Developer Spotlight – a COLAB2 Alumni Returning

Joining to build a cool product from scratch, Drew got more than what he expected from the Co.Lab experience!

June 30, 2021

Happy 🐫 Day!

Can you believe June’s over?! We’ve now reached the midway point of 2021 and Co.Lab’s hosting our fifth cohort since we first started last September.

A lot has changed with the Co.Lab program since its inception and none can speak to it more than Drew, a COLAB2 participant and a returnee in COLAB5! This week, we sat down and heard what he’s taken out of the experience.

Dhruvil (Drew) Patel is currently a software engineer at Clubhouse Software, a project management platform company based in New York City. Prior to Clubhouse, he was a software developer at Kira Systems which is a Toronto legal machine-learning startup.

Having been in software development for a few years now, Drew noticed a common trait of this role in the industry:

“A lot of software jobs deal with revisiting existing codes—optimizing it or adding to it and supporting existing systems. Yes, you’re building new stuff but most often, it’s not brand new applications or products. You rarely get to do something truly end-to-end. Someone else or another team usually does it and then passes it to you, and then you pass it to someone else. Unless you’re fortunate to be in an early stage of a company where things have not yet been built, you don’t write software from scratch.

For me, I want to build something from scratch, where I can be more creative. So if you really want to level up and say, ‘I can build something from nothing and have it out in the world and people are using it’, then something like Co.Lab is perfect for you. Very rarely will you get to do that in a company because you will most likely work on a small portion of that project.”

And that’s what pulled Drew to the Co.Lab program for the COLAB2 season: the chance to build something from scratch and get to be a part of that process from beginning to end. He wanted to network with new people and he wanted to build things that can make a real impact.

What Drew gained from the program was a lot more than he initially expected.

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More Than Meets the Eye

With a few years’ of industry experience, Drew was able to take that into his Co.Lab team and develop more into a leadership role. Something that was unforeseen on his end.

“Before I joined, my expectation was that I’d be in a team that would just hand me things and I’ll go forward to develop them. This is the design, this is the idea, let’s build this. But the program actually pushed me to be in a role where I was the one giving more direction and encouragement to the team.”

Leadership isn’t something Drew had at the top of his mind in his current career stage. Of course, it’s where he strives to be in the future but he wants to solidify his foundations as a software developer first before moving to the next step. Drew considers himself in the learning phase where there is still so much to learn in tech.

“I had a great experience with my designer and product manager. And whenever they came to a point where they weren’t confident in the solution or idea, I was able to intervene and provide more guidance.

My leadership skills, especially in software development, are not honed in. But Co.Lab’s given me the opportunity to flex some of those muscles, where my industry experience can bring something to the table. I don’t think I’m a leader yet—there is still a lot to learn, there’s still a long way to go in knowing how to lead people. But that’s what Co.Lab’s allowed me to dip my foot in: really help facilitate conversations with people and move ideas forward when the team is unsure of themselves.”

That feeling when you unexpectedly find a five-dollar bill between the couch covers? I imagine it’s a similar feeling to when Drew’s confidence in being a future leader was boosted. It’s not just something sitting at the back of his mind anymore, he’s now more aware.

“Co.Lab accelerated me in having the confidence where I can be at some point in my career. It prepared me to become the technology leader I hope to be in the future.”

Experiment, Make Mistakes, Learn!

Guess what – Drew’s back in COLAB5! This time, on top of building a brand new product again, he’s also aiming to create a great product-development experience for his team.

Being both an alumni and active participant, we ask Drew what kind of observations he’s made in both cohorts and any advice he’d like to offer to incoming Co.Laborators. He reminds us that we learn by doing and we learn most from our mistakes and failures!

“For folks still early on in their careers, there’s a sense of imposter syndrome. There’s a sense of not being confident in the ideas they’re coming forward with. But Co.Lab is a great place to make mistakes! A lot of people just want to do really well and have a perfect experience. But this is a great place to say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing so let’s figure this out together’.”

And for the software developers out there? Here are some words of wisdom:

“Resist the urge to start building immediately. I often go by this quote: ‘measure twice, cut once’. Take the time to really understand the problem. Really think about the problem space, take the time to design it, and once you’re very happy with the skeleton outline, only then to start to build it.

And don’t be afraid to question the product and the feasibility and push back on these particular things. Sometimes developers feel like they don’t have a say in these matters but that shouldn’t be the case. There can be immense pressure from the program timeline and your team to start building immediately. It sounds like counterintuitive advice; but if you have this thing mapped out well, the developing will go much smoother, with fewer roadblocks and uncertainties.”

Take it from a seasoned Co.Laborator himself! It's tried-and-true advice, as Drew and his COLAB2 team successfully built a product within the tight timeline and high pressure. Curious to know what Drew’s team built? Check out their pitch on our Youtube channel:

And in COLAB5 with a different designer, a different PM, and a different problem space, we’re super intrigued to know just what he’s helping to cook up this time 👀. So stay tuned!

In the meanwhile, if you’re enjoying these personal stories about developers in the tech space, check out our YBIT – Developer booklet, where we tell five unique stories of developers who came from non-traditional tech backgrounds.

And for all developers in the space who want to build a product of their own from the ground up - this is your chance to sign up for our upcoming cohort! Unleash your creativity and coding prowess 🚀🚀🚀

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