Monday, July 31, 2017

Fostering Innovation in an Agile Scrum Organization

This post originally appeared on on 7/17/2017


What is Innovation Week at VoltDB?

Recently we held our Q2 Innovation Week, culminating in presentations and voting on the innovation projects created by our engineering staff. VoltDB engineering is a Agile scrum organization, with two week sprints, and product releases every other sprint. Innovation week occurs one week every quarter. During this week engineers work on a self-directed project, such as exploring a new technology, learning about technology (such as R or Docker), or just something technological of interest. At the end of this week, engineers present their project to the whole company, including marketing, sales, and the executive team. At the end of the session, the entire company votes on which project and presentation they thought was the best, with the winner receiving an iPad. This creates an interesting presentation environment, because people may vote on what is the most technologically impressive, or the most marketable project, amongst other things.

Innovation Week work is not isolated from our product. Many projects seek to improve VoltDB in some way, and some projects make their way into production. For example, one Innovation Week project in the past was work on user-defined functions, which is being fully developed and added into product. So while engineers may be working on something esoteric or in an entirely new space for us, if it’s good enough, it might just end up as a part of VoltDB.

The Q2 innovation week was exciting for an addition reason – summer interns. All of our summer interns participated. In the past, interns have won the competition, which again happened this year. Tianhe Wu, interning from CMU, and his project on data visualizations won by a big margin. Congratulations to Tianhe, and we look forward to future Innovation Weeks