We Saw. We Hacked. We Conquered.

One of our customers, Ellie Mae, asked us to join them in the Not-Profit Hackathon at AWS re:Invent 2017, and we

jumped at the chance.  With Foghorn making up 1/2 the team, we were excited to spend 15 straight hours

with Ellie Mae designing, coding and presenting our solution to help Thorn combat predatory behavior.

In order to end up with a functioning demo in 13.5 hours, we had to run a tight ship, so we treated this like any mission critical customer project. After selecting the problem statement we chose to tackle, we dug in first on requirements before diving into solution mode.  Then we began to architect our solution.  Since we had 6 people, we needed 6 work streams to best work in parallel, and this definitely influenced our architecture.

With 5 Lambda functions and a CloudFormation template to build, we could all work in parallel until integration time.

Between  the Ellie Mae engineers and the Foghorn FogOps team, we had some serious rock stars with no real anchors, and after deciding on a rough architecture, we started blasting out code like it was going out of style.  The day was hectic, but not stressful.  As the guy with the CloudFormation piece, I had my hands full as issues here and there popped up and we needed more components, parameters, and environment variables for our serverless solution.  I laughed at the fact that I think I basically just typed CF code as fast I could for about 12 hours.

We finished our individual pieces before dinner and we were integration testing ahead of schedule. Amazingly, only a few minor bugs (mostly passing payload data between functions) needed to be fixed.  Plenty of time to add some extra features (Slack integration, etc.) as well as test our demo end-to-end several dozen times.  By the time the beer brake came we were comfortable with the presentation, the demo, and the committed code, and we took the last 45 minutes of hacking time to enjoy the free beer and pat ourselves on the back for finishing what we designed.

Then it got fun.

So we make it to the finals, and our fully functioning solution really impresses the judges.  We take home the gold, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished.  Funny, I took the whole thing like a game, but knowing that Thorn is going to put what we built into action at some point is really rewarding.  I’m looking forward to the next one!

I left out what it was that we actually built.  Why? I’m gonna let Ryan Fackett cover that one in his next post :).  I will, however, share a pic of the prize for winning. Pretty cool, huh?

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