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We Threw a Hackathon! Career Blog - May 1, 2017

by Tracy L Stephan

Tracy StephanAt Fannie Mae, we work hard every day to bring new, innovative solutions to the housing market, and we encourage our employees to challenge the company to adopt breakthrough ideas and solutions. That’s why we recently participated in two hackathons. At its core, a hackathon is about the freedom to explore ideas with minimal guidance and constraints. This out-of-the-box thinking is precisely what leads to great innovation.

Hackathons are well known for driving collaboration and innovative solutions by bringing together a group of people (usually programmers) for several hours, or even several days, to ideate, collaborate, and innovate around a specific focus (i.e., an application, Application Programming Interface (API), etc.) and a general challenge. At the end of the hackathon, the teams share ideas or software developed during the event.

Our first Enterprise Innovation Hackathon – an internal event held in our Virginia office in early March – was a "test and learn" run to help us get ready for the external hackathon Fannie Mae was proud to sponsor at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, “Hack TJ.”

Nine two-person teams from across Fannie Mae took part in our high-energy, high-speed coding fest.

Hackathon Teams at Fannie Mae

We turned them loose on our API sandbox, and invited them to innovate an application using fifteen years of loan performance and acquisition data (data currently available to the public).

Explanation of APIs

In a nutshell, API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs allow applications to "talk" to each other in a pre-determined way to exchange and update information, leveraging existing capabilities in new ways.

This was the same portal and data we would be using at Hack TJ, so we used our internal hackathon to expose any bugs or weaknesses prior to the external event. We also wanted to allow employees an opportunity to show their chops and innovate on the spot. It seems we succeeded, as they shared that they were energized by the event and what they could accomplish in such a short period of time.

Hackathon participantsEven as a spectator, you could feel the excitement and buzz in the room as the eight hours flew by. Multiple teams partnered to build our API site in record time, and everyone walked away inspired and proud of their creativity.

We are innovating every day, and getting better and faster at it. Are you driven to be more innovative, and to solve complex challenges? Then come join us at the heart of housing!


Interested in joining an enterprise centered on innovation? Explore our technology opportunities.