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Diary of a graduate trainee: The highlights, challenges and next steps

18th December 2020

Hi everyone, this is my fourth and final blog in the graduate series! Thanks if you’ve been reading along with them, I’ve really enjoyed documenting my first few months at Zaizi. 

To wrap up, I thought I’d just talk about what I’ve learnt over the past few months.

Read Gemma's third blog: Getting involved in projects

What I’ve learnt 

Given this is my first full-time role, it's been really helpful learning about things like agile methodology, product backlogs, user stories and product roadmaps. By working on real projects, I’ve learnt how to tailor these techniques to suit the project requirements and the people I work with. 

There is no set rulebook, especially when you’re working agile. There is a lot of overlap between roles so product management can incorporate aspects of business analysis, user research and delivery management. I’ve really enjoyed getting to learn about all these roles too. 

The other big — probably the biggest — thing I’ve learnt is the importance of teamwork and getting everyone involved. Although tasks are divided between different team members, and everyone has different skills, most things require at least some collective team input. For example, creating/managing the backlog is a ‘product manager task’ but it's really something all members of the team will use and work from. So everyone should make sure it’s usable and that we’re all working towards the same goals. 

Highlights & challenges

Setting up our product community has been really rewarding for me and it’s been a great way to get to know the rest of the product and service design team. We worked hard to get the whole team engaged in developing it as we’re all busy with projects too. Everyone’s contributed great ideas and a lot of them are already in action. We’ve now got a good foundation to grow the community and work on some of our bigger goals in the new year. 

I definitely wasn’t expecting the first few months of my work life to be a desk in my bedroom. I have missed the social side of being in the office. It’s also tricky finding a good work-life balance when your work is no longer physically separated.

I’ve found making my day similar to how it would be in an office — having catch-ups with colleagues, taking a lunch break and trying to get out of the house etc. — is helpful for me. 

It’s also good to remind yourself that everyone else is in exactly the same boat. And at Zaizi we’ve done a lot to try and keep everyone's spirits up with social activities. We recently had our virtual Christmas party which included a murder mystery game, online charades and giant Fortnum and Mason hamper for every member of staff. It was so much fun! 

I’m also helping to run a whole company retro, to see what we like and struggle with when working from home (WFH) and how we can improve. It's the second retro Zaizi has done on WFH. The first happened with the initial lockdown and we implemented a lot of useful ideas. Hopefully, this time we’ll get more ideas to further improve working from home. 

The future

I’ve now passed my probation and am officially a full-time member of staff (Woohoo... sign me up for that bike to work scheme when we can go back into the office!) 

I’m working on projects full time and taking on more responsibility, which is exciting! The main project I’m working on is halfway through its Alpha phase. It’s really nice to see some prototypes coming together for something we’ve just been imagining through discovery. 

We have a break over Christmas, so looking forward to enjoying some time off. Then back to finish Alpha in the new year and then onto some new projects in 2021!