Student Spotlight: Sam, Chloë & Krista

Getting into tech, Co.Lab so far and what's next.

Nadine Okoeguale
December 2, 2020

Ho - ho -hey! 👋 🎄

We know you’re looking to transition into tech. We’ve also been talking a lot about Co.Lab, our six-week practical education program for aspiring product managers, designers and developers who are put into groups with the aim of launching a real product through team work. You’ve read the stories of Doyin, an aspiring product manager (PM); Alicia and Criselda, UX designers; and Adrian, a developer, all who participated in  Co.Lab. We figured it’s about time you heard from those who are actually still in the program!

4 weeks in and with 2 weeks left,  Sam Wong, an aspiring PM;  Chloë Keogan, a UX designer; and Krista Rutz, a developer; members of our current cohort, joined me to speak about their journey into their different fields, their Co.Lab experience so far and what they will be up to once the program is over on Demo Day.

You can register to attend the Demo Day event here!

Upcoming Live Info Session

Join Sefunmi and Helen, co-founders of Co.Lab, for a Live Info Session and AMA. Come along with your questions as you learn more about the upcoming Winter 2021 cohort and hear Co.Lab alumni success stories.

What got you interested in Product Management?

Sam: My background is very non-traditional and non-tech — it’s food. I work in the Innovation & Product Development Team at Tim Horton’s. I deal with operations, supply chain, and work with creative agencies. In the sea of people I collaborate with, there's no one near the tech side in terms of design and development. I’ve always had this inkling of wanting to build exciting products that had a software or data component and that’s what drew me to Co.Lab in general. I also wanted to really sharpen my skills and work with talented designers and developers.  

Sam Wong

What got you interested in UX Design?

Chloë: It was a bit unexpected for me. I studied Computer Engineering back in Ireland — that's where I’m from — and I studied that for 4 - 5 years and when I was finishing up my degree, I began job searching. I came across a creative agency looking for a developer but they were also looking for a creative intern. Pretty much, I threw my degree out the window and went for the creative internship. [laughs] That’s what led me into the design field. Later, I moved to Canada and studied Graphic Design because I knew I needed to develop my skill set. After I finished up the program, I got a job with an agency in Vancouver and as time went on, I evolved into their Lead Digital Designer. They didn’t have anyone in-house to fill the role so I stepped in and it all just felt very natural to me with help from my computer science background. Unfortunately, my mum was diagnosed with cancer and so I returned to Ireland and stepped away from the agency as the time difference made it difficult on top of everything to work remotely. But when I returned to Vancouver, I knew I wanted to continue down the UX path so I enrolled in a 3-month intensive bootcamp and now I’m here.

Chloë Keogan

What got you interested in Dev?

Krista: I took a class on Java and computer science in college so I got some exposure into development. I didn’t really like the jobs in my field; I studied International Relations.  Later, I decided that the main thing I liked doing was building stuff. I took a bootcamp to see if I wanted to get into development and I loved it. I started coding everyday, saw there were many opportunities in the field and I’m very happy with where I’m at right now.

Krista Rutz

You joined Co.Lab wanting to achieve some goals. How’s that going so far?

Sam:  Honestly, I’d say my expectations have been exceeded. Things could be faster but I think the magic really happens when everyone comes together. I was thinking about many problem spaces but the ones that stuck out to me were the ones that could provide societal impact. I thought of a product in the area of mental wellness knowing that at least one or five or ten people could use the product and that it could make a difference, especially in times when we’re facing second or third waves of COVID and a lot of mental wellbeing has declined recently. I see myself  building something that people can find value in. In the past year, I really embraced the ideas of mindfulness, mental wellness and mental wellbeing so that fuelled my motivation to get into that workspace.

Chloë: I’m a bit of a jack of all trades. I started off with graphic design then I moved to UX but I still freelance using graphic design skills. So, my portfolio isn’t specific and I want to focus it more on the UX side which is what I really want to do. I want it to show that I’ve done real projects and collaborated with people.  Out of the program, I wanted to have a bad-ass portfolio piece under my belt and make good industry connections. So far, I’ll say I’m right on track. Through the online events, I’ve interacted with a lot of interesting people. The PM also came up with a really good idea that excited me. It’s an app that helps with organising travel plans. Living in Europe, I used to just hop on a plane and be in France or Germany so I do love to travel. The application is something I will definitely use.  

Krista: I think it’s going well. In the ideation process, there wasn’t too much for me to build. Initially, I wanted to build a mobile application and was willing to learn but there’s no time for that unfortunately. I didn’t want to hold my team back. Sam is my PM; our team is building an application for people experiencing burnout and seeking guidance on mental wellness. Just about everyone encounters mental health problems so this is an anecdotal experience for me.

What’s been your favorite part of the program so far?

Sam: My favorite things really are the team meetings where we ideate and think through our strategies. I had no exposure working with a designer and developer but collaborating with them now, I see they bring very unique perspectives into the process that can take the product in different angles. I find it very fulfilling being able to bond, collaborate and co-create something we can all be proud of. Along the way, there’s also been great input from our mentor and fantastic speaker sessions & workshops that have been really helpful.

Chloë: It’s gone by so fast and hard to pin-point really but I definitely love the events. It’s so fun to just meet people and chat away while learning at the same time. I’ve worked with a PM and Developer before but just on websites and not through a full product development cycle.  I’m excited we are actually creating something.

Krista: I really like the workshops actually. Those are super cool and very useful. The Github workshop with Rowena was very nice. Within my team, we’ve also had fun moments especially when we come up with awesome ideas and unanimously agree.

What challenges have you and your team faced?

Sam: Time is our main roadblock but our problem space is also very complex. Just last Friday, we interviewed 4 people for user research and got really great feedback but we also had to go revisit our old designs and development and integrate all the new pieces of information to make the product better . Also in my role as the PM, figuring out how to best support and motivate my team and make sure tasks are completed in time. In every meeting, I bring energy and remind the team of our vision from the very beginning. Defining a mental health solution, I’ve had to do a lot of research and I discover a lot of insight which I push to my team even if just as an observation.  

Chloë: Besides time, our biggest challenge has been the time difference. Our PM is based in Hong Kong. He’s awesome and we work very well together. If we had the same daytime hours though, things will definitely be more fun so we could banter as we do our thing.

Krista: Staying motivated is hard when there isn’t a set schedule. We were in ideation in the first 2 weeks without much to do on the development side. Now that time is almost out, it’s been challenging to prioritise what will help the team and not just what will help the development work.

Demo Day is in 10 days. How do you feel about it?

Sam: It is pretty tight. We have two weeks left and are really trying to do as much as we can and finalise details. I’m sure we will have a solid prototype to demonstrate on Demo Day. Right now, we are trying to figure out the key steps to take us to where we want to be on Demo Day.

Chloë:  I knowwww. Oh gosh, I feel it will all work out really. Working with a deadline helps me be the best and fastest with my work. I always get things done so I know things will come together.

Krista: We still aren’t completely  finished so it’s a little nerve-racking not knowing everything we need to do in the next 10 days but I am really happy with Sam and Becky and our team. I feel what we bring on that day will be something that we’ll all be proud of.

What’s next for you after Co.Lab?

Sam: All the skills I’ve gained and all the mental notes I’ve made on what being a PM is will play into my long-term vision of pivoting into an actual PM role in tech. I would love to stay connected with the community for sure.

Chloë: I might try to expand my freelance work and get more clients. I will definitely be refining my portfolio and applying for jobs too.

Krista: I got into Microsoft’s Leap Program. It’s a 4-month apprenticeship and I’m really excited about that. I begin in January.

Sam, Chloë and Krista are part of the December 2020 cohort of Co.Lab. On Demo Day, December 12th, each of the 9 teams will reveal the products they’ve built and showcase them to judges. Would you like to attend this event? Secure a spot to attend here! 🔥

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