We’ve already told you once or twice that the intiver school was created as a methodology to train new professionals to enter the IT world. But, today, we’d like to tell you about one of our projects that, apart from its professional focus, is characterized by being inclusive.
A User-Friendly App
Everything started with the aim of improving the system of weekly massage bookings, which is one of the benefits that the company offers its employees. Before developing the app, which was created in the context of the React Training Program (or intiver school), those who were interested in using their two weekly massage appointments had to write down their names in an Excel spreadsheet, which showed the daily schedule that the masseur had access to. Even though this system worked, it didn’t take into account the needs of our masseur, Sol, who belongs to an Argentine NGO called “En Buenas Manos” to train blind and visually impaired people. This is how we came up with the idea of creating an app so that we could include her and any other person with different needs.
A Great Team is Built
When the time came to carry out the project, we chose to train new professionals to enter the IT world. At first, we had in mind a front-end team that would work and train in the React platform. But then, a back-end team was formed to work in Phyton and QA; they were in charge of manual testing and process automatization.
The intiver school started as a sort of Tower of Babel of different professions. The 12 participants came from different areas such as Tourism, Hospitality, Communication, Design and Philosophy, and for many it was their first experience with technology. Given the circumstances, the first challenge we faced was interpersonal communication, since the group was really heterogeneous with a broad age range.
In order to overcome communication barriers, the group started attending agility workshops in which they got to know the agile methodology, which helped them surmount that first obstacle. Once those workshops were over, then came the experience of starting a new project from scratch, and with it, great uncertainty. Where do we begin? How do we work? How can we apply everything we learned? That was the real challenge.
In order to overcome our initial fears, we started working in couples, known as “pair programming” in the IT world. In this stage, we learned about soft skills: communicating with people who can be your completely opposite, understanding our peers, realizing the importance of communication inside the team and with other teams. We also learned that it’s okay to ask for help and that we shouldn’t wait for magical answers: solutions are worked through.
Hands-On: How Do We Develop?
The front-end team learned how to create an app from scratch. We faced some specific challenges for which we had to take several technical decisions.
- Since we were at it, we chose to use the Hooks function to analyze the whole process. However, at first, tasks were too comprehensive and that was delaying their completion, so much so that the QA team couldn’t cope.
- Another hurdle for the team was lack of experience when it came to writing unit tests for the app.
Everything made us rethink the way we worked:
- As weeks went by, we understood that more specific tasks help accomplish more general tasks, and that communication inside the team is key. So, we decided to change the way we tackled those tasks, dividing them into smaller ones. And that accelerated the work for QA, which, in turn, made the process of revising pull requests easier.
- We enhanced the implementation of tests with courses and talks.
When the app started to scale, we were ready to incorporate Redux, a refactor that slowed down our work but benefited us as professionals.
Even though we knew from the very beginning that the app had to be accessible, we didn’t really work on that until later on, because in that moment it was more important to learn and dive deep into developing the app: we needed to understand and correctly apply certain technologies, such as React and Redux, as well as carry out quality unit tests.
Once the app was established, we faced the challenge of accessibility. We contacted everyone who could give us a hand, from the UX team to other developers with experience in the topic, and we also had some interviews with Sol in order to understand what it’s like to have a visual impairment and try to spot requirements to improve. All of these things helped us learn and also carry out our jobs with the greatest quality possible.
This other aspect of the product really offered us a lot of insight, specially about the way in which we should face our projects:
- We learned to try many solutions out, even though some may not work.
- We managed to spot the obstacles, seeking help from our peers first, and then from technical leaders.
- We learned the important lesson that it’s possible to boost our skills through our peers, creating a strong team capable of taking decisions on its own. This made the app scale beyond its first objectives.
To this day, the app for massages is up and running. The members of the intiver school are now working in different projects in the company, but the experience remains valuable and we know that the knowledge we gained with it will stay with us all throughout our working life.