At Saratoga, creating an environment of learning is an ongoing focus for our staff and the organisation as a whole.
To encourage continuous learning, we regularly host Spark sessions at the Saratoga Head Offices where our consultants present talks to their colleagues. The focus of these talks range from discussing new technology trends, to insights consultants gain from working on projects or from attending industry events – and even include staff sharing overviews of their passion projects.
A group of our Saratogans form the Spark committee, which is responsible for co-ordinating all the Spark session speakers, talks and activities throughout the year. An exciting development from the Spark session team this year was our very first Saratoga internal Hackathon. The Hackathon saw Saratoga partnering with the Love Your Nuts organisation to develop creative and innovative solutions to help the NGO better connect with their community and spread awareness about testicular cancer.
The day-long event saw our Saratogans team up with their colleagues to brainstorm and create a variety of solutions for the Love Your Nuts organisation. Our Saratogans really took up the challenge, and the judges of the Hackathon were well impressed with the range and quality of solutions that were created during the day.
The winning team created an educational game using the Unity Engine. After a few initial challenges, including new members joining the team, and working with a technology most team members were not familiar with, the team came up with a creative solution which Thorsten Koehler, founder of the Love Your Nuts charity, really resonated with.
“We had a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve on the day, and what the team wanted the solution to ultimately be. With a shared vision in place we could work together as a team to ensure we had something to present at the end of the day, and we ended up doing pair programming while iteratively clarifying the plot of the game together. We wanted to have a POC game finalised with a simple interaction between a player and an object (i.e. a person hitting a piñata), and we presented an Escape Room game to the Hackathon judges.” – Liezel Conradie, Senior Business Consultant, Hackathon team member and member of the Spark Committee.
“Game elements within our game allowed the player to enter into and exit out of different interactions that are based on items in the room. The elements and interactions built into the room would see the player unlocking testicular cancer information that would slot into a message pane on the player’s UI, enabling the player to eventually be able to escape the room. The symbolism of the Escape Room idea was that by learning more about testicular cancer, you have a much better chance of ‘escaping’ a terrible fate”, explains Liezel.
The most ambitious project of the day saw one team aiming to build a complete website including a referral system, event planning capabilities and many more features. The team also observed all the website processes, including building a storyboard and writing unit tests.
“The hackathon really demonstrates Saratoga’s ability to drive a culture of learning, innovation and collaboration. Personally, I would love to see the Hackthon event turn into an annual Saratoga event that we can all look forward to. The monthly Spark sessions also play an important role in supporting the culture of learning and knowledge sharing within Saratoga.” – Prian Reddy, Senior Business Consultant and member of the Spark Committee.
Virtual Tech Talks
Following the lock-down in South Africa and the move to remote working, the Spark committee’s newest initiative is aimed at maintaining the culture of learning within Saratoga through virtual Spark sessions. These virtual Spark sessions use video conferencing platforms to enable Saratogans to still share insightful talks with their colleagues, and provides Saratogans with a much needed platform to connect and share information while working remotely.
“By hosting events such as the Spark sessions, Hackathon and virtual Spark sessions we invest in the innovative capabilities of our Saratogans and better enable them to stay abreast of relevant technology trends and advancements. The aim of the Spark committee is to continue to provide the technology and business professionals of Saratoga with various opportunities to learn and share, as it’s important for us as consultants to stay up to date with new technologies and to adopt a lifelong mind-set of learning and curiosity.” – Liezel Conradie.