Learning iOS in a week – by Kevin Diamond, CTO of Hautelook

Hackathons have become quite common in the technology industry. They are an opportunity for both aspiring and seasoned technologists to flex their development and entrepreneurial muscles. Recently, we have seen companies adapt the hackathon model in order to attract more talent or develop team skills. In this vein, Kevin Diamond, CTO of Hautelook.com, designed a hackathon to help increase the amount of iOS knowledge and ability within his organization. In fact, he was so pleased by the outcome and the skills/apps that his team built, he jumped at the opportunity to share his experiences and findings with the community at-large.


Fun Fact: 85% of mobile consumers use their phone while shopping in-store.

Being in the retail industry at Hautelook, the holiday season is one of the most important times of the year for our business. In fact, much of the work we do in the Fall leads us into this period. After Thanksgiving, we go into lockdown mode with an annual code freeze, customarily using the time to focus on things like framework enhancements and testing new concepts. This year, however, we decided to do something different and have a weeklong hackathon. Instead of being a typical hackathon, I had the team focus only on mobile development, with particular emphasis on iOS.

I took my entire group of engineers, regardless of whether they normally specialize in JavaScript or PHP etc., and threw them into a room to learn Objective-C. After one week of excellent instruction from our expert iOS engineering team, I had a dozen engineers ready to attack new programs. The real fun began in the subsequent week, with each team member picking something to build for an internal contest. For five days straight, the engineers coded away, all the while sharing ideas, tips, and tricks with each other. Although the more senior members of the team helped out their junior teammates, everyone designed and developed their own stand-alone apps.

At the end of the week, we had 10 entries ranging from a game-show like app centered around guessing the right price of something; to a magic eight ball which chooses upcoming purchases on behalf of a customer; to a photo-studio iPad application that can create on-the-fly photo albums from recently viewed products, all while taking pictures of new products. We judged the applications – and gave out prizes – based on criteria which evaluated creativity, complexity, and the essential qualities we look for in all HauteLook products. All of the entries were incredible, especially for being built in just one week by engineers who had little experience developing mobile applications. Best of all, now my entire engineering department can code full applications in iOS, in addition to their usual programming language.

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