FNC, Inc. is a global company that helps make mortgaging easier with technology. Since the mid-1990s after being founded by University of Mississippi professors the company has discovered solutions that automate appraisal ordering, tracking and documentation and review for lender compliance with several regulations. FNC has supported technology innovation, especially in Mississippi.
FNC recently wrapped up its second annual 24 hour hackathon called “The Forge.” The FNC’s hackathon is a competition where teams of software developers have 24 hours to create new technology for FNC: a product, service, system or process that will help FNC generate revenue, reduce expenditures and better serve its clients and make the company’s own processes more efficient. Teams are required to present their ideas to a panel of judges and then prizes are awarded to the top three teams. This year’s Forge has 17 teams of one to three employees each.
The marathon began yesterday at 1 p.m. after a motivational speech from Ross Bjork. He even brought his infamous wrestling belt!
Bill Dabney, corporate communications manager and fellow University of Mississippi graduate, said, “Ross Bjork kicked off our event with a motivational speech that encouraged developers to be optimistic; to seize the day because today matters and affects tomorrow; to take risks because putting ourselves out there makes us learn and grow; to have confidence and humility; to lead with the heart without letting anything hold you back; to have energy; to know the best is yet to come; to be relentless; and to be uncommon–doing something you’ve never done before.”
He said of the hackathon’s outcome: “It’s quite possible that some of the innovations developed in the Forge will become marketable products for FNC. We also love to give our employees the opportunity to develop creative solutions, form their own team, try out new technologies and then show off their amazing work.”
Jon T. Fisher, managing director at FNC, said, “Hackathons have evolved into great opportunities for developer, creative thinkers and others looking to get an idea off the ground to work with other like-minded individuals on an idea. That is what our Forge is really all about: taking some time to step back and think about something that is missing or needs to be addressed either in our products, technology or in another area and focusing on it for a short period of time. There is something about setting the time aside and creating some incentives to get things done that really motivate people to generate ideas.”
Fisher said this year the participants have had quality ideas which came from the teams, other FNC employees through numerous EDI (employee driven innovation) meetings or its Idea Fair that FNC holds a few weeks in advance of The Forge. Many of the ideas are applicable to FNC business or utilizes its data for a product that would be used in another marketplace.
He remembered the last year’s products that were developed at FNC’s first Forge.
“Last year we also had some really good products developed at The Forge.” Fisher said, “While those specific products may not have been taken into production yet, many of the concepts that were created or processes utilized were put in our products. Two come to mind: IntelliSearch which is a ‘Google-like’ search tool that is now used in many of our products was prototyped in 2013 and the utilization of an ‘Auto-refresh’ technology that keeps a user’s screen view up to date without a manual refresh.”
To FNC the hackathons are “absolutely effective.” All participants in the hackathons are employees since the event is a corporate initiative for the employees to show their talents and help better the company.
Fisher said, “I really like one of the concepts that Facebook frames many of their Hackathons around “The world is your oyster – think of something that annoyed you today…” and fix it. There really are many paths to take in technology. …That is the value of these hackathons. In some cases there are opportunities at the end to have an idea funded through some form of a ‘Shark Tank.’ In others, just a great opportunity to meet people who can help with your idea.”
Since the company recently had a groundbreaking for its new headquarters there are possible career opportunities once the building is ready a year from this month. FNC will then have 310 job openings.
“When hiring, we are always looking for good developers, technical personnel, designers and people with specific business acumen.” Fisher said, “Check out our careers page to see what is currently open.” Bethany Cooper is its H.R. recruiter.
Fisher said, “For me, I started out and was trained by an international technology consultancy then I went into industry and came back to technology. I think people today have great opportunities to put ideas into action. There are so many tools to work with and the price point for everything has come down a great deal, so there are limited barriers to entry.”
His advice to those starting out in technology post-graduate involves time, energy and knowledge. He said that one has to commit towards learning technology: how to code, how to design, and how to pitch, present and get your ideas in front of people who can help make them a reality. He encourages anyone who is interested in solving issues with technology and new business processes to get involved with the following initiatives: join a coding club or an entrepreneurs club and seek people who can help; immerse yourself in learning an interest whether it be design, some form of coding or learning the business of product development; and that the opportunities will come to those who actively seek them out.
Callie Daniels is a staff reporter at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org