Keeping Skills Sharp by Hacking for Good

Creating products for startups involves a lot of exploration; building things that haven’t been tried before. That means throwing a load of strategy, design and technology at a problem and trusting ourselves to come out with a solution.

In order to constantly improve our skills and bring our own ideas to life we’ve held regular internal hack days and have created our own products. When DocuSign and Team Rubicon’s Hack For Good popped up on our radar and we leapt at the chance to join in the fun.

A hack for good is not where you hack ISIS members’ Twitter accounts and replace their profile pictures with rainbows, although that was funny


Getting involved

Christy, our lead developer (or Captain Code as he likes to be called), headed over ready to take on the challenge. He’s no stranger to public hack days as he was part of an award-winning team for Cancer Research UK’s GameJam in 2013.

The aim of this two-day event was to create something that would aid Team Rubicon in disaster recovery situations. The mission was to build an application that could help real-world humanitarian efforts, the path to getting there could also be a bit of fun.

The bravado was high as Christy planned to take on the competition alone but, once there, paired up with fellow developer Neil Satra to form a plan.

This involved “making it rain”, apparently:

Why do this?

Christy’s team mate, Neil, told us the reasons behind him getting involved in these sorts of events.

You get to use your skills to help an organisation that might not otherwise easily be able to access tech talent. Keeping your own skills sharp by learning and using new technologies under a tight deadline is a big bonus. The camaraderie with other hackers and the prizes are the cherry on top of this already delicious cake.

Neil Satra

Ready to hack

The key to a good hack is not biting off more than you can chew. The newly formed Team Mango (named after the best flavour of Rubicon) needed to build something that was achievable within the time constraints yet was adventurous enough to be a front runner.

I found myself saying “I kind of do this every day” quite a few times. The way you approach a hack day is very similar to how we build products at Lighthouse.


They set out to build an app that would simplify the process for rescuers checking buildings for survivors. At the end of the two days the team had a working solution based around a simple Google maps interface. This allowed Team Rubicon to assess flood damage in people’s homes and receive the legally required consent digitally via the DocuSign API.

And guess what? They only went and won it!

A word from DocuSign

We reached out to Amy Skeeters-Behrens, Executive Director of DocuSign IMPACT, for a few words about the hack day and the reasons behind holding these sorts of events

The hacks for good are just the beginning of the relationship — DocuSign and Team Rubicon are working together to implement selected solutions crafted at the Hack-for-Good events in both San Francisco & Momentum London. The focus will be on solutions that help Team Rubicon enhance compliance and speed of execution in dynamic situations where connectivity is not guaranteed.

Team Rubicon has upwards of 40,000 volunteers, and operational management in disaster situations can be complex. Managing volunteers, tracking teams in the field, managing waivers in disaster situations – all where speed and mobility are paramount. This is a longer term commitment to disaster response and the Clinton Global Initiative as well, which is why we asked for all the teams to submit open source projects.