Some tech companies provide time during the year for developers to “hack” on projects, which means product teams and developers set aside their regular, day-to-day responsibilities and use that time to develop and work on ideas outside of their realm. Here at Zillow, we follow that tradition, giving our teams a whole week, twice a year.
“We decided to do a week because we wanted to give people long enough to really get something meaningful done and not have to have them working all through the night or just on the weekend,” explained Chief Technology Officer David Beitel.
Zillow held its first official Hack Week in May 2011. Many of the fruits of this week are now a part of Zillow products, including the “Draw Your Own Search” feature on Zillow iPhone App and Zillow iPad App. It allows users to quickly and easily draw the area they want to search on a map, with the touch of a finger on the iPad and iPhone screens.
According to Beitel, here are three reasons why Hack Week is a priority:
1. It allows the engineering team time to work on projects that wouldn’t normally be on the “approved” project list. Sometimes there are great ideas that need time to be conceptualized and with a good prototype, the true potential is realized.
2. It gives engineers time to learn new technologies. Exploring new technologies is exciting, but more importantly, it helps ensure Zillow is using the best tools and technologies for our products and internal systems.
3. It’s good for morale and team building. The folks on the tech team come up with the ideas and get to showcase their creativity and help develop cool, new products for Zillow.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Zillow held its second Hack Week and projects ranged from solutions to infrastructure problems to creative and fun new applications for the website.
While we can’t divulge which projects will make it onto the site or into mobile apps just yet, one of the highlights we can tell you about was a physical rendition of the Zillow logo made of home-building supplies (photo below). User Experience Designer John Kittell created the logo to hang in the lobby of our new offices.
While other Winter Hack Week projects will undoubtedly roll out in the next few months, the Zillow sign was the first one implemented, and reminds us every day the importance of taking time to “hack.”
Want to be a part of Zillow’s next Hack Week? We’re hiring developers (and other positions). Check out the Zillow job listings for full details.