This is what we learned from our internal Kafka Hackathon 

Antti Loukiala Technical Lead, Solita

Published 22 Jun 2022

Reading time 3 min

The culture at Solita advocates learning, and we are encouraged to innovate new ways of learning and development within the company. One of our recent experiments was an internal hackathon, where we explored the opportunities of Apache Kafka technology. The experiment was highly successful, delivering us learnings not only from the technology but also from cross-functional collaboration and the hackathon concept itself.

Apache Kafka is an open-source distributed event streaming platform for high-performance data pipelines, streaming analytics, data integration, and mission-critical applications. Antti Loukiala, the hackathon’s maestro, felt that there would be space to explore the opportunities that Apache Kafka offers in more depth. Soon the idea of the Kafka hackathon was born as part of the Propeller Heads R&D club, which is dedicated to finding new learning concepts at Solita.

The goal of the hackathon was twofold. We wanted to explore new ways of cross-functional collaboration and bring people together from different offices and countries. The other purpose was to do a deep dive into the technology and find more creative ways to leverage the opportunities it provides.

Initially, we wanted to find around 10 enthusiastic Solitans to join the hackathon. In the end, the number of people participating was way above the expectations and we had people joining from seven offices in three countries: Finland, Sweden, and Germany.

The hackathon turned out to be a “local international” learning event, where the local teams worked on the assignments in each office and then shared their learnings and findings with everyone at the end of each session. The virtual set-up with Teams and Slack worked exceptionally well.

Cross-functional collaboration is highly valuable

The idea was to bring people together from different backgrounds and competencies and make the most of cross-functional collaboration. We were blown by how well it worked and the wide range of great discussions and learnings from the hackathon.

We have over 1500 experts in six different countries, and mixing and matching these professionals is highly valuable, as it can lead to great innovations and solutions.

We are also keen on finding new learning concepts at Solita that resonate with our people. We nailed it with this one based on the feedback we got from the hackathon. As a next step, we develop the concept to make it even more impactful. We are also looking into bringing in some of our multiple tech partners and exploring the possibility of involving our customers as well.

Deep dive into Apache Kafka technology

While we learned tons from the hackathon concept itself, we also ended up learning more from Apache Kafka. The teams in each office explored different ways of using the tech. Thanks to the cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing, we got many great insights and learnings that our professionals will be able to leverage in customer projects.

Many cool solutions were built as part of the hackathon; one team leveraged bus traffic data, allowing us to follow the buses on a map. We also tested different hosting platforms that run Apache Kafka and learned about the differences in configuration and ease of use.

Another beneficial outcome of the hackathon was that we were able to identify the people within the organisation interested in this technology and provide them with more opportunities to work with Apache Kafka. We encourage people to follow their interests and passions, and we do our best to consider these interests when building project teams.

Meeting new colleagues and having fun

The social part of the hackathon was also appealing to participants. While we were divided into different locations, we had a great communal vibe during the sessions. Probably all of us managed to make some new contacts within the company. And Solita naturally sponsored pizza and beverages for each office. So, we also learned that organizing an internal hackathon is a wonderful way to combine work, learning, and having fun!

Learn more about learning and development at Solita and see our open positions!

  1. Culture