I learned a lot from my time working on The College Decisionator. Before this project, I had never done any design or programming work in a professional setting. Working on a real product in a small team was a much different experience than developing personal projects on my own. I feel that while I learned many lessons in design and programming by working on The College Decisionator, the most valuable lessons I’ll be taking away from the project are those of the development workflow, professional independence, and workplace communication.
Working on The College Decisionator team was a challenge with a steep learning curve. Being a valuable part of a small team means taking a lot of initiative with your work. I could never become complacent with my work. I had to constantly justify my role on the team, which meant always looking ahead to what I could offer next, even when I was ahead of schedule. I realized that the project supervisors wanted me to not only complete my work independently, but also set my own goals and determine for myself what my work would look like. I realized this particularly as we designed the app’s user interface. For a while, I would come to the supervisors with ideas, looking for guidance and feedback. As progress on the project began to stall, I realized that the supervisors wanted me to answer my own questions. I realized that confidently picking a direction and getting to work was far more valuable than spending weeks seeking external approval.
Furthermore, I had to be in constant communication with the rest of the team and my supervisors. Even with a team of only four interns and three supervisors, keeping everyone on the same page required a lot of dedicated communication. I not only had to communicate my designs to the rest of my team, but also their merit.
Programming the user interface for The College Decisionator app was a real challenge. When I started, I had no experience whatsoever in React Native, the language used to program the mobile user interface, or even any related language. It took a lot of initiative and perseverance to create the user interface I had designed. I believe that this arduous process has made me a stronger, more resourceful programmer in a way that my coding classes may not have been able to teach me.
I hope to continue my work in the design of interactive experiences through my studies next semester and independent projects. I’m excited to have applied for the Creative Arts Fellowship through the Honors College for the spring and summer of 2022, where I intend to create a text-based video game. The project will be a more narrative-focused interactive experience that is similarly aimed at high schoolers making the transition to adulthood and higher education.