More than 300 Vancouver employees participated in Microsoft’s annual global hackathon last week. It was an opportunity to set aside our regular work to explore, experiment and innovate. And, it was epic.

For three days, teams hacked in mixed reality, AI, gaming, VR, machine learning and more. They tackled everything from advancing employee workflow to holographic interfaces that could help us learn new skills. They hacked projects that build an inclusive environment, projects that drove social impact, projects that created opportunities to amplify human ingenuity. In short, they stepped outside the box.

This was the sixth year for the global hackathon, and the third for us here in Vancouver. It marks a shift in our culture and a commitment to a way of working that encourages trial and error, an openness to change and ultimately a growth mindset. And it’s not all about creating code. Collaboration plays a huge part.

We had teams in Vancouver that included people from different product groups who would not otherwise have the opportunity to work together. One group included engineers and designers from our mixed reality, Gears of War video game and machine learning teams, as well as a sales rep from our Pacific Centre retail store downstairs. This is what happens when passion for technology and an opportunity to be experimental converge.

Behind all of this was an amazing event, led by our Microsoft Garage team in Vancouver. Stacey Mulcahy and Cody Church pulled out all the stops to entertain and engage employees with a comfortable lounge space, a custom-built arcade cabinet and a bunch of activities during the week. Our Garage Internship team also helped out, hosting a mapping event for the Red Cross and organizing the science fair that closed out the week.

Now that the hackathon is over, and we’ve returned to our regular cadence, there is still work to be done. Some projects will live on, possibly becoming viable products. Others will inspire future work. And a few will fade away. But every one of them had impact. We’re better programmers, better designers, better creators and better collaborators.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Hackathon 2018. I can’t wait to see what you make next.

Edoardo De Martin
Director, Microsoft Vancouver