One of my favourite traditions at ChannelAdvisor is something we call “Developer Choice Days.” Every quarter we set aside a few days for the engineers to work on anything they want. Lots of tech companies do something similar; Google’s “20% time” is probably the most famous example, but our program is more like Yahoo’s “Hack Days.”
Like Yahoo, we also have a review where the engineers show off their work and compete for prizes. We have a panel of “celebrity judges” who hand out a Best Project prize. Then there’s a prize for the project that is most useful to our services and support teams. Finally, there’s the “people’s choice” award, voted on by the audience members (generally the other engineers).
We’ve been doing this for four years now, and while the format and frequency have changed slightly over the years, we always have lots of innovative projects, many of which “ship” as part of our production software. In fact, we’ve shipped nearly 50 of these projects, and while many of them are infrastructure changes or internal tools that aren’t visible to most users, quite a few are customer-facing features—big ones, in some cases.
Our latest Dev Choice review was Episode XXIX (which gives you an idea of how long we’ve been doing this). The celebrity judges were celebrities indeed: CEO Scot Wingo, President & COO David Spitz, and Directory of Global Services Greg Ives. We had 10 projects, most of which are going to production in a month or two. While all the projects were excellent, we all know There Can Be Only One. Well, in this case, four.
There was a two-way tie for Best Project: QA Engineer Sean Miller’s project (Left in Picture), a “test grid” that speeds up our automated testing; and Database Administrator Justin Jaeschke’s project (Right in Picture), a demonstration of SqlServer Reporting Services for internal reporting. Runner-up for Best Project was Software Engineer Marshall Scott’s prototype of an integration with fulfilment by Amazon. The winner of the Most Useful Project for Support and Services was Web Developer Jeromie Walters’s project, an internal tool for examining checkout error logs. And the People’s Choice award also went to Sean Miller’s test grid: we love projects that save time!
Our next episode of Developer Choice Days is scheduled for early August. Stay tuned!