To coincide with the 2020 Reach Virtual Conference, Xylem is hosting our 3rd annual Xylem Hackathon with our partners, Amazon Web Services.  This event immerses engineers from across Xylem into an environment that rewards quick thinking and rapid innovation to solve customer needs. The concept is simple: Teams of engineers are given a customer problem to solve and no rules. They are free to try any technology and use any tools at their disposal to show Xylem and our customers what’s possible.

As an engineer at heart, that’s an exciting proposition! To have a real customer problem to solve and no rules on how I solve it is a dream come true. I can test myself and stretch those creativity muscles to really think outside the box. I can innovate and help a customer achieve something at the same time.  Thanks to our partnership with AWS, I’m able to try out a number of new technologies and chat with experts to look for new opportunities to bring cutting-edge cloud tech into my work. To understand how different that is from the day-to-day as an engineer in a company like Xylem, here is some context on who we are and what we do.

Xylem has an impressive research & development footprint. With skillsets and experience that run the gamut of hardware, firmware, enterprise software, big data analytics, cloud computing, mobile software, platform development, web applications. You name it, Xylem has someone that has done it, is doing it, or can learn to do it!

To best serve our customers and their needs we deploy our collection of talented Xylem team members to projects that deliver new solutions to our customers.   Those projects range from cloud-based software applications to new solutions spanning hardware products, communication protocols and supporting software platforms.

So what does the normal day-to-day process of building new Xylem solutions look like at the highest level?

You can see there is a logical progression from customer need to new product delivery.  The process may look simple, but it can become very complex. Throughout this process, our engineering organizations play a critical role in defining the concepts, design, and development of new solutions for our customers.  These can be expansive projects with 6-24 month timelines with dozens of engineers working together to bring a new solution like the Sensus Sonix IQ meter or a smaller agile development team, delivering Daily Reads or the new Avensor platform to our customers.  From start-to-finish hundreds of people across Xylem might be involved from Idea to Design to Launch.  That means making schedules, aligning workstreams, setting deadlines, building for maximum scale and stability, and all of the other key components to a successful project and a successful solution.

But when we’re in Hackathon mode, we can work more freely. We can take shortcuts because we know we don’t have to scale yet and that the focus isn’t on a repeatable, 10,000+ user product. The focus instead is on proving that we can understand the customer problem and find a logical way to address it.  We get to focus more on the customer and brainstorm sometimes unconventional solutions. That change of pace can give us new perspective, teach us new skills or let us try out new technologies that we can bring back to our day-to-day to make those projects even better. We may even solve a customer problem very quickly, and with far less work that we had imagined. Creativity is a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets.  The more we focus that creativity on what our customers need the more we drive the customer’s voice through all of our projects, big or small. By encouraging engineers to think outside the box, we’ll drive that spirit of innovation into every product we make.

Vote for your favorite team’s solution in the Innovation Hall beginning Tuesday, October 13th. There’s still time to register for Xylem Reach 20 if you haven’t already done so!