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Cognition

Things I’ve Learned From Working With My First Web Team

For the last 6 months or so, I’ve had the privilege of completing an internship working as a developer for Happy Cog. Throughout my time working here, I learned about the strategy, artifacts, and processes of building a beautiful, user-focused, responsive website. I attended both internal and client project meetings, worked directly with the designers and developers, and built an understanding of design systems and the best practices for coding.

I’ve been working on the web for about five years now, and have been a freelancer for two of those years. The beginning of my web career mostly started with doing work pro bono for local mom and pop shops and transitioned into learning how to interact with clients, branding myself, and finding new projects. I’ve mostly worked by myself when it comes to my web work, but in some cases I’ve had to work with a team on school assignments. As a freelancer, I set my own hours and schedule my day around my work. As I enter my first full time development job, I have to adjust to 8-hours of straight development and working with a team, which was a difficult transition to make. When I graduate in the summer of 2016, the experience that I’ve gained through my internship with Happy Cog is invaluable. As I finish up my internship here are a few key things I’ve learned from working with my first web team:

Don’t Be Afraid

Coming into my internship, I was extremely nervous and intimidated; it was all so new to me compared to my colleagues, who all have years of experience. Despite this, I’ve learned not to be afraid and to use their knowledge and experience to my advantage by speaking up and asking for help when I need it. The team is here to help and make sure you’re headed in the right direction. Utilize the helpful advice that you receive from your coworkers; don’t be afraid to ask why or how. Sure, you can find answers to anything by typing it into Google, but having that human face-to-face interaction can give you a level of understanding that the computer screen never could. It’s also good to keep in mind that the learning never stops on any experience level; not only have I learned from my colleagues, but I’ve even taught them a few things as well.

Clean Commented Code

Most of the work I’ve done has only been reviewed by me. I sometimes find myself slacking when it comes to keeping my code clean and well commented. I’ve always heard that it’s important, but sometimes I got lazy and careless. It wasn’t until I came to Happy Cog that I realized the true importance of clean, commented coding. In many instances during my internship, I’ve had someone review my code, handed off my work to another colleague, or even obtained someone else’s code; this has all shown me how important it is to keep my code clean. Always keep your code clean and commented so that your progress on a project can be well organized and run smoothly, especially in later stages.

Teamwork

Generally speaking, the majority of the work I’ve done previously was done entirely on my own. In a few circumstances, I was thrown into a group project and given specific roles, but here at Happy Cog teamwork is everything. Each person has their own specific role and can be working on multiple different projects. A website is a product of close collaboration between designers, developers, and project managers; any disconnect between any of these roles can cause issues throughout the process of completing the website. It’s important to be on the same page with the other people you’re working with, otherwise the site will be compromised. The relationship amongst your team is extremely important; at Happy Cog, there is constant communication between the members of a team as designers and developers work closely together to make the site the best it can be. With each project, designers and developers go above and beyond, working closely to make their designs possible. Keeping a constant communication not only increases the overall success of a project, but also brings a team closer together.

Adaptation

For years I’ve had a specific workflow, style, and structure when it came to my code. I was comfortable with the way I was doing things, and didn’t think to step outside this comfort zone. Then I came to Happy Cog, where i’ve had to learn how to adapt to a different culture and style of work; I was forced to step outside the box, where I had to learn to adapt to a different workflow and utilize that new style of development when it came to working on a project. As I finish up this internship, I can definitely say my entire mindset and workflow has broadened and changed for the better.

Be Prepared

Time management is something that is extremely important. As a freelancer, I usually only took on one project at time; I devoted all of my time and energy into that one project. During my internship however, I’ve had to take on different tasks on multiple different projects at a time. Adapting to this was overwhelming at first, but as soon as I got the hang of it, my workflow and process became easier and faster. I now come into work having an organized game plan to tackle all the different projects I have to work on.

Endless knowledge

One of the most important lessons I learned during my time with Happy Cog was to take the knowledge and skills that I’ve learned and to expand on them. I’ve learned a lot so far during my years at Drexel University, but I also came to find that there is endless knowledge out there on the web. There is no textbook that has everything you need to know in one place, where the web is constantly growing and changing every day, adapting to new styles and technique as the industry changes and grows. There is no one way of doing something, and there could be many different ways to approach and solve one specific problem. It is important to be up to date with the latest trends and to stay updated on our current standards by reading blogs, bookmarking sites, and expanding your knowledge by building and creating new things.

Document What You’ve Learned

Since day one, I’ve documented everything I’ve learned at this agency. I created a list of plugins, libraries, websites, blogs, services, and codes as resources to use on future projects. By sitting in on client meetings and design and code reviews, I have a better understanding on how I should approach a specific task or problem. A lot of the code I write is reusable, so when I complete something that I know can be reused, I usually keep my code saved on codepen.io in case I ever need it in the future.

In Conclusion

Reflecting back on everything I’ve experienced here over these past six months, I can definitely say that I’ve benefited a lot from this internship. Happy Cog has taught me a tremendous amount of valuable skills to carry on to my future work. I was able to work on a full project from start to finish during my time here, and surpassed even my own expectations. The main thing I’ve taken from this experience is learning the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing your own limits, and always to be open to trying new things.

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