by Hollie Wegman ・ Office Hacks

Office Hack #24 — Dev Post’s Call-Serena Hack

Envoy is all about making things easier and more fun in the office. In that spirit, we are proud to bring you our new Envoy Office Hacks podcast series. Every week, we deliver the coolest, most ingenious, and just plain fun fixes people have invented to improve efficiency and productivity in their workplace.

Who hasn’t dreamed of having something happen at the press of a button? It’s life made easy, right? Well, this week’s Envoy Office Hack might inspire many at-the-click-of-a-button ideas.

Devpost is a New York based recruiting platform for software developers and powers hackathons all over the world. One of its key employees recently moved cities and now works remotely. Her name is Serena Pietruszka and she is a project manager at Devpost.

She is central to many client projects and thus, the team’s need to be in touch with her is pretty high. Being a group of creative thinkers who live and breathe hackathons and hacks, it didn’t take long for the invention of a “Serena hack”.

Its first iteration was a Chrome extension that employees could access easily from their Chrome browser. Then, thanks to the ingenuity of an ambitious intern, the Chrome extension became a large physical button: the “Call-Serena-Button” as it were.

Now, having a face-to-face meeting with Serena was as easy as pressing a button! A large, red button.

“We had this phenomenal intern named Alex Wheeler. … He took an Arduino and connected a really big arcade button to it. When you hit the button it communicated with the computer and started what’s called a packaged app. This is a self contained little thing that you could build for Chrome and it would basically do the same thing that the extension did; which was, open a window and start [a Google] Hangout with Serena.” Neal Shyam, Head of Community, Devpost

> “When I went remote, our CEO was like, “I just want to be able to push a button and you just be there, like a genie.” ” > Serena Pietruszka, Project Manager, Devpost

The Call Serena button was centrally located in Devpost’s main boardroom so Serena could quickly and easily participate in meetings.

There have been a few accidental button-presses, but Serena became good at gently shutting those unscheduled hangouts down… and learning that she should always be prepared for such a call.

“There have been a couple of times where people have buzzed me, if you will, and I’ve been on client calls or different things and I’m like, “No, stop! I can’t talk to you right now.” It really encourages you, being remote, to shower and at least dress yourself from the waist up.” Serena Pietruszka, Project Manager, Devpost

At its peak, this hack was used 5–10 times a week. The convenience is certainly a selling feature, but Neal and Serena say the biggest value has been how it keeps the team together.

“Simple things like being able to say, “Hey Neal, I really like your shirt” or “Joanna, you have a new hairstyle.” Those types of things are really about building teams, and you can’t do that on a chat. …I feel when we’re using video, it’s a lot easier to feel connected personally to your teammates versus just sharing logistics or a work board or what have you.” Serena Pietruszka, Project Manager, Devpost

Devpost is already thinking up its next hack. Neil is excited for a button that would automate taco deliveries to the office, while Serena is hoping her team will consider a teleportation hack.

How to hack it

If you want to hack an automated arcade button for your office, here’s what you’ll need.

Total Cost: Less than $30.

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