Our final project for The Moms Can Code School asked a team of 5 beginner developers to develop an MVP (minimum viable product) for a real-life client. As a remote team of moms across three different timezones scheduling wouldn’t be our only challenge. Read more for details on how we overcame what seemed to be 99 problems but developing the MVP wasn’t one. This blog will actually go over five of the 99 problems.
“What time is it there?”
Already mentioned problem number one which was the timezone differences. For the seasoned remote worker, coordinating between three timezones may not seem so bad. For brand new baby remote workers this is definitely worth taking notes on. Each team member is a mom with one million things to do daily, coordinating schedules and timelines was a logistical nightmare. How did we solve it? Google Calendar of course! Right out of the gates we started our teamwork by creating a shared Google Calendar where we were sure to include major absences or events occurring in our personal lives so we were all aware. Next was to establish at least one day and time that worked for everyone. We assigned the task of “google calendar invite manager” to one person so things didn’t get confusing. We also set the tone of our team as relaxed and flexible, ‘if you could make it to the meetings wonderful, if not, we will fill you in.’ This helped ease the pressure and allowed us to prioritize our lives accordingly. All members were on the same page and there were minimal scheduling conflicts.
Speed dating for a remote team
Now, on to the challenge of identifying our strengths as a team and individuals. While for some, this may not necessarily be a challenge but I feel comfortable saying that getting to know each other and understand how each teammate works and learns under a crunched timeframe can be a little bit challenging. We overcame this by having an initial meeting where we all chatted and got to know one other. We all read and explore a strengths assessment and discussed our personal strengths at our meeting. Once those were highlighted it was a little easier to understand how each person worked.
“Child developers with knobby baby horse knees.”
As briefly mentioned earlier, we were all brand new baby developers but still had a wide variety of experience and skills. Some of us had experience with a previous boot camp, some of us started with literally no experience at all in the tech industry, while some of us had tech industry experience but not developing. We absolutely were a diverse group with a diverse set of skills. While a strength, this was also a challenge. Having a diverse set of skills and experience is wonderful, the challenge was our common denominator being ‘infant developers’, we were all still growing in this work and learning what we appreciate and do not appreciate. How did we overcome this challenge? We learned to use our skills in the areas required to complete this project. For an obvious example, if someone was particularly good at research, they became research lead. We did this with a clear balance of allowing each other to explore our interests. If the research lead wanted to explore team lead, then that was okay too. Defining roles was never a rigid part of our process, it was fluid and flexible which seemed to work for us because we created an environment where that was acceptable.
Communication, communication, communication
It’s fair to say this was a big-time challenge. As individuals, we each come with our own communication styles. As new team members it’s difficult to pick up on those styles really quickly and adapt to them appropriately. We overcame this by constantly and consistently communicating. Using clear and direct communication was essential so there was little room for interpretation but also asking for clarification if something was a tad bit confusing. There was no time to interpret messages negatively, it was all under the same mental thought of ‘we are all in this together, let’s get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible.’ There are plenty perks to working remotely and also plenty of challenges. One of the difficulties we faced was learning how to make ‘remote work’ work for us. Of course we had communication tools such as Slack and Appear.in but scheduling times to chat has a different feel and vibe than popping over into a colleague’s office and asking a quick in-the-moment question. We learned to take advantage of our meeting times and kinda learned each other’s schedules. Having some kind of an idea as to when people were available made it much easier to pop into a video call and sort things out. Also, we all became doctorate-level googlers.
Coding, what we are all here for but why won’t it work?
The actual coding was the biggest challenge of them all. As every developer knows, coding is like chasing a high. When you get something to work it’s the best feeling in the world, dopamine rush and all. There may be singing involved, something about being some sort of “computer wizard” and possibly even touchdown style victory dancing. However, the majority of coding time is spent banging your head against the wall and threatening your computer with its life. All developers have this problem, newly hatched developers maybe have it slightly worse. Our team changed the plans of our project a total of 3 times, this was frustrating for all of us but it spoke to our skill level not being where it needed to be for what we had in mind. That’s okay! We were able to demonstrate our flexibility and find something that worked for us. We also happened to learn a heck of a lot along the way. How, you might ask, did we overcome this depressing and daunting challenge? Humor is definitively the answer. Making jokes and being able to see the lighter side of things helped. Our persistence, we were willing to try any and all things. Finally, our ability to ask for help. We asked anyone that was willing to hear us out. We used all of our resources, we were open and honest about where we were at and got great feedback. We were able to take that feedback and use it to our advantage and develop an MVP that worked for all of us.
In conclusion, remote work is hard but rewarding. Do not underestimate remote work. The takeaways here are; be sure to get to know your team, be flexible, use all your resources, embrace your mistakes as learning opportunities, and establish an environment that fosters learning, growth, and kindness. Then, rise like a phoenix and slay!
Stephanie McInelly is an aspiring front-end web developer. Who is interested in using her understanding of human connection to create meaningful work.
Stephanie’s fascination with technology began during her work in tele-health. Where she has worked remotely. Stephanie is looking forward to apply her experience and new skills to the tech industry.
Stephanie has graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. Currently, Stephanie is a student in the Moms Can Code School working to build her coding skills and set out into the tech field.