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Deconstructing Constructival 2021: PaperCut’s remote working hackathon

A few weeks ago PaperCut finally held our (long overdue) 2021 Constructival!

What on Earth’s a Constructival you might be asking?

Well, in the software industry it’s most commonly known as a [Hackathon](). These are traditionally single or multi-day events where teams of developers take a break from “business as usual” (BAU) activities.

Instead, they collaborate on side projects without the pressure of their daily duties. Hackathons can be used to solve existing problems companies haven’t yet worked on. They can also be used to try fantastic new and experimental ideas!

Constructival is what PaperCut calls our bi-annual internal “hackathon”. It unites not just teams of developers but promotes collaboration between PaperCutters from across all areas of the business.

The Constructival that nearly never came to be…

In 2020, we missed out on holding any Constructival due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and rolling lockdowns. Like most businesses, we were too busy simply trying to find our way through these unprecedented times.

In previous years, the aim had been to hold two Constructivals annually (one in each half of the year). But with everything else going on a pause seemed to be the right call.

Mid 2021 however, a small contingent of us Hackathon tragics (Andrew, Tam, Dug, and eventually yours truly) banded together to make sure that at least one Constructival event would go ahead. Many Constructival projects have gone on to become major projects, so it was important that we take that time out.

“A huge shoutout to everybody who helped with Constructival and everybody who participated.“When Andrew and I started this, we weren’t sure it was going to go ahead or whether it was going to work…“A huge thanks to Tee and Dug for stepping up and helping.

“A big thanks to Chris and Matt for creating an environment where it’s okay and encouraged for us to create events like this, it was awesome fun. Thanks very much to everyone.” - PaperCutter Tam

In search of a theme

With our team assembled, we needed a theme.

Each Constructival has a special motif. We’re print geeks and sci-fi nerds so it’s usually something along those lines. But this year, since it was already so different, we wanted to highlight that our “hackathon” isn’t just for programmers. So the committee asked around and came up with 2021’s theme: “Unlocking Potential”.

Believe it or not, the idea of “locking” and “unlocking” had nothing to do with the fast-approaching “[world record for time spent in COVID-19 lockdown]()” that Melbourne was about to receive. The idea was actually around enabling the flow of ideas and information both within PaperCut and to our extended PaperCut family (also known as our channel partners and end customers).

With the theme decided, one of our design extraordinaires, Thom, got down to business coming up with the Constructival 2021 logo and t-shirt design - PaperCutters highly anticipate this yearly new addition to their wardrobe!

Left to right: PaperCutter Dug jumps for joy; Tam’s doggo Ned wins at selfies; a gnome in a t-shirt

Enter PaperCut’s first remote working hackathon!

Pulling the event together was certainly not without logistical challenges…

Our main office in Melbourne had just been plunged back into lockdown ([for the sixth time](). Meanwhile, our Portland and Bracknell-based PaperCutters were only just returning to their offices in small control groups.

Asking people to put their “tools down” for two days was tricky when we were physically in the office. How would this go in a predominantly remote environment? Would the very real [lockdown fatigue]() our Melbourne-based PaperCutters had been feeling impact our beloved and overdue hackathon?

Uncertain of how it would go, we persevered and made sure that “fun and flexibility” were key when rolling out the event in a way we never had before. Rather than being super structured, we gave the teams the power to manage their time and resources as needed. Regular breaks away from screens were strongly encouraged.

Despite our nerves, it turned out PaperCutters were more than ready for the distraction and wanted to sink their teeth into something different for two days. It seemed they were also ready to test out their acting chops. Each project team was required to put together a short three-minute or less video that was to be submitted by the following Tuesday. These little clips show what problem their project was tackling, and the solution they had been able to come up with in the allocated time.

Clockwise from bottom left: Ash takes a break; Geoff dreams of hackathons; Beck enjoys a trip to traffic island; Chethana takes in the sun; Julie spends time with the trees

I alluded earlier that PaperCutters take a certain pride in exhibiting their coveted Constructival t-shirts. Whilst we weren’t able to “strut our stuff” in the usual way, a huge amount of effort went into sending out the t-shirts. From postal service to personal drop-offs! All so staff could enter our inaugural Constructival selfies competition!

Another of our Constructival traditions was delicious catering. A smorgasbord of goodies is one of our hackathon’s biggest draws. But with that off the cards, we ensured vouchers were sent out to all our staff so they could enjoy some yummy food at home, whilst keeping well fuelled for the two days.

In a Constructival full of “firsts”, we also had direct participation from one of our Authorized Solution Centres (ASC) and channel partners, [TACO Technologies](). Tacos (don’t you just love that that’s what they call themselves) all personally chose the PaperCut project of their choice to join.

“The main purpose for involving Taco in Constructival was to have both PaperCutters and Tacos who would otherwise have no reason nor means to cross paths, to actually interact and work with each other.

_“It worked a treat as the overwhelming feedback from the Taco participants was that they enjoyed the interaction with PaperCutters they wouldn’t otherwise meet.

“It was a great way to build relationships and something we hope to continue next year, hopefully, face to face.”_ - Rob Amato, PaperCut Strategic Partner Manager AU/NZ

How’d all that hackathon-ing go?

Amazingly, the turnout was comparable to previous years!

We normally have approximately 12 to 20 projects listed pre-event. This year there were 15 amazing projects delivered at the end of the submission deadline! Some included Oscar-worthy performances to boot in the videos (Rob, I’m looking at you).

The quality, relevance, and undeniable PaperCutiness of the projects was front and center. Right up there with anything the previous IRL (in-real-life) Constructivals had produced. In fact, some of the projects have since gone live - take the rebooted PaperCut podcast Print Geeks for example. There’ll be a few more around the corner too.

Our Constructival is all about the hackathon-ing, but part of the fun is definitely the accolades! We had several awards for grabs:

  • The Peer Choice Award (voted on by the entire company)
  • The Customer Impact Award (decided by our Directional Leadership)
  • And the most highly coveted Founders Award (recipient decided by Chris and Matt)

As in previous years, these were all hotly contested with little between the winners and runner-ups.  Whilst we can’t reveal the winning projects to you all just yet, I can assure you that they are all close to PaperCut’s green heart and you might be seeing them as part of our PaperCut products in the near future…

Left to right: Simon taking some downtime; Travis redefines debugging; Lisa and her poochies

Humble brags and shout-outs time

A huge thank you needs to go out to the Constructival committee for ensuring this event’s success under challenging circumstances.

A special mention goes out to Ehren and Dawn in our Bracknell (UK) office and Liz and Desha in our Portland (USA) office for organizing all things Constructival in their regions.

As always, it could not have been done without you all.

Also, a thank you to Marie, who came up with some wonderful Constructival themed background screens for staff to use for the online event and beyond - one of which is this blog’s feature image!

And, again, to Tom for the amazing t-shirt design!

“Congratulations to all the category winners and to everyone.“It was really questionable whether Constructival was going to work during lockdown and remote working. From the projects we saw this year, the passion is there. We’re working well remotely, it’s awesome to see.“I’m particularly pleased to see the ASC involvement. I hope that in future Constructivals we can make it an ecosystem event, not just a PaperCut event. I think we’re seeing from this the more connected we get with the market, the more innovation we can foster.” - Chris Dance, CEO

To all the PaperCutters who were involved, your projects were proof that there is so much creativity and more to deliver in the world of print management.

Want to run your own Hackathon? Read our handy guide.



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