Innovation culture and hackathons

This is squarely a humblebrag, but I feel compelled to give a shout-out to the JustAnswer R&D Innovators.

So Proud CTO Alert (📢) out of the way, I want to shine a big spotlight on the JA R&D team for stunningly inventive demos during our 42nd quarterly hackathon. That’s right, 42! It’s a true testament to the company’s dedication to exploration and professional growth, and, according to HHGTTG (ref), perhaps even the meaning of life.

Image of a group of people hacking for the 42nd consecutive time.

This quarter, we devoted our creative energy to going big with Large Language Models (LLMs). In an era where AI offers immense opportunities and complex challenges, focusing on LLMs was natural and timely. The results? Absolutely inspiring – 79 of our talented team members came together to create 37 mind-blowing demos. Seeing so many of these ideas getting ready to make their mark in our day-to-day operations will brighten anyone’s day.

Having joined JustAnswer a little over a year ago, I’ve been consistently wowed by our agile, hypothesis-driven approach to product development, what with its rigorous multi-variate testing and rapid iterations. But you know what I think the real jewel in our crown is? Our unwavering commitment to learning, brought to life in the company’s lean philosophy and practices like these hackathons.

For employees, a hackathon isn’t just an event – it’s a reflection of a decade-long journey in embracing agile and making it a core part of our DNA. This latest LLM chapter of the journey started with our ML specialists exploring the OpenAI Playground as soon as it launched. Then came the educators, shining a bright light on the crazy potential of this technology via company-wide lunch-and-learn sessions. The innovators followed, crafting prototypes, how-to guides, templates, and documentation to give everyone a running start. Our legal team then chartered the waters to ensure we could navigate safely and wisely. And let’s not forget the early adopters who delivered stunning production results and the decision-makers who bravely prioritized these groundbreaking experiments. It’s been a remarkable team effort all the way.

A huge round of applause to everyone who turned this cutting-edge technology from mere concepts into borderline-magical solutions! Navigating the AI wave requires skill and grace, and you’ve all shown that in spades. My next challenge? Selecting the hackathon winners. Though in the grand scheme, that’s a great problem to have.

Here’s to continued innovation, relentless learning, and more groundbreaking hackathons!

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