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Handshake Engineering

Looking Back at Handshake Eng Week 2020

After organizing our annual engineering event, Marta Fonda, Maria Verba, and Ulises Giacoman reflect on takeaways from this year's festivities.

Handshake’s Eng Week 2020 took place in early November. Each year, our engineering organization celebrates this week, during which the entire team participates in different activities to foster team-building and enjoy a full week of hacking. Ahead, the organizers share their goals, reflections, and takeaways from this incredible event.

How did you plan this event given the remote work circumstances necessitated by COVID-19?

From the beginning, we knew team-building was even more important than other years. Everything has to be planned remotely. In the pre-pandemic years, we would fly everyone on our engineering team from different parts of the US to the San Francisco office so we could spend this time together, but this year that was not a possibility and we had to work around our current constraints.

We spent a lot of time figuring out how we could achieve a similar result with a 100% remote event, and how to avoid “Zoom fatigue.”

We wanted to have the hackathon as the main theme during the week because we knew from previous years it was the most important part of the week for our engineers. But on top of that, we wanted to focus on activities related to wellness, learning, and for sure, fun. We wanted to make this week feel special from the monotony of the shelter-in-place days. That’s why we scheduled one activity from each of these categories for every day of Eng Week.

What are some of the activities that take place during Eng week?

The hackathon was the team-favorite activity. We also played some team-building games that were super fun and everyone really enjoyed themselves. One of these games we played was inspired by the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. The host took us through strange lands, and even stranger decisions we had to vote collaboratively to survive the 60-90 minute journey.

In addition to the games and fun activities, we also held different talks and workshops throughout the week.

  • Dina Chaiffetz, our Head of Mobile Product, gave a talk about how to leverage consumer psychology
  • Kwame Thomison, VP of Eng at Teachers Pay Teachers, gave a talk about how to grow our learning culture as a company
  • Andy Chan, VP for Innovation & Career Development at Wake Forest University, helped the team to improve the way we are managing our career development.

We were really lucky to have them as part of our Eng Week; the whole team felt inspired after every session.

The feedback we received from the team was very positive and we think they really enjoyed the event. After such a unique and challenging year, they deserved something really great!

What kind of projects did the team work on during Eng Week?

There were so many different projects that came out of our hackathon! Eng Week projects are not only focused on improving our product but also on honing our development experience. Several projects built by the team are now shipping to production or being added to the product backlog to be prioritized next year. We were amazed by the quality of this year's projects. We are lucky to have an engineering team full of kind, smart, and hardworking people.

If the engineers take one thing away from Eng Week, what do you hope it would be?

Our engineering leaders really hope the team learned something new. It’s important for us to help our engineers grow through Eng Week, which is why our hackathon and different learning activities are so important. But on top of that, we think the most important takeaways from this event are for our engineers to enjoy themselves, have fun, and get to know their teammates better.

Why do you think Eng Week is so important?

During the year, our engineering team works incredibly hard to build the best quality product for our users. It is important as an engineering team to take time to step back, look at what we’ve accomplished, and learn from these experiences so we can continue growing.

This is the fourth edition of this event. While we’ve celebrated this event differently in the past, this year was particularly important because of the difficulties our engineering team has faced due to the pandemic and everything else that has happened this 2020.

Handshake co-founder Scott Ringwelski brings it all back to our company’s values: “Eng Week is a time for us as engineers to flex our engineering muscles in new ways, gain new perspectives, and Learn. Grow. Repeat.” We can’t wait to celebrate again next year!

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