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Product & Engineering

Learning Together: Celebrating Duo’s Culture on Hack Day

When Engineering Manager Ian Beals joined Duo Security, he was eager to participate in the activities that make Duo culture unique. One such tradition is Duo Hack Day (DHD), a semiannual event in which employees from all over the organization collaborate on projects that contribute to Duo and honor one of Duo’s core values: learning together.

Duo Dictionary + Chrome Extension = Accessible Information

A key piece of onboarding at Duo is learning through the Duo Wiki, an extensive collection of articles and links highlighting the company’s history, programs, products and culture. The Wiki contains the Duo Dictionary, which defines terms and acronyms specific to Duo as well as the broader cybersecurity space.

Beals relied on these resources when learning the ins and outs of his new company and decided that creating a Chrome extension for the Duo Dictionary could benefit new employees like himself and others who wanted a refresher, especially as new terms are added and definitions evolve.

“A Chrome extension seemed like the perfect way to harness all of the Duo Dictionary terms and plug them directly into places where people use them,” Beals said.

Beals spearheaded the project for his first DHD, collaborating remotely with people from different teams and creating an internal tool for Duo team members. The Duo Blog got to see the Chrome extension in action and learn the inner workings of Beals’ process and passion for collaboration and innovation.

How a creative outlet creates a useful resource

Question: What was your process of DHD?

Ian Beals: On Hack Day, I was able to leverage the experiences that other people have and collaborate. We worked on the Chrome extension, like any other DHD project, from sunup to sundown almost. We did a few rounds of vetting the idea and thinking about it from the user standpoint. Users include both people who are new to the company and people who have been around but still don’t quite know all of the acronyms, all the terms.

A headshot of a smiling Ian Beals (Engineering Manager at Duo Security) next to a quote of his that reads:

Then, we set out to define the user experience, what it should look like when someone is interacting with it. Next, we came up with a couple proof of concepts and ultimately landed with the idea and took it from there.

Q: How did you gather the data to include in the extension?

Beals: The Chrome extension itself is actually pulling from an already established knowledge base, the Duo Dictionary. We just indexed it and then used it where needed. So, starting off with, we got the content from the Duo Dictionary on the Duo Wiki. We had to make a few minor adjustments so it’s a little more uniform and easier to parse.

We went through a few different iterations of parsing through the HTML, live, by way of screen share. The way that we thought of it is that the Duo Dictionary is the best source because it is used and updated frequently.

Q: What does the Chrome extension do?

Beals: When brand new to Duo, we say familiarize yourself with the Wiki as part of our onboarding process. As you are reading and getting all of this content, you may find a word that is associated with our common Duo Dictionary. You can directly look that content up with the extension so that you don’t lose the context as you’re reading.

Screenshot of a context menu that includes a
Screenshot of a pop-up Duo Dictionary entry that reads:

For instance, if I see Universal 2-Factor (U2F), I just highlight U2F and then right click on the highlighted words themselves. There’s a pop-up that says U2F and grabs the definition and some of the other content and displays it on the page where I’m actually consuming the content initially. I don’t have to navigate anywhere else. I don’t have to keep a tab open and search through the tab.

Q: How does participating in DHD contribute to your work?

Beals: I have been a part of places that have done hack days before, but at Duo, it being scheduled is immensely powerful. That sends the signal that this matters to us. It’s companywide; it’s a part of who we are, our identity, to say that we will innovate and we want to hold this event twice a year.

For me, Duo Hack Day is a creative outlet." - Ian Beals

It’s really important to me to be given the space of saying you can make something that’s very in tune with the product or you can make something that helps everyone, or you can find something that you believe in and go work on it and then tell everyone about it. It serves many purposes. For me, Duo Hack Day is a creative outlet.

Q: What is your hope for the Duo Dictionary Chrome extension moving forward?

Beals: I had the idea and built the extension with my DHD team because it’s a need that I had. A lot of times I assume if I have a question, a lot of people probably also have this question, or if I have this problem that I’m looking to solve, there might also be other people who have that problem to solve.

I really hope that people find the Chrome extension useful. As known as the Duo Dictionary is, I also want to make sure that people have it in the back of their mind to say, “We have a new term. We developed a new product. I’m going to update the dictionary.” So, the secondary motivation is that people will take the time to update the Wiki so that everyone can benefit from it.

If employees are interested in the project, I would love to see more momentum on it and gladly join in. Right now, the code is accessible for developers to pick it up and run with it.

Q: Why do you think engineers would like working at Duo?

Beals: Duo has a reputation for making great products that solve important security needs. At Duo, we approach product development based on customer research and focus on design that is easy-to-use. Those are traits that engineers look for. It gives us a sense of building products and features that will actually be used. That’s key to feeling ownership and long-lasting job satisfaction.

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to work at Duo?

Beals: Show up curious and have a passion for security. Engineers who want to learn more, share what they know and help solve security related problems will do well at Duo.

Come innovate with us!

If you’re energized by collaborative innovation and learning together, check out Duo's open roles