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Diary of a graduate trainee: Getting involved in projects

30th October 2020

Hi everyone, Gemma here again. This month’s been all about projects — and it’s been a busy one!

I’ve finished my online training (woop!) and I’ve been working on two projects; one that’s in the discovery phase and another that’s just a few weeks away from go-live.


Read Gemma's second blog: Learning about product management

The discovery phase

My main focus for this month has been on a discovery project. Discovery helps you understand the context of a project and defines the problem you want to solve. 

It involves mapping out existing systems and conducting user research with stakeholders and users, to understand their current challenges and business goals.  We also look at any constraints (e.g. around the technology we can use) and identify risks that could impact the project moving into alpha. 

I’m a big fan of the idea behind discovery. We try to avoid thinking too far ahead or planning a complete solution. The focus is on gathering facts and being honest about problems. It’s a great approach that ensures we set realistic goals and build something that adds value.

On this project, user research has been especially important. There are over 30 different groups of stakeholders involved just in managing the service. Then there are all the different end users. With so many involved, there's a lot of variability in processes. So we’ve grouped stakeholders with similarities to make sure we talk to a representative sample. 

It’s important everyone feels heard and their needs are taken into account as they’ll be the ones the new system has to work for. I’m working alongside user research specialists and it’s been really interesting to get tips from the experts on interviews and eliciting information.
 

Overcoming challenges

Although working on projects has been fun, having more responsibility has definitely added some pressure and new challenges. It took some time to build my confidence — particularly in contributing to team discussions. But the more I’ve done it, the more I realise there isn’t really a ‘wrong thing to say.’ Contributing ideas and questions helps move the team forward, not back.

The discovery project also highlighted challenges with remote working. Sharing information is vital during this phase, and at the start we struggled to ensure everyone had access to the correct information and we were not duplicating work. Tools like Miro and Google drive, regular team meetings and making the most of slack (to replace quick chats that we’d normally get in the office) has helped make sure we’re all on track.
 

Next up

I’m now in my last month of probation so the next blog will be my final one...heartbreaking I know!  By then we’ll have finished discovery and move onto alpha. I’m excited to see how we transition the project into that phase. 

The other project I’m working on has also been extended. It’s nice to see some extra features be added to an MVP we created on a tight deadline.

I also have two events coming up — the CyberFirst careers fair and CyberFirst Girls development day; where myself and another grad will be speaking. I’m looking forward to both events. 

Supporting women in tech is really important to me. Having been through the Cyberfirst scheme, I know how useful the careers fair was for me. So, hopefully, we can be of help to this year’s cohort too!