Collaboration. Communication. Teamwork. Soft skills like these are necessary to becoming a successful developer. To help our students develop competencies in these areas, Thinkful's Engineering Immersion program contains something quite unexpected in an online program - group projects.

We recently caught up with Engineering Immersion graduate Brent to talk about his experience completing group projects at Thinkful. Here's what he had to say:

First of all, share a link to your project!

https://crossshare.netlify.com/

We love your project because it was inspired by a pain point that many students encounter. Can you explain the problem your project was trying to solve and walk us through your solution?

We found ourselves feeling frustrated having to use owl [Thinkful's propriety videoconferencing technology], codepen, and Google docs to work on projects together or for our mock interviews. We sought to remedy this by pulling all of those features into one cohesive app. Thus allowing you to focus on the task at hand and not requiring you to tab back and forth.

That's pretty meta. You collaborated to create a better tool for collaboration. What languages and tools did you use to build your project?

Client: JavaScript, React, Redux, Redux Form, Code Mirror, Firebase, WebRTC, JWT, Socket.io, Enzyme.

Server: Bcrypt, Node, Express, Mocha, Chai, Babel, Passport, Socket.io, Mongoose, MongoDB.

How did you collaborate being in an online, remote program?

Our group was split across 3 different time zones which made it difficult at times. What worked for us was finding a start time that worked for everyone and keeping that consistent. After our morning standup we would break off and do our own thing while all being in an owl room with our mics muted. It helped knowing that everyone was easily accessible. The key for us was just communicating out availability and respecting everyone's needs.

Do you think working on a group project prepared you for working with teams in the real world?

Yes and no. I say no because none of us really understood the roles of things like product managers, project managers, QA, etc. So it was a little bit of fumbling at first. However, working closely with a group for 3 weeks forces you to get good at working as a team. We made sure to clearly define goals for each week and we learned to help each other if someone was blocked on something. By the 3rd week we really felt like a strong team that had accomplished a lot more than we set out to.

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