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Okta Innovation At Our Quarterly Hackathon: Our Engineers Explore Wearables, Polish Flags and Better User Experiences

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Written by Hector Aguilar & Becky Oliver

It’s not every day that you’ll find Okta engineers talking about Polish flags in the name of a better user interface. But if you stopped by our HQ earlier this week, you may have seen the bold red and white stripes of Poland waving among our team.

Hackathon1Why? Well, our engineers have always been among the most creative in the business. This team constantly pushes to find the best solutions, whether those solutions be a part of our core platform service or a new feature created to better solve our customers’ problems. Innovation is a core value at Okta – and not only because innovation is at the heart of creating an amazing product, but because it’s the only way we’ll continue to make experiences better for our customers.

One of our favorite ways to continually drive innovation and push outside of our daily experiences is our Quarterly Hackathons.

We held hackathons in 2012 and 2013, then kicked off quarterly hackathons starting in February 2014 for our engineering team to create, build and work on projects outside their standard scope. These hackathons encourage creativity and enable teams to explore new ideas that have the potential to improve Okta for our customers or to improve upon internal development and testing methodologies. And the results usually involve some pretty out-of-the-box thinking that pushes our service to improve in incredible ways. (Re-insert Polish team flags here.)

Check out a few highlights from our fifth hackathon event, held from Friday, February 20 to Monday, February 23, below. Teams chose what ideas they’d like to explore in the Hackathon, and the ideas are categorized below as either product or engineering-related.

Hackathon2Product Innovation
A product-related hackathon idea is anything around existing functionality in our core service, or introducing new functionality that expands our current offering. The idea is to give engineers a direct channel to bring product-related ideas to fruition and to create truly incredible experiences for our users. Highlights from this quarter’s submissions include:

1. Push Notifications. Driving improved end user communication and increasing adoption is an ever-present goal for our customers, and this team focused on creating real-time push notifications for IT admins and end-users to make it simpler for them to know what’s happening in their Okta instance across a variety of devices, forms and functions.

2. Perfecting the Enterprise ExperienceAmazing user experiences aren’t just for the consumer world. Many of our teams tooka leaf out of our CEO Todd McKinnon’s playbook to make it even easier for users to get work done on whatever device they choose – proving again that consumer apps aren’t the only ones that can create truly people-centric technology.

Hackathon 33. New Login Page UX / aka “Polish Day:” Sometimes our most popular hackathon projects are focused on the little things. This team focused on making small, but important updates to our user interface (celebrating their focus with the “Polish” or polishing flag). As Brian Hansen, Director of Design said, “Is there something in the user interface that drives you nuts, but you never had time to fix it? We are assembling a team of badasses to polish and improve UIs that need love or deserve to die a merciless death. Is this a hackathon project? Maybe, maybe not – but we will ship this code and delight our users.” Brian and team won the hackathon and will be cooking up some great updates to our product UI to keep us on the cutting edge of design and continually driving user adoption.

Engineering Innovation
The Hackathon ideas that are engineering-based help our operations and engineering teams improve internal processes and ultimately enable them to do their jobs more easily. Here are some insights into a few of our favorite projects (which some great names, too):

Hackathon 41. Battle of the App Converters: We released Okta Mobility Management a few months ago, and we’re thrilled by the response we’ve gotten from our customers so far. This team dug even deeper on the mobile front to continue learning the best ways to develop mobile technologies across all devices for our customers.

2. Okta and New Consumer Tech: Wearables are really a thing.This team explored innovative new markets like the latest in wearables, 3D printing, live video streaming technologies, and more to determine how to best leverage this technology with our core service – making it easy for our customers to get productive quickly and securely.

3. Credzilla: Hackathons aren’t just centered around technical challenges – they also push our team to think about common business problems and how we can solve them. This project focused specifically on how teams collaborate using shared application services.

Hackathon 5

We’ve built an amazing engineering team here at Okta. With a diversity in backgrounds and mindsets, our engineers are able to look at problems differently in order to create some incredible solutions. We continuously endeavor to ground those solutions in innovation and creativity – especially during a time of rapid innovation in both consumer and enterprise technology – and these hackathons enable our team to break outside the daily grind to develop new functionality that best serves both our team here and, in turn, our customers.

Interested in learning more about our team’s innovative work, or in trying your own hand at our next hackathon? Head to our careers page to see all open positions. We’d love to hear from you!

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Published at DZone with permission of Eric Berg, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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