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What a JAM!

Stefanny Robert 77

It’s a pandemic!!!

It’s been one year, no wait, it’s been more than one year already! Such a strange time that we’re all going through this pandemic! We’ve had to adapt, constantly reinventing our ways of working and communicating!

At Akeneo, we too had to envision new ways of being together. The most challenging was the reinvention of our Akeneo Summer Session - our annual company offsite event, which could not take place due to covid-19 constraints. So, how do you go about reinventing a tradition when you can’t physically be together?

Hackathon revisited

We are not used to hackathons at Akeneo, so we looked for a setup that would be both innovative and surprise everyone. Our goals? To create human links despite the remote work, to break the silos between the squads, but more important to have fun together!

So, with these goals in mind, the Engineering department set about launching something new, something a bit “disruptive”. Our desire for innovation as far as changing the name; it seemed important for us to find something other than the word ‘Hackathon’ to reinvent something as important as our annual event. After some thought, a bit of brainstorming, and let’s face it, a few bad ideas, the name JAM was chosen. JAM stands for “Join your Akeneo Mates” which expresses a mixture of different ingredients. Having found the name for the event we quickly needed to block a dedicated time without interruption, which meant consecutive days without meetings! Development, operations, data, product teams… even the support team with a minimum service for customer emergencies. No one was going to miss Julia, our best persona! The entire product department simply had to be involved!

It all started during one of the weekly Engineering Manager’s meetings in the summer of 2020. The idea was to find a way to engage our department and strengthen the human links in a context where every interaction involved starts at a screen. How could we make this more dynamic? There were initial ideas - such as solving a PIM technical problem or developing tools to improve our daily life.

It wasn’t enough for the Engineering Managers, we needed an all-in agreement, so we presented the project at the weekly Product department committee.

Organizing a JAM

We started among Engineering Managers imagining different scenarios - how long should it be (an hour or two, 2 days, 3 days, or the week)? How would the votes, the awards, and the topics (technical, functional, or both) all be organized?

We started a draft of the project that we gave to the weekly Product department committee. The result was a 2-day event, with one topic for everyone with the whole department as participants. We now had a concrete plan, the path to follow for its implementation, and advice on its organization.

Ready, set, go! The JAM was finally a reality. We had set a date, in October, considering the school vacations in order to reach a maximum number of people. The unique topic had to be as inspiring and as broad as possible:

Akeneo’s future ways of Fun !

Alongside detailed organization and carefully planned implementation, we had lined up some pretty cool MCs, a few highlights & surprises throughout the event. We even printed t-shirts and protective masks with the JAM event logo for everyone, they make such great souvenirs!

The D day and D+1

I launched the JAM in mid-October 2020 in partnership with Gaël Prudhomme during an All-Hands presentation and it had the desired effect-surprise! The registrations were launched with a strong participation rate on day one. The communication mediums were ready and the different discussion channels on Slack were open, waiting for each randomly drawn team to join.

On the D day, we started with 10 am kick-off on Google Meet - a quick refresh of the rules, the topic, and to add to the dynamic a little “Technotronic” music in the morning, who needs coffee when you’ve got some techno to wake you up!

Everyone then joined their team on Slack to discuss. In order to make these 2 days pleasant and surprising, Gaël and I made it our mission to entertain the participants daily, with games and surprises!

It was glorious! Such enthusiasm and commitment from each of the teams - it was impressive to see. The projects, thanks to the chosen topic, were each crazier than the next!

We had the pleasure, I would even go to far as to say, the great honor, of seeing the birth of superheroes, game cards with our image, applications that can age us, a PIM in IoT mode, our office Mansion in Nantes under Minecraft. Some teammates even got together to test the games, there were tournaments on Slack, and new slack commands appeared.

I’d like to use this article as an opportunity to thank all the participants in this JAM for their inventiveness and their audacity. It was incredible, really.

With an 88% participation rate, we wanted to collect feedback following this JAM. So, we launched a survey the following week - it confirmed our first impression. Here is a selection of the quotes that we are most proud of:

The next day

This JAM was a success, an escape from our daily routine, a time of sharing together. We were able to exchange with newcomers and people that we don’t meet on a daily basis. Discovering people, ideas, and creativity via these projects! We created memories together and, in the end, I think that this is perhaps the most important.

If you too would like to create stories and memories with us, click here to see all of our open positions…