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May 01, 2018

Plaiderdays

Kevin Hu & Rohan Shah

Updated on April 13, 2020

Back in March 2015, when Plaid had just a few dozen employees, we realized that even though we were laser-focused on getting Plaid off the ground, some of our best ideas might be unleashed if we gave ourselves a break from day-to-day work to focus on other projects. We called it Plaiderdays.

Since then, our take on an internal hackathon has grown into a thrice-yearly tradition that brings the entire company together. Some of our most-loved traditions and most helpful tools have come out of Plaiderdays: We’ve built onboarding tutorials for teammates outside Engineering, an internal store for swag, and a neural network-based transaction categorizer. The only rule is that what we build has to benefit Plaid in some way. We just wrapped up another iteration of Plaiderdays, so we thought we’d pull back the curtain on some of the fun we had.

Plaiderdays always kicks off early on a Wednesday morning and lasts through presentations on Friday, when the team votes on who will take home the top prize, the coveted Honorable Golden Platypus Award. We have events, meals, and surprises throughout the week, culminating in a post-Plaiderdays party. Each Plaiderdays also has a theme—our most recent was "Into a Brave New World."

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Al kicking off our Plaiderdays opening ceremonies

Several teams thought of ways to use Plaid’s technology to help communities traditionally underserved by the finance industry. One team, which included Baker from our Product team, Stephen from Engineering, and Vincent from Support, investigated data integrations with food stamps programs that would enable developers to build for free on financial data from electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card usage, creating the potential for apps that might help recipients use these benefits more effectively.

Another cross-functional team approached this theme from another angle: the student lending market. Em from our Business Development team, Nithya from Growth, and Kate from Sales gathered market data and interviewed potential clients to determine interest in a potential new lending vertical. Their teammates, Kris and Richard, both engineers, worked on building integrations to student loan services. The team was inspired by the opportunity to democratize information in a $1.4 trillion industry that is traditionally opaque and difficult for student borrowers to navigate.

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Tired from 3 days of hacking zzz...

Plaiderdays always ends in presentations, as each team presents its work to the company and answers questions in a lightning-talk format. This round’s final group closed out Plaiderdays with a bang with a surprise live performance of Plaiderday Night Live. The “PNL” team playfully roasted colleagues—especially our co-founders Zach and William—with skits and a singalong, helping transition us from 3 days of hacking to the afterparty.

In the weeks since Plaiderdays, many teams have shipped their projects (including the very CMS on which this blog post was written!), and we can’t wait to see what other Plaiderdays projects become fixtures of life at Plaid.

We hope this post gave you a sense of how Plaid does hack weeks. For a deeper dive into what it’s like to participate, check out this post by one of our engineers.