RISE started as a small idea that 4 UCLA students put into action to give others hope and the opportunity to learn and grow in a time where Covid-19 had taken away many job/internship opportunities. It was created to provide the work experience, learning, and networking students normally get during an internship.
Our students had 9 weeks to build a project as part of a team and get hands-on experience as product managers, software engineers, or designers. They met new people, learned industry skills, received mentorship, and built minimum viable products (MVP) this summer.
Recruiting for RISE:
In just 3 weeks, we received over 450 applications from students around the world. After interviewing the top product manager applicants, we arrived at 9 product managers (PMs), the first members of the RISE community!
The product managers ideated on pain points they’ve seen, conducted user research, and created a broad product idea.
On June 26th, our PMs pitched their ideas to the engineer and designer applicant pool, who filled out an interest form for the projects they liked. After laboring through interest forms, resumes, and interviews, our PMs finalized their teams of engineering managers, software engineers, and UX/UI designers. In total, we ended up with 65 community members split amongst 7 teams!
Work started quickly with designers and product managers working together to conduct user studies and identify key user problems. With help from our guest speakers Rajsi Rana, PM @ Oracle, and Jill Tiutan, Product Design Intern @ Facebook, our PMs and Designers prioritized features and created a product roadmap for their MVPs. Meanwhile, Engineering Managers conferred with their dev teams to research and choose their tech stack, after which they started building out infrastructure for their projects.
Once teams finished their initial research, PMs were able to plan sprints for fast iteration and development. You can see their iterative progress at tinyurl.com/rise-notion. Designers built wireframes and created mockups for usability testing. Engineers split into back-end and front-end subteams and began implementing approved features for their respective apps.
RISE Mentors and Guest Speakers:
The RISE Community was also extremely grateful to have guidance from industry mentors and guest speakers. In total, our community hosted ~70 mentors, including full-time employees from companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Mentors gave advice for project direction, answered questions about coding practices, and even held office hours to build a closer relationship with our students. Each team was also assigned a small group of 5–6 mentors for more personal outreach and connection.
In addition, guest speakers held presentations on a myriad of topics, including interviewing for PM roles, using AWS for tech projects, and conducting user research. My personal favorite was the new-grad panel where recent graduates working as product managers and software engineers discussed their journey to landing their role as well as shared project and interview tips to maximize chances on receiving offers. All our guest speaker events can be found on Youtube at youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs9YFXViSjnk13Y-DvoIr-CCnrW0XkEpw
To round out the program, we had 2 events. First, we had a mock pitch day where our PMs pitched their products to guests from Halogen Ventures. This event helped PMs learn how to succeed in pitching for future startup ideas or even continuations of their RISE projects. Second, we held an Ending Showcase on September 3, where teams gave demos on their MVPs and spoke about their contributions. The showcase and team profiles can be found at risesummer2020.org/teams
“My favorite part of RISE was being around people who were as entrepreneurial and excited as I was about solving problems. Through the event programming, workshops and meetings, I got personalized feedback on my product, whether It was comments from Daniel and Tim on my pitch or day-to-day advice from RISE directors and mentors. Most importantly, RISE gave me the chance to connect with people I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to meet.” — Cara Vo, raise.social Product Manager.
More testimonials can be found at risesummer2020.org