes that are developed internally. Take Google’s 20% rule for example: Gmail, Google News and AdSense are products that started in the creative 20% time-share Google grants their employees. All of them are now an integral part of the company’s product range.
All in all it seems like a win-win situation!
Product features are often driven from the business side. But engineers sometimes have their own ideas of where the product should go. These ideas might differ from those of the business side. Creating an environment in which this creative potential is unleashed opens up new and innovative ways of inventing and developing new features in a short period of time.
These ideas and examples led us to the conclusion that what we need is a working environment like this at moovel. Organizing the moovel Code Camp was how the idea became a reality.
”Code Camp” is a form of creative time at moovel, where people with different skill sets come together for a defined period of time and work in groups focusing on various topics, which are currently not on the roadmap.
A week of work with full focus on a handful of projects, helping to quickly create prototypes in an interdisciplinary team. Team members ranged from infrastructure specialists to data scientists and frontend developers, all brought together by great ideas. Some of the ideas were discussed in advance and were pitched on the first day, others emerged during the week, thanks to the constant exchange of information between the participants.
Leaving the office was a crucial part of Code Camp; providing an atmosphere of something genuinely new and different - a location removed from our daily surroundings, in the middle of nowhere. No distraction from day-to-day tasks and no last minute requests from other departments.
So, last November we went to Henne Strand (Denmark) for our Code Camp. 35 developers from all parts of moovel (Stuttgart, Hamburg and the US) were accommodated in three large cottages set in the dunes next to the beach. The conditions for an extraordinary week were achieved with plenty of possibilities to free the mind through leisure time. These opportunities included: foosball, air hockey, a spa area and an industrial kitchen.
Cooking together, having a beer in the whirlpool or conversations at the fireplace, led to a positive social impact. Bringing people together was another very important goal of Code Camp. Forging a new team spirit was essential, as the work squads had been formed just shortly beforehand, as well as getting to know and including many new colleagues from different locations.
The event formed a solid base for collaborative work within the development teams and also created a positive culture of which we are really proud.
For our company and all the participants, the Code Camp was a great success. Some of the features developed there will appear in the product soon. Of course, we will keep you updated here.
Having a fixed organisation team was another crucial point to the success of the Code Camp. Tilman was the one who took care of the advance planning. Starting at how a day at Code Camp should be structured, and then evaluating and integrating possible project approaches, searching and booking suitable accommodation, organising travel plans and straightening out food and drink logistics - these things would never have worked without his preparations. Raphael joined Tilman to ensure that nobody would forget the Code Camp of 2015, documenting every day's activities and supporting him with day-to-day input on location.
- confident Management willing to support this format
- organizing staff on location (two of us with help from the participants)
- team of awesome developers
- one week of hard work and lots of fun
- suitable accommodation in the middle of nowhere
- kitchen and ingredients for self-catering
- dining room, lounge/living room
- leisure time activities like a hot tub, steam bath, sauna, billiard, foosball, air hockey, fireplace, beach, …
- a place for grocery shopping in the area (easily accessible by car)
- energy drinks, beer, mulled wine, liquors and a plethora of soft drinks, water and apple juice
- a good mix of committed participants who also feel responsible for helping the organizers