Collaboration aka “The Art of Letting Go”

This weekend we were tasked with a relatively simple, if extensive, 4 page site to build that had to include information gathered from a site’s API. We went ahead and built a 1990’s New Kids on the Block EPK (electronic press kit), with the notion that their manager would use this thing (some cutting edge tech) to harness the interest of radio stations and music venues.

It came out great! Well….almost. When I last looked it was a blank page with many React issues. So in summary — — yeah the collaboration thing didn’t quite work for us. At least not this first time.

I think it would have been helpful if we’d assigned a team leader, because initially it felt like nobody was comfortable expressing their opinion about anything. There was a lot of talking that happened under-the-breath and not to the group. That concerned me… It also revealed to me the MOST important part of collaboration which is communication. I think our weakness as a group (even though we made a kick-ass site that, until some React errors get fixed no one will ever see) was that we didn’t communicate well. Part of that, I believe, is because one of our members was sick on Friday and Saturday so we didn’t have until Sunday afternoon to get the 4 pages connected.

The division of labor was as such: I created the home page and the look of the site (including a header and footer that we used on all four pages). Then I created an “About” page that I must have been in some kind of wacko mood during because I wrote some REALLY silly stuff in first person as each member of New Kids on the Block (NKOTB for those of you who are down). Here, you can read it (you’ll probably have to zoom your screen):

About.Js (page 2 of 4)

Two other guys built the Media and News page and used youtube embeds and NYTimes API to build out the content. Unfortunately our React-Man was the one who got sick, so it wasn’t until Sunday that he was feeling well enough to connect the four sites by making the buttons function. Obviously that freaked me out. I didn’t think the site would get done. It took a while to hear back about his health. I was simultaneously worried about him and about our site! But I had to take a step back. I had to let go a little. But that didn’t work out for me. Here’s why:

I definitely took a leadership role on this project, and then last night I had an obligation to a group I coach to take and give notes on their performance, which meant that at zero hour I was NOT THERE for my group. My assumption was, well, we all did our part, we all did the tasks assigned to us, so we ought to be in good shape. “Look, I’m letting go!” I should have checked Slack all night. I should have been there. I do not feel good about that.

If part of the purpose of this assignment was to learn how to work in a team environment (which will obviously be a constant at a job that’s not freelance but is definitely possible if working remotely), then I learned a lot about places that I can improve my own behavior. I should never make assumptions that “someone else will take care of it” regardless of whether or not it’s their role in the project. I should ensure that communication channels are flowing, and I should never close down the line of communication between me and my team. I found working remotely on Sunday to be more difficult than working face to face with my group, which is definitely something to keep in mind when looking for a job.

In summary, I feel really good about the project that we built. I feel really proud of the html/CSS and design work that I put into it, the copy makes me giggle which is cool, and I feel good about the direction that our project took. On the whole I really do feel like we worked well as a team. I just don’t feel good about how we concluded things as a team and I put a lot of that on myself. I clearly still have a lot to learn but I think the first step is to acknowledge that fact. So….silver lining??