If I were to pick a sentiment that best describes my experience with the Code for Philly fellowship the past eight weeks, it would be,

“The price of success is hard work”

The past two months as a fellow have been key to me developing new skills outside of the traditional work environment while being mentored by a professional experienced in the Product Management field.

A little bit about me.

Hi! My name is Lynn-Arielle, and I’m an avid reader and writer, lover of all music, and I enjoy time spent in nature. During the day, I work at a robotics company called Exyn Technologies, where I am a Product Marketing Specialist. After hours, you can find me tucked away in a book, catching up with friends, or exercising the day’s stress away.

What is the PHLASK project?

PHLASK is an application that allows users to locate free resources within the city of Philadelphia. The project originated to enable Philly’s community members to find free water resources by simply asking – in an attempt to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles. These resources within the app have since expanded to also include food, bathrooms, and food foraging.

How did I support PHLASK in the past eight weeks?

Over the past few weeks working on the PHLASK project I have:

  1. Conducted team interviews across core contributors to learn more about the main pain points the team was having.

  2. Implemented a task-tracking platform to streamline and track tasks within our Circles. By using Trello, our team now has a good way to track high-level tasks that are visible to all team leads, or “Circle Conveners” as we call it. At our bi-monthly standups, we now walk through the Trello board highlighting which tasks have been completed, which may be blocked, and check in on the status of ongoing tasks.

  3. Researched an appropriate HR tracking platform for the team - As a growing team, with multiple contributors, we needed a platform to assist with taking attendance and tracking hours, and creating user profiles so we had a central repository for onboarding and offboarding information on a volunteer.

  4. Created an onboarding survey to log information on new team members and how they like to contribute to the project. On a project like this, it is important to know which team members have what types of experience and how we can leverage pre-existing skills to better execute on tasks. Likewise, it is important to know where the team has skill gaps and where we may experience some delay in task execution due to more research being required.

  5. Facilitated a product workshop where we honed in on developments / tasks to be performed to get the next version of the app across the finish line. During this session, we walked through the original scope for the next release of the project. With the help of my CfP mentor, Jess Lowing, we then spent some time highlighting new things that have developed overtime that have been added to the scope of the project, what we needed to punt to the next release, and some far-future ideas after the next few releases are locked down. The following week we conducted a prioritization exercise, identifying what needed to be executed on as soon as possible to get this release across the finish line.

  6. Read “Strategize: Product Strategy and Product Roadmap - Practices for the Digital Age” by Roman Pichler to inform best practices for product / project management

  7. Revived the Celebratory Pause moments for the team – Working on projects like this requires some real endurance. As such, it is important to feel that your contributions matter, and are being seen and appreciated by your teammates. Our weekly Celebratory Pause highlights team members who have made significant development on a task critical to the project’s success during our hack nights. They can also express gratitude for something a team member has done for you!

  8. Attended two awesome professional development workshops hosted by Code for Philly by Julia Siege “Writing about Tech”, and Marieke Johnson “Talking about Tech”.

In Summary: Here’s what I learned.

Phew! I’ve been busy. It has been great to learn more about project management at large and how an effective project manager contributes to the overall flow and completion of tasks that relate to a certain project.

On the product management side, I learned more about how to better tranche tasks into specific, more manageable chunks that can be executed on.

Broadly, I learned more about how to work with a volunteer-based team, whose level of commitment hours per week tend to fluctuate.

Above all, I got to meet some awesome Philly-based leaders who are part of leading the change that Philly needs to be a more sustainable city.

Written by Lynn Jean-Louis, 2022 Code for Philly Fellow