8 Tips for Chingu’s Build-to-Learn Projects

Or, how to get to LAUNCH

Projects are adventures

#1 — Know why you’re doing the project. Are you committed to getting a job? Are you moved by the idea of the project? Do you love building things? Learning? Do you want to feel more confident in your skills?

There are no correct answers to these questions, but your answers to questions like these will help you internalize how valuable this adventure may be. ;p

#2— Flexibility is the key to successful projects. It’s also the key to most things regarding success in life.

#3—Accept early that completing a team project is hard. But remember that’s why you’re doing it. Team projects will get you out of your comfort zone, and force you to improve your skills much faster than if you were studying alone. That’s how awesome stuff gets built.

“It would we weird for us to require a college degree. If you can build awesome stuff and have impact, that’s all we’re really looking for,”
— Will Barnett, Facebook’s Engineer Recruiter

#4 — Use your network. This is one of the most important tips. Everyone working on this project is fortunate in that they have access to a highly interactive community (cohorts, fcc forum) full of people with different skillsets and who love to help. Not only that, but I encourage teams to interact with each other to ask for tips, what’s working, how did you solve this challenge? etc. Collaboration should not be limited to just in the project team. Your cohort-at-large should be considered as an honorary member of your team.

#5 — Recognize that collaborating in dev teams is a (soft) skill. A few years back Google did a massive study to find out what makes successful teams. They were surprised to find that teams of superstar devs didn’t perform as well of teams with less stellar devs.

Why? When it comes to collaborating in teams, soft skills trump hard skills. And can you think of a future dev job where you won’t be collaborating with others in some way? It doesn’t exist.

There’s a temptation to focus too much on the hard skills — and coming from MIT I certainly see the value in them — but in the long run being able to learn, being able to connect with other people, those are the things that carry over to long-term value creation.
Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, Sloan School of Management

#6— Grit. I’ve seen projects die when a few people in the team leave (real life sometimes gets in the way - it’s natural), but I’ve also seen the same situation where someone or a few members adapt and persevere to finish the project. In these projects, and life, there’s always going to be challenges that appear.

#7 — Accelerated learning is nice but it’s a challenge. What is common to the build.to.learn projects (and any project really) is that there’s no hiding from the fact that you need to know certain things to complete the requirements. It can be a challenge, but people tend to level-up quicker when they need to in order to be able to finish something meaningful. A common area people level-up quickly in these projects? Learning how to use git, collaboration tools like Trello, basics of the backend, among others. Note it depends on the project.

#8 —Messy. Projects can be messy. This is only our 3rd session of the build.to.learn series so we’re still learning about the best ways to improve the process as well. Things aren’t always going to work right. I look forward to seeing members flex that grit! ;p

#8.5 — Messy Part 2. Another challenge you may have to overcome in this project is loss of momentum or lack of commitment from a team-mate. Life happens, and we have probably close to 200 people starting teams for these projects, things are bound to happen. Jobs get busy, people go on trips, all kinds of things can and will happen. With the right mindset, this is just another challenge to conquer.

Now, enough talking. Time to get building!

Have fun! (and don’t say I didn’t warn you ;p )

build.to.learn projects in a GIF
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