RV Hackathon 2015

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Once a year at Red Ventures, we invite our entire Engineering team to stop what they’re doing, load up on Red Bull, and dedicate a full 24 hours to any project they want to work on. Many choose to finish side projects they just haven’t had the time to fully realize, some seek feedback from the company on issues that need to be fixed, and some build entirely new products from scratch, designed to help RV pioneer new technology spaces we haven’t even thought about yet.

This year, more than 75 RV designers and engineers participated in the event including our incredibly talented team in Brazil, making this our largest – and first global – Hackathon. Products developed included a revamped corporate Intranet, real-time mobile dashboards, resume analysis tools and much, much more.

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The RV Brazil crew, approximately 2 hours 17 1/2 Red Bulls into the Hackathon.

Krista Goralczyk, one of our talented software engineers, recaps the experience, the e-commerce product she developed and the future of technology at RV:

I think most developers typically have a side project or a problem in mind they’d like to fix, but just don’t have the time to pursue it. The Hackathon was a really cool experience in the sense that I got to work on my passion project AND pitch it to the President of RV Tech – as well as the CEO. And I’ve only been here 60 days!

My background is in web development and technical sales, and I recently had an idea to create an automated, re-usable e-commerce platform specifically for flash sales. My Hackathon team decided to run with the idea knowing that Red Ventures is continuing to make inroads into e-commerce, and we were excited about developing a Hackathon project with the potential to help Red Ventures break into an entirely new industry.

Here’s how it works:

The product allows users to upload a csv or JSON formatted file that contains relevant product data (such as product name, SKU, description, price, options, filtering tags, etc) to the platform backend, which populates a DynamoDB database.  Internal API routes pick up this data and provide accessibility to the frontend, which is built using React.js. The Frontend consumes the API data to display product information on a product grid, and individual product pages. To checkout, users are simply redirected to the partner’s cart on the full site. Red Ventures then receives product conversion updates from the partner in order to update inventory and track a successful sale that originated on the flash sale platform.

The purpose of a flash sale is to move a specific group of products at an expedited rate, as the products are only available for a short duration at a premium price.  Realistically, the effort required to design and build a custom flash sale site could take several months.  If the process of creating the experience were automated, the speed to market of these products would be as rapid and flexible as the nature of a flash sale.

For example, a clothing retailer could promote a group of seasonally appropriate accessories during a single weekend during the fall, increasing conversion rates.  Instead of planning months in advance, the clothing company could spin up a flash sale site whenever they need to bolster sales during slower fiscal quarters.

Red Ventures excels at driving traffic to sites through paid search.  By driving traffic through searches for “seasonal sales,” users are conveniently directed to the most relevant set of products on an active flash sale site – streamlining and improving the customer experience, while also driving sales for the retailer!

Future iterations of the product would include an Admin tool to enable business value through easy customization, data analysis & reporting tools, loyalty program integration, compatibility with order management systems, and eventually evolve into a standalone e-commerce platform. I’m really happy with and proud of what were able to accomplish during that short timeframe. I went into it thinking most teams would end up presenting a smoke and mirrors kind of deal – a lot of pretty designs and cool concepts, but nothing really working on the backend. It’s amazing to see what each team produced, and how quickly we all work together when given the opportunity to work on projects we’re passionate about.

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Krista Goralczyk presents her e-commerce prototype at the RV Hackathon Expo

Another thing that surprised me (pleasantly) was the opportunity to engage with the larger community at RV. A lot of engineers who almost never get to present to large groups were pitching their products and answering questions for everyone at the expo – almost Shark Tank-style. Like I said, I had the opportunity to develop and pitch a prototype of my passion project directly to the CEO, which is something I never imagined doing in my first two months here. That was a really cool experience.

The thing about working in technology is that there’s this curse. You spend weeks or maybe months working on a project, and a lot of times by the time you get to launch, it’s already obsolete or outdated. Or someone else has beaten you to the punch. But I think that’s a universal problem, and Red Ventures is going about solving for this the right way. I’ve only been here 60 days, but already I feel welcome and encouraged to pitch new ideas and give my opinion on current products and projects. I think an open environment with plenty of transparency throughout the company is key as we continue to pivot to more of a technology model and explore new opportunities.

Krista Goralczyk recently moved to Charlotte from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her working background includes a blend of full-stack web development & technical sales, which has allowed her to successfully enjoy a career crafting elegant technical solutions.  Krista enjoys playing soccer and hanging out at home with her lazy cat, Booker.

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