Spend weeks to save minutes with our Innovation Days

As software developers, we all love to invent and build stuff. We experiment with new technologies or simply spend weeks solving repetitive, annoying manual tasks that take only 5 minutes. At our Innovation Days, we prioritize innovation, learning, and collaboration. We tackle a wide variety of challenges, ranging from IT4IT and automation to implementing new features for our customers by exploring cutting-edge technologies like AI and ML. This is how it works.

Izzet Tunc
Izzet Tunc
Java Developer & Young Professional
4 minutes
May 9, 2023

Why do we like innovation?

Innovation can help organizations gain a competitive advantage by offering new products and services that better meet the customers’ needs. That in turn helps organizations grow and thrive in competitive markets.

For me, an important aspect of innovation is keeping up with the constantly evolving technology landscape. As a tech enthusiast, I find it fun and exciting to experiment with new technologies and learn how to use them effectively. Innovation can also help improve our quality of life. We’ve all experienced those tedious, repetitive tasks that take up a lot of our time and energy. By automating these repetitive tasks, we can free up our time to focus on more important and creative work. This not only saves time, but it also improves our job satisfaction. Finally, as a developer, you may often have a desire to create your own projects after facing an annoying problem or coming up with a great business idea.

For that reason, and to facilitate innovation in our Client, Banker & Data area, we have come up with Innovation Days as the perfect outlet to scratch that itch for creativity.

What are these Innovation Days?

We host dedicated Innovation Days every month, where volunteers can focus solely on their creative ideas without any other responsibilities. The day starts with presentations where people share what they’d like to work on and their team composition. This presents a great opportunity to meet new people and expand your network, as you can simply join one of the teams.

At the end of a productive day, there are closing presentations to display what we’ve accomplished and learned. If you can’t finish your project in one day, no worries – you can always pick up where you left off on the next Innovation Day.

Why do I like Innovation Days, and how are they different?

As someone who loves to work on new things and try out new technologies, I must say that I’m biased in favour of our Innovation Days. The events provide the perfect opportunity to scratch that creative itch and work on whatever project you like, without being limited by specific problems or business ideas. Unlike classical corporate hackathons, where the focus is on solving a specific business problem that might be costing the company millions – with only a slice of pizza as a reward – our Innovation Days prioritize innovation, learning, and collaboration.

Want to work on AI and ML? You can develop an AI chatbot to reduce the workload on your team’s dreaded support mailbox. Or maybe you’re interested in a new and fancy JavaScript framework that has recently become popular, just like the last one did 6 months ago. You can develop a dashboard, a platform, or automate a process in your work. The possibilities are endless, and when you finally create something valuable and impactful, you get to present it and make a real difference in how we work. And if your idea doesn’t work out, that’s just as valuable, because it gives us an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.

What did we do with it?

During our Innovation Days, we’ve tackled a wide variety of challenges: from IT4IT and automation to implementing new features for our customers by exploring cutting-edge technologies like AI and ML. Here are some examples of the projects that our colleagues and I have worked on during these innovation sessions:

  • One of our colleagues came up with an idea that uses trendy technologies and made a machine learning application that predicts which other products might be useful for a client based on available products using matrix factorization from Microsoft’s ML libraries. The results can then be displayed as product recommendations for our customers.
  • Another colleague focused on optimizing and simplifying a process that uses hierarchical client data from an SQL database. They moved the data to a graph database, which resulted in hundreds of lines of SQL query being reduced to just a few readable lines. This improved code readability, performance, and made it easier for new joiners to work on the project.
  • As for me, I wanted to help my non-technical teammates. In my team, we try to make our system as flexible as possible, so we have a bunch of configuration files that are not always easy to read or find. I noticed that I kept getting similar questions about the name of the data fields between applications, which were quite easy for me to answer by digging into the code, but it was annoying to do it repeatedly.

So I spent some time developing an MVP (minimum viable product) using newer technologies like NextJS for my learning goals. This fixed the problem entirely, and we now have a diagram, similar to a flow chart, that displays how the data fields between our applications are connected. Then, we added it to our backlog to make it a part of our system, as this solution not only helps my non-technical teammates and new joiners but could also be turned into a data lineage project .

And that’s how we spend weeks to save minutes. I believe that organizing events centered around innovation, where contributors have the freedom to explore crazy ideas, is an effective way to achieve meaningful progress. As Thomas A. Edison famously said, “Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.”

About the author

Izzet Tunc
Izzet Tunc
Java Developer & Young Professional
Izzet is an ex-data scientist and Java developer who has been working for Rabobank for the past two years. His current role is in the Global Client Data System team, specifically in the Client, Banker & Data area. In this area, he works on harmonizing customer data from around the world to create a single, accurate profile which serves as the golden source of truth. As someone with a background in computer science, he is naturally drawn to data-heavy applications, data science, and the development of new algorithms. Outside of work, Izzet enjoys board games and rock climbing.