Hack Day Refresh - Team Building in a Pandemic

Team Building in a Pandemic

Whenever I’m asked what my favourite part of working at MMB Networks is, the answer is easy – it’s the people.

Sure, we do some super exciting and cool things in the world of IoT but as a certified non-techy person, those things aren’t why I love working at MMB. I love it because at the core we’re a group of brilliant, funny, kind, and wonderful people. Nothing exemplifies this more than our monthly Hack day.

What the Heck is a Hack Day? 

Hack Day started way back in the early days of MMB Networks. It was intended to get the team thinking outside of the box about fun and interesting ways to integrate new technologies and IoT applications for the office and actually build them!

Now, I say this with great respect but by nature of the team, Hack Days and their projects became pretty nerdy. I mean, what else would you expect when you gather a group of people who are so brilliant, tech smart and highly specialized and ask them what they want to create? 

The team did some really neat hacks back in the day.  Once a group of MMB’ers figured out the number and type of plants needed to keep the air in the office optimal for the number of people working, someone else created a feature on Slack that you could message and it would let you know which washrooms were unoccupied. An extremely handy tool with only two bathrooms in an office full of people. 

Along Came the Pandemic

It wasn’t until the pandemic began, with everyone working from home, that I realized we took the office culture for granted. We did our best to keep that spirit alive with Zoom lunches and after work drinks but, after awhile, their appeal went stale (side note: is it even considered a group lunch if you’re now the only one in the Zoom meeting?). Even the popular monthly Hack Day was floundering.

We knew we had to do something to reinvigorate our team’s connection to each other. I didn’t want people to lose the drive to create those innovative ideas or feel like they no longer had the ability to work on projects that weren’t directly related to their job.

So, the question became, what do we do to create an environment that fosters our unique MMB culture and gets as many people involved in Hack Day as possible?  The answer: refresh and expand our Hack Day.

“It wasn’t until the pandemic began, with everyone working from home, that I realized we took the office culture for granted.”

I felt it was imperative to the success of the refreshed Hack Day to expand the options available to people to be more inclusive and appealing for the entire team.  As a result we decided on three categories that people could choose; an MMB planned social activity, a mental health / community campaign or a traditional/ technical Hack Day project. Within those three categories, as long as a person was doing something and was accountable for their time, we would consider it participation. 

Hack Day 2.0!

We told the team about our plan and scheduled our first refreshed Hack Day for April. I had chosen diamond painting (think paint by numbers but with teeny tiny diamonds) as the social activity and was unreasonably excited and nervous. As excited as I was, I knew not everyone would share my idea of what a fun activity looks like. 

The event was a great success! It was wonderful to see the spirit and culture of MMB burst back to life. Here are a few examples of what our team came up with.

Diamond Painting

I knew diamond painting was going well but I was nervous about whether people would completely abandon the traditional Hack Day. It turned out that I was concerned for no reason.

Half of the company joined the Zoom call and we all worked on our various diamond paintings while chatting and hanging out for hours. In fact, a few of us stayed on the call well past work hours and into the evening. People were sharing their own diamond painting tips and even brainstorming ways to techify the process to ensure no diamond spaces were missed.

Outdoor Activities

For the Mental Health/Community activities I was thrilled to see a few people create a corporate team for the Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer®! The team has already raised over $2,000. On top of that, we now have a new MMB Cycling group on Strava where people are able to connect and have a little friendly competition.

If you feel like contributing to the cause, you can donate to the MMB Networks RTCC team with this link.

Traditional “Hacks”

A few people on the team ended up working on some really cool work-adjacent projects.  We had someone working on creating an automatic reminder email program and someone else was working on a techie thing that is expected to have a major impact on some exciting upcoming projects. 


Our first refreshed Hack Day was a smashing success! I’m so glad to reveal that we had 84% participation and I already have a lengthy list of requested activities for upcoming social activities.  Suffice to say, when given the opportunity, the people of MMB will always surprise and delight me.  Next up, we’re testing to see how green our thumbs are – we’re gardening!  Stay Tuned!



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