Sun, Sand, Sea and kdb+

News 26 Jul 2023

Gary Davies

It's a hard life

Our clients often call on us for complex problems, but a few months ago we got set a challenge that got us all talking. Could Data Intellect deliver a kdb+ Hackathon in Portugal?

Some serious thought had to go into this, would we have enough people willing to go to Portugal in the middle of July? We really love kdb+. But 30 degree heat and ice cold sangria? surely not.


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At Data Intellect we love doing kdb+ challenges, from code golf through to advent of code, but we had never formalized anything into a hackathon before.

We worked closely with the client defining and refining a number of problems of varying difficulty that would be realistic and applicable to the real world, while taking into account that the challengers would have to learn kdb+ for the event. That's right, they would be learning kdb+ just to compete, with some potentially never having heard of the technology. In preparation for the event Data Intellect gave all challengers access to our online training portal to help them on their journey toward participating, and maybe even winning, the hackathon.

Their desire was real, which made sense as the prize was phenomenal - so much so, our Head of Time Series had thoughts of dyeing his hair and growing a moustache, but unfortunately Gareth Davis didn't make the cut.


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Data Intellect defined 2 challenges that were taken to the event and gave people the opportunity to choose which path to follow. They could either create a trade report or create functionality to compare two datasets. Both of these options came with challenges, assumptions, back story and some opportunities for bonus points and additional functionality. These would provide everyone with enough direction toward the end goal.

Our two superstars Emma Goodwin and Cianan Richman worked hard to test and refine these using 2 of our graduate cohorts as test subjects. This was so successful we intend to run something like this internally for every graduate group coming through.

In preparation for the event we also linked up with our good friends at KX and this allowed us to have their participation alongside at the event as the software owner, and it was a chance to have further independent assessors on site assisting in the judging.

To Portugal...

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It was finally time to jet off to Lisbon. A very early start allowed our hackathon dream team of Cianan Richman, Emma Goodwin, Andrew Wilson, Michaela Woods and Aoife Clarke to arrive in the Portuguese capital in time for some final meetings with the client before getting the chance to sample some local delicacies while watching the sun set over the river Tagus. The next morning, we met our hackers - some had even flown to Lisbon to attend the event (we did say the prize was awesome). There was a sense of anticipation rippling across the venue as the introductions were made and the excitement peaked a few minutes later as the hackathon began.

The challenges set were obviously thought provoking - we had some really interesting questions and discussions with our candidates throughout the day. Our folks were not just there to assess, but also to mentor and guide - in this hackathon it was not about the destination, it was about the journey. There was a lot of interest around the technology and how efficient it could be and I think everyone, moderators included, learned a lot. After the challenge was finished we interspersed some presentations with networking drinks and photos before building the tension to fever-pitch with the prize giving.

A relaxing evening with sun and sangria was called for after everyone's hard work and Lisbon did not disappoint. It was a fantastic atmosphere to reflect on Data Intellect's adventure in Portugal and the success of our event.

...and Beyond

And with that Portugal is done, BUT Data Intellect is certainly not.

This experience has only opened our appetite for Hackathons and you can be sure this will only be a starting point.

We are used to being the ones accepting the challenges, but with Hackathons we get to set them, and then watch as a group of fellow problem solvers use their can-do attitudes and work together to deliver a solution

If you are a client (or want to be!) and think - "That's cool. I want to do that" . Our team are always willing to collaborate and travel to you, just

Let us know

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