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How to Become a Modern Developer by Learning Soft Skills

· 9 min read

I recently completed my first web dev team project, where I collaborated on a real project with a remote team. Here is the gist of my journey.

Pre-team Experience

All I knew before my first team experience was:

I had no coding buddy. It was all solo learning, textual communication, and a Google search support system. Indeed, as with everything, there were pros and cons. Below are three of my prominent ones.

Pros of the solo-dev path

  • Experience how far you can go alone
  • Become a self-starter
  • Develop the skills to create the solutions you can't find

Cons of the solo-dev path

  • It's time-consuming (especially the research aspect)
  • You might be diligently doing unnecessary things
  • The products you create might work for you alone

Why I sought a collaborative learning experience

Upon completing The Odin Project's Advanced HTML and CSS course in April 2023, I felt confident in my front-end coding skills. Still, I wasn't sure of my aptitude for teamwork.

In other words, I knew I had the technical skills to build apps using React, APIs, CSS, and Git. But do I have the soft skills to work effectively in a diverse setting? I wasn't sure of this because I only had experience learning and growing in a one-person team. So, my goal was to change this. I aimed to develop the soft skills necessary to be a modern developer.

To begin my new quest for a team experience, I sought one of my dependable solo-dev path buddies—the Google search support system. (Afterward, I've just begun the transition. 😅)

How I found a team experience learning opportunity

My initial strategy to gain web dev team experience was to get a remote coding job where I could develop my soft and technical skills. So, during my Google search, I found an article by Joe Previte that stressed the importance of joining a coding community. Joe's positive words about his Chingu experience led me to learn more about them and apply to participate in a voyage.

Fortunately, Chingu's application process was easy and straightforward. When I needed clarifications, I emailed the support and got a quick and helpful response. More importantly, my application was successful! 🥳🥳

What Exactly Is Chingu?

Chingu sponsors and organizes a series of 6-week-long remote projects called Voyages, where participants (voyagers):

  • are matched together in remote teams
  • are given a project brief
  • work collaboratively to fulfill the project brief by following the Agile workflow

How I Prepared for My Voyage

Some of the helpful resources Chingu provides to help you prepare for your voyage are:

  • The Chingu Handbook
  • Discord community
  • A week-long Pair Programming Session
  • A weekly roundtable meeting

My Chingu application was approved in August 2023. So, I prepared for the voyage by doing the following:

  • Introduce myself to Chingu's Discord community and review the community standards.
  • Review the Chingu handbook and make some open-source contributions to improve it.
  • Complete a pair programming session where my partner and I used Figma and React to design and build a To-Do app.
  • Attend three roundtable meetings where we discussed how to conduct PR reviews and test applications.

My Voyage Experience

I wanted it. I signed up for it. It's time to begin the ride! 🚘

Before we proceed, here are three things you should know about the voyage:

  • A Chingu Voyage is divided into 6 sprints, each spanning 1 week.
  • My voyage started on 2nd October 2023 and ended on 12th November 2023.
  • My team's brief was to create a Recipe app where users could explore a variety of recipes for one or more ingredients. The final product must be a front-end application that requires no back-end infrastructure.

Below are the highlights of each sprint.

Sprint 1 (2nd – 8th October 2023): Meet the team and map the route

It was a great pleasure meeting my voyage peers. We were a team of four developers, one product owner, and one voyage guide.

Our first objective was to schedule the team's kickoff meeting to discuss the project's brief, create our vision statement, and define the app's MVP (Minimum Viable Product) features.

I thought scheduling the kickoff meeting would be one of the easiest parts of the voyage. Surprisingly, it wasn't. But with everyone willing to sacrifice here and there, we agreed to a weekly meeting on Wednesday and Saturday. This was a risky decision because Wednesday is already mid-sprint. In other words, we decided to have our weekly sprint planning and retrospective meetings in the middle of each new sprint! 😱

Nevertheless, scheduling the kickoff meeting was a good test of our ability to reach a collective decision. Remember, coding an app wasn't the main objective of the voyage. Instead, the primary goal was to level up our soft skills, including our ability to make decisions that work best for the team. In this instance, mid-sprint worked best for the team, so we made that decision and moved on. ✅

By the way, the kickoff meeting was very productive. We discussed the following:

  • project's brief
  • team's workflow
  • app's design
  • project's API
  • tasks for sprint 1
⭐ My sprint 1 highlight

Although I had no experience with Vite, I successfully helped the team configure and deploy our Vite ReactJS app to GitHub Pages.

Sprint 2 (9th – 15th October 2023): Define vision statement and MVP features

In Sprint 2, we focused on having a clearly defined vision statement. By so doing, we created tasks based on prioritizing the vision statement's MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

⭐ My sprint 2 highlight

I got to know my teammates better through productive pair programming sessions and one-on-one discussions.

Sprint 3 (16th – 22nd October 2023): Design the application

Sprints 1 and 2 gave us a great foundation to build on. We had the vision and MVP features. So, we began translating our Figma wireframe into a real application by focusing first on designing the core components like the landing page, recipe components, and search UI.

⭐ My sprint 3 highlight

Working as a team presents unique challenges, such as code implementation conflicts. Sprint 3 built my ability to manage such variances by properly asking the right questions. Expressing disagreements amicably. And reaching out to colleagues to listen, understand, and make decisions in the team's best interest.

Sprint 4 (23rd – 29th October 2023): Implement the app's MVP logic and continue fine-tuning its design

Following the Agile methodology allowed us to improve the app's design iteratively and implement the logic needed to make the components usable.

⭐ My sprint 4 highlight

One of the benefits of collaboration is knowing you have buddies you can lean on when you are down. The truth is we all have our low periods. And Sprint 4 was mine. I reached out to my supportive colleagues for their advice at this time—and it worked! This validated the power of speaking out when you need help rather than remaining silent and helpless.

Sprint 5 (30th October – 5th November 2023): Continue implementing the app's MVP logic and fine-tuning its design

Implementing the search functionalities and making the app's layout coherent and mobile responsive was at the top of our sprint 5 objectives. So, we did a couple of productive pair programming sessions to fulfill the sprint's tasks.

⭐ My sprint 5 highlight

I saw a surprise in the Chingu Weekly 😲—a congratulatory message that my teammates selected me as a helpful, kind, and hard-working voyager! I was deeply humbled and honored to receive such recognition from my peers. Thank you, Team 17!

Sprint 6 (6th – 12th November 2023): Finalize the MVP and add extra features

Sprint 6 was our deadline when we had to submit our project. So, we focused on the following:

  • Test the app iteratively
  • Adjust our Jira backlog to ensure we can deliver the MVP
  • Create documentation about the project, its features, and contributors

In the end, we successfully submitted a beautiful Recipes app that featured all our vision statement's MVPs with some "nice to have" features.

⭐ My sprint 6 highlight

After a teammate (developer) quit the project at the end of sprint 5, I successfully managed my time combining his tasks with mine—even though we were in our final sprint. This gave me valuable experience improving other people's code.

Wrapping Up

Irrespective of your technical proficiency, you can only become a relevant modern developer by developing your soft skills.

My Chingu voyage experience wasn't easy, but it was worth it! It helped me develop from a solo developer to a versatile team player.

The 6-week voyage developed my technical skills. More importantly, I learned the soft skills necessary to communicate, collaborate, and solve problems effectively for a collective objective.

Thanks to the Chingu admin and sponsors for facilitating such a priceless experience!

Note: In the spirit of collaboration, my voyage team contributed to this post’s review. Thanks again, Team 17! 😍

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

African Proverb

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