Reflecting on Working at WatrHub

Jay Estrella
Jan 18, 2016 · 3 min read

My co-op ranking for this co-op term was an outstanding rating, the highest co-op rating possible.

Working at WatrHub was distinctly different from anywhere I’ve worked before. I’ve done contract work for larger companies but was largely insulated from them. My past internship was at an innovation lab, essentially a low pressure start-up within Manulife. The internship before that was at a very early stage startup that didn’t have plenty of customers to answer to. This was the first time I had to interact directly with non-technical people and I had a blast doing it!

Business People Are Valuable

The best source for inspiration for new projects at WatrHub were the analysts who would be using the tools I would eventually create. Going in to it everyone was confused, the analysts weren’t sure what was possible and I didn’t know what they actually needed.

It’s better to spend more time finding the right thing to create rather than making a bunch of things that may just end up making more work for your end users. Whenever I had a free moment I would ask an analyst if I could just watch while they work on whatever they’re working on. I would take notes, record their process, and write out some ideas on how time could be saved. These notes would lead to a couple of tools that saved up to 30% of time required for a particular WatrHub process. I’m avoiding describing too much what WatrHub does due to agreeing not to disclose their processes. However this 30% figure did lead to significant time saavings.

Supportive Supervisors Are Valuable

This one kind of seems like it’s obvious. After I got my bearings at this job I began proposing projects to my supervisors, things that they didn’t ask for but I felt would provide substantial value. I would provide project proposals with estimated times, benefits, and details about any tradeoffs while deciding the spec of the project. The only thing required on my supervisor’s part was to say yes or no.

By making these project proposals I was allowed to do more exploratory projects, became more acquainted with the business needs of WatrHub, and became better at making my case on why doing something was important. I got to improve my communication skills and ended up working with things I found interesting.

One of the projects I proposed became the foundation of the future of WatrHub, without support supervisors this would not have been possible.

Knowing When To Pivot Is Valuable

Some projects ended up not leading to anything useful. In the past this would have bothered me a lot, but a project not leading to a tool doesn’t mean you haven’t learned any lessons. Eventually regardless of how much you plan something it just doesn’t pan out. It’s important to learn what you can and try again.

If I got hung up on something not working out, or spent weeks on a project that was a dead end just because I wanted to make it work I would have just been wasting time. Having a plan is important but being flexible is equally important.

I got to learn a lot of lessons during my time at WatrHub and became a more rounded developer. I got to experience a more business-like culture than I had before. I feel as though my experience during those 4 months will help me immensely in the future.

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