Changing the World One Meatless Monday at a Time

I’ve always been enamored by tech. The moment I got my Tamagatchi I was hooked on all things digital. I also had a huge curiosity on how things work; my childhood is glittered with me getting shocked by prying things open and touching circuits boards to figure out how such tiny devices held so much potential.

I’ve also always been super involved with business. My father used to bring me to his small business and allow me to choose my work for the day. I would spend a few hours learning the building blocks of his restaurant business — from busing tables, food preparation, to bookkeeping. It taught me the importance of logistics and the being a master of all trades.

As I took my freshman classes in business ethics and finance — I was struggling to see how business could only be net present values and managerial capitalism. I see business as a fusion of respective fields: design, development, logistics, etc. This is what lead me to seeking out a introduction to Product Management and Coding with iXperience in Cape Town, South Africa.

I got a taste of development in the intensive 4 week web development course. I learned about a year’s worth of coding in languages HTML, CSS, and Javascript and all the tech lingo — super cool and made me appreciate and understand all the thought and mechanics behind websites. However, it wasn’t until I begun my Product Management course that I truly found my calling in the world of tech.

I begun my 4 week intensive course in Product Management with a group of 19 students, 1 TA, and 1 teacher. My teacher, Michael Texeira, was focused on teaching us concepts and having us make our own opinion on them. We got familiar with the three main disciplines of PM — design, development, and business. As we toyed with personas, Github, and JIRA, we also learned how to manage a product that aligns with the company’s goals and vision.

Armed with the knowledge of use cases, user stories, and product road maps, our teacher put our skills and minds in the deep end by putting me along with three other PM students in a problem space. Luckily, we had three motivated User Experience Design (UX) students to help us analyze and ideate a viable product for the environment (and they made great playlist buddies for our late night struggles.) The environment is a huge issue that humans have unfortunately caused; but with this huge issue, it has also created a market for sustainability.

The UX team began by researching the general perception of the environment and coming up with 2 main conclusions: people feel that their individual impact to the big issue is negligible and it is inconvenient and unhabitual to be environmentally conscientious. No one is anti-recycling — I mean, I’m not the reason the ice caps are melting….right? While it’s hard to see one’s individual impact being a part of the big, scary number — it all adds up. But how could we create something that actually made a difference without telling people to turn off their lights and drive a Tesla?

We figured the best way to address this is by creating a habit app that aims to reduce your meat intake — Holy Cow. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, they found that “the livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally, it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of waterpollution” — so basically bad news for everyone and your burger is literally killing our planet.

Instead of shaming into everyone reducing their meat intake, our app has a brand personality of your favorite pal (who also is a cow): Ol’Bessie. We focused on encouraging you to do your best when you can, and high-fiving you when you did something awesome. We did this by having four main features: a calendar feature to track your meatless Mondays, impact page so our algorithms would aggregate how much CO2, water, forest acreage, and more you are saving, recipes to give you great meals to substitute your burgers, and a community page to track your friends and invite them to embark on this journey to a more sustainable future with you.

We got the idea down — but how do we build it? We had to sell the idea to a bunch of developers, financiers, and data scientists to test its viability. As my team passionately pitched the idea to +100 people, we were elated to see how many people were inquisitive and interested about Holy Cow. We managed to get 5 developers, 6 data scientists, and 1 financier to help build this app in a week.

I remember the first meeting — all 19 of us — in a big room where it was just shark tank (iXperience edition), because everyone needed clarification of our expectation, functionality, and the minimum viable product. I also was so amazed at how passionate everyone was at coding and developing our app. The iOS team would stay up till the wee hours of the morning figuring out calendar while I looked at their code confounded (by their energy at 3 am and object oriented programming).

My team was luckily chosen to present at the iXperience Keynote. While I wasn’t presenting, I was the loudest one in the audience cheering for our team, our product, and our idea. It was crazy to think that this started just 4 weeks ago, and with the guidance of iXperience, we were able to literally create an app.

iXperience left me with a work ethic that will impact me for the rest of my life: it’s not tomorrow, it’s not next week — it’s right now, in this instant. A group of people got to work in that instant and we were unstoppable in what we could create to change the world.