Insight Tech Hub blog

Looking back on Hack Manchester 26 October, 2019

By Adam Houldsworth

On 26 October, I had the pleasure of having very little sleep and occupying a space with about 250 people, over a 48 hour period some of who were in need of a shower– otherwise known as Hack Manchester. And yes, I’m joking… only half needed a shower!

Why were we there?

Hack is a poster-child of technology events around Manchester and being involved ticked more than a few boxes.

At the start of 2019, my colleagues and I had ambitions. We wanted to get the Insight Investment Technology brand into the Manchester tech community. Our aim was to be one of those companies that everyone in town is aware of. We knew we needed to hire 75 people over two years so we thought, selfishly; this initiative would make our lives easier!

More importantly, this event is a tangible example of the type of software engineering we want in our tech hub: one where innovation is encouraged, outside thinking is welcomed in, and we are held in high esteem by team members and the wider Manchester tech community.

We also wanted our Hack challenge to challenge the stereotypical view that being a risk-conscious business would stifle software engineering: simply put, it doesn’t. So we became a sponsor.

Who won our challenge?

Only one team could emerge victorious and that was An Embarrassment of Pandas from autotrader. Well done: Andy May, David Williams, Jenni Foster and Philip Taylor.

They aimed to find a correlation between the price of apples and Apple company stock. They didn’t. They didn’t give up and investigated correlations using a variety of statistical models, settling on house prices and the value of Apple stock. They took lots of historical data to train a machine learning algorithm to come up with an overall trend and future forecast, which they used to decide when to invest. They took £1m and turned it into £1.2m for the year.

Team Insight

Rob Stanley, Mark Topping and I were judges and enjoyed being available to competitors, getting our hands dirty debugging issues and keeping track of our challenge.

Insight also entered a team from, London and Manchester, thank you: Jacob, Joshua, Jose and Toby. They competed in “The Clockwork Challenge”, to design an innovative solution that utilised SMS to help people with disabilities. They focussed on mental health and developed an application that would send a message if someone was having an anxiety attack. The application received the average heart rate, used this to determine the person’s emotional state and sent supportive messages. It also could message them about events in their area based on their hobbies and interests. 

Sadly they did not win…..this year.

Wrapping up

All in all, Team Insight felt we achieved our goal of increasing awareness of who we are and what we do. Personally, I enjoyed the weekend; hard work though it was. It was a lot of fun and we got to see how much could be achieved when a team has a singular focus on tackling one problem and executing quickly.

Thank you to all those that took part, @_drewforsyth for the photos and to Claire McDonald and the Hack Manchester team for all their hard work before, during and after.

A final thanks to all of the Insight people behind the scenes who got us there. Personally, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but with more sleep next time!