Find out why Okta chooses Devpost to help power its internal hackathons.
Hackathons are a critical part of the company culture at Okta, a leading identity and access management provider. Okta chooses Devpost for Teams to help power its internal hackathons—including its two biggest hackathons ever. Neta Retter, Director of Innovation Programs at Okta, spoke to Devpost about hackathons and using the Devpost for Teams (DFT) platform. Here’s a look at how Okta uses DFT to save time, spark innovation, and engage participants.
Okta’s vision is to accelerate a world where everyone can safely use any technology. It provides cloud software that helps protect its customers’ platforms through secure user authentication. As a company, it values innovation and empowering its team to help bring this vision to light for its customers.
“Having an inclusive hack culture is top of mind for us,” said Neta Retter, Director of Innovation Programs at Okta.
With innovation at the heart of the company, Okta regularly holds internal hackathons for its teams around the world to participate in.
When it comes to hackathons, one of Okta’s main goals is to make them inclusive for its teams working in a variety of roles around the world. Historically, the company received feedback saying its hackathons felt engineering-focused, so future hackathons needed to be more accessible to other teams. Some of the past hackathons used tools that technical teams were more familiar with than others—creating a barrier to entry. Okta needed a hackathon platform that was easy for its entire global team to use and that would encourage a wider variety of participants.
Like many hackathon organizers, another challenge the team at Okta had to contend with was the logistics of planning and managing a company-wide event. There’s a lot more to it than just getting the hackathon off the ground! Neta and her team focused on ensuring employees had tools and support throughout the event. The team needed a simpler way to streamline communication, connect participants, review projects, and help participants structure their projects.
It almost goes without saying, but security is also a major consideration for Okta. It was important that employees could log on quickly with single sign-on (SSO) access, but that Okta could still manage access.
Additionally, the team is focused on powering hackathons that are timely and capture participants. For Okta, that meant giving participants an opportunity to leverage AI in a secure way.
Okta started using DFT over a year ago and already held its two biggest hackathons—ever—on the platform. In a nutshell, here’s what the team at Okta highlighted about using DFT (with the full story below):
Okta used Devpost for Teams (DFT) to help remove the barrier to entry that had previously prevented non-technical teams from participating in hackathons. In the past, the company used tools for hackathons that some teams knew better than others—making it difficult for folks who didn’t know the tools to participate.
DFT’s intuitive and user-friendly interface made it easier for Okta’s organizers to open their hackathons to the entire company, which is exactly what they did. Okta made a huge push to increase its hackathon participation and successfully hosted its largest hackathons to date. Even after increasing hackathon participation by up to 50%, Neta and her team got feedback from participants about how easy it was to use the DFT platform.
According to Neta, as a hackathon organizer, it’s very simple to create a new hackathon in DFT. “You can tell that the people who built this platform were organizers,” she said.
DFT has many hackathon templates to help organizers kick off their events as quickly as possible. For Okta, the templates helped the team save time by simplifying planning and overall management.
“By having the templates in place to tell participants what to expect, having the dates, all the information in one place, and an easy way to link… From an organizer perspective, I think it is probably 25% of the work,” said Neta.
DFT’s project templates make it easier for hackers to compile their projects. The project templates gave Okta’s employees the framework to start building right away, without getting caught up in the details of how to effectively organize their projects.
“The templates for the specific types of projects really helped our hackers create more impactful projects and think about framing problems in a way that makes it very easy for others to understand,” said Neta. “Asking those higher-level questions and having it as a template for folks made it much easier to make this information useful hack-over-hack.”
According to Neta, it also simplifies the process for the review panel after the hackathon. “You’re able to use the search feature to find projects and understand the context which makes it much more useful.”
Communication was essential for Okta to meet its goal of holding more inclusive hackathons for its team. As an expert hackathon organizer, Neta is incredibly mindful of setting hackathon parameters that make it easier for global teams to collaborate.
“Often, what we’ll do is make the deadline to submit your project, maybe, Friday end of day—in any time zone,” said Neta. “Ultimately, you want people to be passionate, to finish, to have this experience, and to balance it with their life.”
DFT’s features simplify collaboration for global, remote workplaces. Local time zones are shown for each user and it’s easy for hackers to find each other. Organizers can email participants by segment depending on who they need to connect with.
As a participant, it’s easy to build teams and connect with people asynchronously. “You can easily mark your project as open to recruiting other people (or not), which gives power to the hacker,” said Neta. “Historically, I’ve found that people wouldn’t put their project in the tool because they didn’t want other people to sign up. But [with Devpost], you could choose. It created a lot of really simple team building.”
AI has the potential to drastically transform most—if not all—businesses. AI was a hot topic at Okta’s most recent internal hackathon, and the company created an environment that would allow participants to securely use generative AI platforms. It’s far too easy for companies to accidentally release customer information, source code, or other classified information with some generative AI platforms.
To avoid these risks, Okta worked with OpenAI to implement guardrails that allowed participants to securely experiment with AI. The result? It was by far the most popular track participants chose to work on and over 25% of the projects submitted were AI-related.
“Hackathons are generally critical for experimentation because you are able to set up guardrails and do things that you can’t otherwise do in your core work,” said Neta. “In this specific case, we were able to do that around AI.”
Every team’s hackathon requirements are different, and Devpost is continuously improving the platform to meet those unique needs. Okta has been using DFT for over a year and providing feedback that the Devpost team used to improve the platform hack-over-hack for Okta.
“We had a hack in September and another one in May, and we did see some of our feedback, feature requests, and suggestions really being implemented,” said Neta. “We could share feedback in real-time any time we needed something to be unblocked and we had fast, easy support.
“It felt like we were integrated into the team and like we were part of the broader development of this platform.”
Get your team involved in building your company’s next transformative solutions. Get a free demo of Devpost for Teams (DFT) to see how.