UW Blueprint
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UW Blueprint

Member Spotlight: Project Lead Sherry Li

UW Blueprint is a student-run club that provides top-tier tech for non-profit organizations. Founded at the University of Waterloo in 2016, we could not have provided strong partnerships with NPOs without the dedication, passion, and time of our members. Throughout this term, we’ll be spotlighting different members and teams that have left a tremendous impact on Blueprint as well as the projects they’ve worked on.

Tell us about yourself and your background with Blueprint!

I’m a fourth-year Computer Science student and one of the old-timers here in Blueprint, having been part of the organization for 9 consecutive terms since Winter 2019. I’m currently a Project Lead working on the Sistering and Internal Tools teams, though I first joined as a Project Developer and spent 5 terms in that role.

I decided to join Blueprint because of the opportunity it presented to do something of consequence with my skills and further causes that I care about. I’ve long wanted to be more involved in community service but have sometimes felt that I couldn’t adequately offer anything, especially within the constraints of school and other life demands. Blueprint offered me the perfect avenue, being an organization that would allow me to use my newfound software development abilities to support NPOs operating in social good spaces.

Could you tell us about your role within Blueprint?

As mentioned, I am the Project Lead (PL) of both the Sistering and Internal Tools teams. The two teams differ quite a bit, with the former centered around a project under active development for our partners at Sistering, while the latter is focused on maintaining internal tooling we’ve previously built to enhance developer experience and engineering quality within Blueprint. However, my roles and responsibilities as PL on both teams are pretty similar.

Being a Project Lead consists of one part technical leadership and another part team leadership. On the technical leadership front, I guide software architecture and design decisions, scope out technical requirements for user stories, provide input on the feasibility of features to design and product team members, and act as the primary code reviewer and developer resource for mentorship and troubleshooting. As for team leadership, I work closely with my Product Manager on everything ranging from project management to organizing socials, with the goal of cultivating a fun and productive team culture!

What has Blueprint taught you, and how has it helped you grow as a developer?

I could say a lot about the technical skills I’ve acquired through Blueprint, but rather than listing a bunch of jargon, I’ll sum it up by saying that I think Blueprint projects are in the Goldilocks zone of being “just right” in terms of complexity for budding developers. The codebases and technical requirements are neither too overwhelming nor trivial, which provided me with a path for maximal growth in terms of learning new languages, frameworks, and architecture styles.

I’ve also had the opportunity to grow a ton as a leader and problem solver. The ownership and responsibility that I’ve taken in the planning and execution of projects were daunting but welcomed challenges that taught me what it takes to lead a team through roadblocks and achieve ambitious goals. In particular, my work on starter-code-v2 stands out as one of my proudest accomplishments, taking an initially vague idea for an unconventional project and seeing it through to a polished product. Blueprint has also taught me to be a better problem solver in general as opposed to just a technical problem solver through opportunities to work closely with clients, design, and product team members. I think learning to appreciate problems from multiple lenses has led me to create more thoughtfully-crafted solutions.

What’s your favourite part about Blueprint?

Hands down, the people that I get to work with. I realize this sounds cliche, but I’ve truly never met a more thoughtful group of people who are genuine and walk the walk of doing good. The care and hours dedicated to doing our best work for our NPO partners and everyone’s passion and conscientiousness create an empowering environment that inspires me to strive for better. These are people who will attend 7 AM meetings with clients halfway around the world week after week — in the midst of challenging school commitments, and who will spend the holiday season pushing out code because they are that driven. 🤯

We also have an amazing culture in Blueprint where we can engage in serious, thought-provoking, or uncomfortable discussions but also take part in light-hearted banter.

Moving forward, what are your plans and goals for the future?

Blueprint is a fairly young organization, and I would love to see it continue to mature and play some part in that process even beyond my graduation from university next year. We’ve made massive strides in incorporating the Blueprint Software Foundation, a parent organization that will oversee the long-term maintenance of many of our past projects and establish an open-source community that supports NPOs, which is something I’m very excited about and plan to help grow.

Beyond that, I will carry the experiences I gained through Blueprint with me as I start a career in tech as a software engineer, proactively seeking opportunities to build and give back to communities.

What can we catch you doing outside of school and work?

You can probably find me bothering my dog, enjoying some coffee, or listening to film soundtracks. I’m a bit of a trivia nerd so I might also be reading a random article on Wikipedia. I’ve occasionally hosted some trivia nights for Blueprint!

Tell us about your favourite memory with Blueprint!

When Internal Tools and Project READ had a cross-team social earlier this year, we took part in a haiku writing contest on the theme of frogs (shoutout to Monica for organizing!). We evidently have many creative minds among us and received some hilarious submissions. Please enjoy 😂

Internal Tools — Project READ frog haiku writing contest results.

Additionally, since we’re so deep into the pandemic virtual life now, all memories from when Blueprint operated in-person are naturally special. I miss physically meeting up for work sessions, staying way past the official end-of-meeting, and having casual get-togethers at restaurants in the plaza.

Hmm, is this how we take a silly picture?
Losing track of time because you’re in good company!

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