PKG Fellowships 2020: Kelly Wagman Part III

Read Part I of Kelly’s experience here!

Read Part II of Kelly’s experience here!

After several years at large tech companies, this summer is the first time I’ve worked at a start-up. I was helping Urban Rivers, a start-up nonprofit based in Chicago, develop their Trashbot, a remote-controlled, trash-collecting robot. People say that at start-ups you wear many hats, and that was certainly true. I wrote code, ran a research survey, and developed a product roadmap.

One surprising lesson I learned, though, was that some of the product development training I had received at big tech companies was applicable. Big tech companies have fairly well-defined processes for designing new features, writing code, testing products, etc. that employees learn to follow. Small start-ups, however, have to make up those processes as they go. I was able to share some of what I knew with Urban Rivers. For example, I explained Agile development and how it could apply to the development of the Trashbot.

Agile development is a way of organizing work into 2-4 week sprints and then getting feedback after each sprint, instead of waiting until the product is “done” and realizing there are problems with it. The concept of a “MVP” or “minimum viable product” is also helpful. Focusing on an MVP means that a product gets out into the world as quickly as possible with only the features needed to be usable at a basic level, and allows for early feedback. Other useful terms are “mission” and “metrics.” A mission helps keep a development team focused on the same shared goal. Metrics determine whether the team is meeting that goal.

In my previous jobs, I had a narrowly defined role on larger teams. At Urban Rivers, however, I was able to both teach some of these concepts and help define them for the team. I enjoyed getting to work at a broader scope than I had previously and try out some new hats.​

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Tags: Climate Change, PKG Fellowships, PKG Fellowships Summer 2020, Tech for Good

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