4 min read

Innovation First: How Hack-at-Nova partnered with Appsmith to solve critical industry problems

Six months ago, Nova Benefits conducted its debut Hackathon and it wouldn’t have been an absolute joyride without the fantastic team at Appsmith, the first open-source tool that helps developers build dashboards and admin panels very quickly. 

Before we roll out the second edition of Hack-at-Nova, we caught up with product manager Rohan Arthur and engineers Tom Jose and Vihar Kurama (The nine-tailed fox? Maybe.) for a quick chat to understand how developers use Appsmith to make a real change. 

We took Appsmith out for a spin and loved it! But how relevant is Appsmith in today’s vibrant tech market? 

Tom: Appsmith is a platform that allows users to build web and mobile apps without writing code. It can be used by large organizations and individual contributors for a variety of purposes, such as building websites and apps for personal projects or freelancing, as well as backend engineering management. The platform is becoming increasingly popular and is now being recognized as a core skill in job descriptions, indicating its legitimacy and importance in app building.

Vihar: Most companies don’t have a dedicated internal product team. Coding can be a tedious manual process. The key to looking good is creating automation that works so seamlessly, it looks like magic. Appsmith is the best blend here. It’s ‘intelligence’ combined with the ‘magic’ of tech!

Rohan: An individual from a European country created an app that helps refugees with paperwork. We saw Appsmith creating a real impact here!

Does one need to know coding to use Appsmith? 

Vihar: The tool is not limited to developers, but is also open to CXOs, Designers, and PMs. Our users include people who understand and know backend engineering but hate front-end! Every user brings something new to the table. 

Rohan: Short answer, yes, some knowledge of javascript is required. Long answer: Although you can build very simple CRUD-type applications on Appsmith without much knowledge of javascript, most internal tools can, and very often, go beyond more complex flows. Appsmith makes it easy for a developer to build their app by taking away the tedium of implementing the most common parts of applications like a frontend framework, database drivers, etc., so that they can spend their time on implementing the essential complexity of the solution.

Tom: Javascript is a widely used browser language, which makes it easy to implement with internal products and it's quick and usable, making it a great choice for front-end development. Someone who successfully saw the potential of Appsmith would be Ujjwal (Sinha, Lead Security Engineer, Nova Benefits).

We’ll circle back to Ujjwal’s hackathon presentation in a minute. Before that, how was it judging Hack-at-Nova?

Tom: A lot of teams impressed us with their granular approach and sense of humour while presenting their ideas. Rohan and I had an idea of what Ujjwal was building, but he was still able to surprise them during the final presentation. Some teams proved to be a wonderful package due to their unpredictability and ability to learn quickly. All their learnings were visible and connected to the end results, which was great to see. 

Rohan: We loved Nova’s developers and non-tech teams at work. Solving crucial problems related to employee insurance and healthcare can be a black hole, and we loved the innovation at play here. Hackathons are usually for coders, and Nova made it a problem-solving marathon. Discovering non-tech folks, regardless of their departments, proved that Nova is truly an innovation-first organisation! 

Hack-at-Nova Focus: The presentation that impressed most 

We sat with Ujjwal Sinha, the leader of the team that won the award for ‘Best App made using Appsmith’ at the 24-hour hackathon. 

Here’s the tea on how he managed to surprise Rohan, Tom and Vihar: 

What was your problem statement?

Ujjwal: To help CHROs, HR heads, Total Rewards Managers, and Compensation and Benefits Managers understand good health insurance and benefits plans better. My team was working towards enabling this customer profile to benchmark their company against other companies of similar size and industry. This would help any member of an HR team maximise employee, healthcare and wellness benefits at minimal costs while staying ahead of the curve and their competitors. 

What was your solution? 

Ujjwal: We proposed to create and automate this benchmarking report for our customer profile. 

How much coding do you know?

Ujjwal: While my day-to-day job is not related to coding in any way, I do have prior experience in coding.

How important was it to build the working prototype of your benchmarking report?

Ujjwal: This was fairly important to gain an edge (and well, extra points!) above every other team in the Hackathon.

Do you think Appsmith added a lot of value?

Ujjwal: Definitely, yes! The product has tremendous value, and being a no-code solution helped to create a working prototype in a short span of time, barely 24 hours! I just wish this was not the first time I was using Appsmith as more familiarity with the App could have enabled me to do a lot more. 

Well, there’s always next time. 

Stay tuned, Hack-at-Nova will be back!

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