29th March, 2006. The day finally arrived. The Hot House event finally got off. Started with all the speeches and talks about what would the work be. The best thing was that everything was precisely timed. No person could take more than the allotted time – not even the CEO. The count down clock started as soon as they took the stage and they finished their talks within the given time. Time had so much value these three days just because the amount of work was humongous and everyone had so less time.
By the time we all could reach there, the room was filled with lots of people. I could see around 50 people, all deeply engrossed in what was told. Just by the sight of the people around there, I could the say that the average IQ level of the people around in the room was way up there… real top notch. The very sight of this made me sweat! I tried to focus on what was being told because if I had to survive the next 3 days among these people I had to concentrate and understand what was to be done.
6 teams were to be formed each having a chosen business lead and a technical lead and they together had the task to form and lead the team. Forming of the teams were the most fair and fun kind I had ever seen. Each team starts with a fixed amount of money. They chose the best people for more money or retain money with less experienced people. The best performances at the end of each day would be given money as well. The team with most money at the end of 3 days would eventually be adjudged winners. So, the choice was to be taken by the leads. Go for the best people who would cost more and have confidence that they would make back their money with good designs or save money and hope that other don’t do well!
All people attending the Hot House had filled up their profile to specify how comfortable they were with each of the technologies listed. During the bidding process only these profile information was displayed without any reference to who it was. There were no names taken until the final bid was made. Each bid for a person would start at 100 pounds. The price of the profile keeps dropping every second. As soon as the leads think it was worth, they would lift their team’s card to place the bid. The team member is chosen this way and that much amount is deducted from the team. This was awesome fun and hilarious at times. We never knew which team we were till the last bid was made.
After the teams were selected, we wasted no time and assembled on our respective oval tables. Planning started with trying to analyze what the general skills of all the team members. Then the problem was analyzed and different solutions thought off. After nearly half a day of frantic planning, we could finally start coding the prototype that we had to show at the end of each day and the final big prototype on the final day.
I was lucky to be have one of my friends in the same team I was in. We had worked on some mock work as preparation back in India. We were in the same team then and were in the same team again. The work that was expected by us in the event was similar to what we had done in the mock. So that was a great start for us. That really boosted our confidence up. We had to do nothing new. All we had to do was be good at what we already had done. We both decided we would work the same way we worked in the mock. She designed most of the overall flow and I took care of the web-service communication which involved using Velocity for creating XML sending it across the network using HTTP, read the response XML of the web-service, parse it using XSLT and give it back to the flow. We had been doing this exercise since a week before. So we were way too confident about doing well as a team. All went really well on day 1 except a minor glitch. We did manage to put up a reasonable show on end of day 1.
Day 2 started off with a surprise. There were more teams added just to reduce the team size of individual teams which had grown out of proportion to the plans. Since my friend and I had similar skill sets, one of us had to part and join a new team. It was finally decided that she had to move but by then we had got the basic framework ready which made it really easy for both of us to work in both teams J
The rest of the work went on smooth and we did finish what was originally planned. By end of day 3, our prototype was up and running fine. But I guess the lady luck was never with our team. The prototype which was working perfectly on our machines faltered miserably during the final presentations. After all the hard work, the web-service din’t respond as expected and it displayed a huge error message on the big screen. L
Anyways, what was over was over. I had come here to have a good experience and learn a lot. At the end of the event, I think it was all worth the effort put in for the preparations and the actual work. I got to meet so many interesting people, top designers from many companies and top most management of our clients. It was really amazing to see the amount of quality work been done in so many different ways in so less time.
Great way to pull out fresh ideas real fast and effectively! I just loved the concept. The way forward from here… the BT management was going around visiting teams during all three days and analyzing the solutions and the work that was being put in. Now they would pick the best people, form a team and appoint a lead as one of their designers and actually come out with one complete solution in a 90 day work cycle. Looking at the kind of work that was done, anyone who would be selected would have the opportunities of their lives to work on something that’s really huge and interesting. Though I don’t have much hopes of making this team, I hope at least some of the people who had traveled with me from MBT would finally make it to the team.
All the best to whoever makes it…