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ThousandEyes Hack Day 2021: Innovation League, Assemble!

By Kristina Dvorak
| June 28, 2021 | 16 min read

Summary

ThousandEyes Hack Day 2021 brings together cross-functional teams across Cisco to solve real business challenges with innovative solutions.


ThousandEyes + Cisco = A Hack Day to Remember

The Innovation League strikes again, bringing new ideas with them. Hack Day is back in full swing at ThousandEyes with more excitement, innovation and passion than ever before. This historical Hack Day follows the acquisition by Cisco and working from home for over a year. This is the biggest Hack Day yet, allowing all employees to watch it live on CiscoTV. Although virtual, the unification of teams across all divisions, including Cisco, created a stronger sense of community and creativity.

With a total of 24 teams with members from all over the world—including the US, the UK, Israel and Australia—teams had two full days to make their project a reality and present their final product the following day. Projects focused on empowering our customers and employees, making our existing systems more efficient and creating a more diversified workplace. Presentations were accompanied by live performances from some of our musically talented coworkers and interviews with our local superheroes.

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While there are far too many great projects to profile all of them, here are the award-winning projects:

Winner of the “Nerdiest” Award: Team Chiron

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Team Chiron, with one of the most creative names, won the Nerdiest Award. Staying in theme with some other ThousandEyes projects named after Greek mythology, Chiron is a benevolent immortal centaur that is the mentor to Jason of Argonauts. This name is fitting because Team Chiron created a unified dashboard where engineers can see the full timeline from the start to the completion and deployment of their product all in one space.

Team leader Alex Stein created the idea because he wanted to “give our developers an easier way to find all the information they need to track the progress of their builds, and to provide clear control knobs for them to turn where full automation is not possible. It is especially important to us that Chiron is built with a nicely designed UI so that people can clearly follow the logic of getting the build information they need.” Team Chiron’s mission aligns with the “Engineering Effectiveness team, which is is to make the lives of ThousandEyes’s developers happier and easier by building automated tools to reduce the amount of tedious manual work they need to do on a daily basis.”

One of Team Chiron’s most memorable moments during Hack Day is learning the hard way that there is a 15 hour limit to Webex Breakout Rooms. The beauty of Hack Day is how far projects can go, noted by team member Ricardo: “For me, the most memorable part of the day was the second day. I woke up early to coordinate with the London team… and as I was trying things out at that point it seemed like we had a L-O-N-G way to go, and I thought we might not be able to make it. But, much to my surprise, by midday… things were really clicking and starting to come together. And by the afternoon, I was really impressed with what we had managed to accomplish together as a diverse team. I remember thinking, wow… this is impressive.”

Winner of the “Business Value” Award: Team Recommend and Chill

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Team Recommend and Chill won the “Business Value” award for their priority on increasing value to customers by recommending targeted tests for them to run using a simple and streamlined process. Once you’ve got ThousandEyes up and running, how do you know what test types to set up first? Recommend and Chill is made for both new and existing customers, and works by recommending multiple tests based on the existing tests that other customers with similar attributes have already been running. Team leader Ryan Benkeser was inspired by the idea of providing a test recommendation system after seeing the increase in new customers since the Cisco integration. “In order for these new customers to find value in ThousandEyes,” Ryan says, “they need to be able to easily create relevant tests. Because of this, we developed a test recommendation algorithm to assist these customers in finding value as quickly as possible.” The beauty of Hack Day is how quickly teams start to see their idea come to life as noted by Ryan, “The most memorable part of the day was seeing the initial product design. Seeing what was in our imagination actually come to life in the form of an actual Product Design invigorated and motivated the team to actually build the “Recommend and Chill” system using mainly Python and Javascript.”

Tie: Winner of the “Community Impact” Award: Team ValueEyes

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This year's “Community Impact '' award was awarded to two teams: ValueEyes and 0Bias. Team ValueEyes strives to transform passion into action by streamlining all community engagement resources into one web page. Their goal is to organize and operationalize community impact by creating hubs in each area that will organize events on a timeline to ensure consistency, all of which are stored on ValueEyes.

Team leader Charles Lee says his inspiration from the project stems from a place where “we are humbled and grateful to be in a position of privilege. We want to create and leave a positive legacy through our social impact. By exemplifying our cultural values, we get to add meaningful dimensions to our leading technology.” ValueEyes helps to not only impact the technology world but also to help leave the world a better place by further encouraging and supporting our employees to help others. Charles’s most memorable part of the day was “collaborating with teammates to attack a problem with a solution that has ramifications beyond our tech space.” 

Tie: Winner of the “Community Impact” Award: Team 0Bias

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Also awarded the “Community Impact” award, Team 0Bias strives to create a more diverse workplace by reducing bias from the beginning. During the first stages of hiring when scrolling through LinkedIn, profile pictures and names create a form of unconscious bias that affects everyone in one way or another. 0Bias found a solution by creating a Chrome extension that one can turn on, and it covers the profile picture and anonymizes the names allowing for the observer to only look at what matters the most in the hiring process: their resume. Team leader Arnaud Dazin’s inspiration for the project was from personal experience: “I spend hundreds of hours looking for candidates on LinkedIn. I’m generally averse to social media scroll consumption. Scrolling through pages and pages of faces and names felt like a process that slowly lulls you into reading less and judging more.”

0Bias is a great example of how Hack Day is truly meant for the whole company from any skill level and background. The team 0Bias was made up of a team with diverse backgrounds from engineering leaders to marketing interns. Arnaud’s most memorable moment was that “None of us had any experience making a Chrome extension, but we all had ideas on how to reduce bias. We had a really productive time all working together remotely and asynchronously in a Google Doc to collaboratively come up with ideas, and that process was really memorable to me.” Hack Day challenges everyone to push their creativity and abilities to create a new product even when working from home. Most notably “the first time seeing this actually working in the LinkedIn Recruiter view was a pretty memorable moment!”

Winner of the “Rookie” Award: Team Wawel Dragon

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The “Rookie” award goes to new members of the ThousandEyes team who have made a significant impact with their project, and this year’s award goes to Wawel Dragon. The team built a lightweight version of ThousandEyes Endpoint Agent that can be rapidly deployed as a downloadable package for end users to quickly install. The goal of this team is to provide instant visibility for IT teams so that they can get to resolution faster and provide better employee experiences. Team member Piotr Borowiec says that they were inspired by a customer that was experiencing an issue that Wawel Dragon solves. Piotr’s highlight of Hack Day was seeing the final result of all of their hard work: “My highlight was definitely the last round of implementation when preparing the demo while on a call with Yazan.”

Winner of the “Founders” Award: Team Kudos-n-Cheers

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As office environments have become increasingly distributed and work-from-home has become the new normal, how do you ensure special employee milestones, like birthdays and anniversaries, are recognized? How do you thank a fellow co-worker for a job well done? That’s exactly that team Kudos-Cheers set out to accomplish. According to Team leader Dhirendra Sinha, “The culture of recognizing people for their efforts and wishing them well on different occasions is very critical for any company. ThousandEyes and Cisco value that a lot.”

Dhirendra adds, “I felt this took a hit during the pandemic. So we wanted to put an app together that recognizes people and celebrates occasions and achievements.” The most memorable part of the day for Dhirendra was working with the team to refine the idea, enlisting all features and then getting the implementation done. “It was a lot of fun, and the collaboration time with our team was the highlight for me.”

Winner of the “People’s Choice” Award: Team NetSense

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Each year, the “People’s Choice” award is presented to one team that receives the popular vote from employees. This year, the coveted prize was won by Team NetSense (by a landslide of votes), a cross-functional team composed of members from both ThousandEyes and Cisco. The idea behind NetSense was to build an analytics solution that combines network passive monitoring and the cloud backend to provide more data to our customers around the critical applications running on their networks. According to Guy Keinan, “At Cisco, we’re constantly working on improving SaaS applications detection, experience and security. We’re familiar with ThousandEyes, so it made a lot of sense connecting the two and making something new and more powerful.”

The most memorable part of the day? It was the Awards Show! Guy adds, “The viewing party was definitely the best part of all—seeing all the different projects and innovative spirit.”


Hack Day Through The Eyes of a New Starter

Instead of allowing for this tradition to fade away amongst the chaos of this last year, Hack Day created an impactful sense of community and creativity I’ve never experienced before. Presentations of ideas occurred on the third day of my internship, and I had always dreamed of being part of a company that appreciates every person's ideas and skills—and making them a reality. I was welcomed with open arms to be a part of one of the teams and encouraged to help transform the idea into a reality. Having the opportunity to meet and work with others from different departments is an irreplaceable learning opportunity and experience. Every person has a role to play, truly creating an environment that fosters acceptance and fun. 

This year’s Hack Day had more projects, participation and productivity than ever before. Moving forward, we hope that even more people within and outside of ThousandEyes become a part of the Innovation League helping to create new connections and ideas. 

Come Join Our Award-winning Workplace!

Events like Hack Day remind us why ThousandEyes is continuously recognized as a great workplace by the independent analysts at Great Place to Work. The analysts look at more than 60 elements of ThousandEyes team members' experience on the job, and here are some stand-out stats:

  • 99 percent of employees agreed "our customers would rate the service we deliver as 'excellent.'"
  • 99 percent are appreciative that "people celebrate special events around here."
  • 98 percent said "management is honest and ethical in its business practices.'"
  • 98 percent believe "people care about each other here."
  • 98 percent felt "when people change jobs or work units, they are made to feel right at home."

Read more about this award at http://reviews.greatplacetowork.com/thousandeyes. And if Hack Days like this interest you, or if you love to solve complex problems daily, check out our Careers page to see open opportunities.

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