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Team behind Intelligence Fusion’s OSINT platform hone software solution skills with company-wide hackathon

Intelligence Fusion’s CTO, Joe Sweeny, provides an update on our quarterly hackathons, and how they help hone the skills of our in-house software engineering team to aid their work powering our OSINT threat intelligence platform and security solution technology - relied on by security teams across the world.

Technology is at the forefront of everything we do here at Intelligence Fusion. From providing tools that power our operations team with their industry leading open source intelligence collection, to innovating our award winning threat intelligence platform, as well as providing our fleet of REST APIs, technology is key. Intelligence Fusion is a technology company at its very core and behind every successful technology company is a great engineering team. 

Here at Intelligence Fusion, we have built and continue to grow an engineering team that can assist the business in maintaining, building and innovating upon our existing technology offering with a focus on making “tech work for the business”. We have a mixture of Front End, Back End and DevOps engineers that work collaboratively to ensure we build and release robust, secure and scalable software. To make this happen we have adopted clear policies on how we operate as a department including:

  • An open and collaborative environment where all voices are heard.
  • Regular planning sessions to ensure all stakeholders are clear on our direction.
  • Positive and constructive feedback on peer code reviews.
  • Short feedback loops.

As well as the above we promote the concept of improving as engineers and people with self improvement being a common goal. To assist with this we provide each engineer with a learning budget and innovation time weekly to assist in this growth. We encourage each other to jump out of our comfort zones to learn something new and be creative. Innovation time is a weekly concept here at Intelligence Fusion, but this is not the only time we set aside for growth and learning – we also hold quarterly hackathons.

What are Hackathons?

A hackathon is an event where engineers collaborate for a short period of time to rapidly build software. Hackathons teach you how to work as a team and to be humble about letting go of your ideas once in a while. Just like in many areas of life, during a hackathon good teamwork is the secret to success. These are some of the reasons why we have introduced hackathons at Intelligence Fusion. These quarterly events allow our engineers to down tools from their day to day work and collaborate with team members they may not interact with frequently on a weekly basis. 

In October 2021 we held our first hackathon at our office in Durham and the team agreed upon building our developer website. We had a desire to provide a reference point for customers and developers alike to firstly visualise our public engineering roadmap, but also to provide clear and concise API documentation for our growing fleet of REST APIs with a view to providing how-to guides, open-source libraries and in general enhance the understanding of technology at Intelligence Fusion.

Senior engineer Thomas Hockaday was tasked with the role of project manager and led the team for this one day event. Thomas and his team had a blank slate when it came to the technology the team would use so an initial research phase took place before. With the clock ticking, Thomas and his team decided upon using Jekyll as their tool of choice.

Thomas said, “We chose Jekyll because some of the team had previous experience with it, in particular the Carte theme because it gave us API documentation out of the box with a lot of opportunity for customisation.

Kerri Sharp, who played a key role throughout the day, added, “We chose the Jamstack early on after some discussions with team members, having created different presentations to consider our options. 

“Discussions followed comparing different static-site builders and we chose Jekyll as we had some experience with it before. Also, it’s probably the most well-documented static site generator and because it’s the default for GitHub pages, it is possibly the most mature and most widely used of the mainstream choices.”

 

I think the best part about the Hackathon is working so closely with people you don't always get to be directly involved with

Thomas Hockaday, Senior software engineer

Our First Hackathon

The day consisted of pair programming sessions and frequent discussions; however, the key to the success was the adoption of short feedback loops and dynamic iteration that allowed the team to move fast and in the same direction.  

As CTO, it was a pleasure to take a step back and observe the team working in such an engaging, fun and positive atmosphere. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone is key to growth and is something I consistently encourage, so to see our team do this in such a constructive way put a smile on my face. The creativity displayed and ideas explored was a pleasure to watch.

Looking back on Intelligence Fusion’s first ever hackathon, Kerri said, “I really enjoyed the hackathon because it was a chance to work on something that I was familiar with but haven’t used since I joined the team. 

“My work at IF is predominantly based around API development where I am learning and improving my skills on the job, whereas creating static sites and styling a web page is something I’ve done for many years before working here.

With many members of the engineering team working remotely or combining office and remote work in their regular hours, an added benefit to the hackathon was gathering the full team under one roof for the event – as well as stepping aside from their varied responsibilities to work together on the same project.

Neil Davies, who leads the DevOps here at Intelligence Fusion, added, “It was the first time the team had all gotten together in person since I joined, so the combined in person effort was a highlight for me especially since working from home for so long during covid. As a team we built the required infrastructure and deployed our site using AWS S3 static hosting so providing the team with AWS exposure was a big plus.

Thomas added, “I think the best part about the Hackathon is working so closely with people you don’t always get to be directly involved with.

You can see the live version of our developer site here https://developer.intelligencefusion.co.uk.


See the technology built by our engineering team in action – and learn how it can help transform your organisation’s security and situational awareness – by booking a demo of our platform today.

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