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What we learned as junior developers coding a web app remotely in 3 weeks

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted each of us differently, and this is just one way it affected us — a team of 3 junior developers finishing up a coding bootcamp.
To give you some context : I’m the Head of Community and Student Outcome Manager at Le Wagon Montréal and, last year, I decided to attend the bootcamp as a student and joined our first part-time batch in Montréal last October.

3 weeks before, like every batch before us, we were eager to put into practice everything we had learned about web development and work on our team projects at Le Wagon Montréal. We started project planning and typing those first inaugural lines of code when we received instructions from the local authorities to stay at home. Of course, we complied. No more meetings on campus to code. From here on out, we were going remote.

Despite being junior developers, I’m pretty proud to say that we finished coding all our main features in 3 weeks and are stoked to showcase our final product next Saturday. I learned so much from this experience that I felt the need to share it with others. Hope you learn something from it, too!

Our backgrounds

Nobody in our team had any coding experience prior to starting the bootcamp. My background is in marketing and communications. Jeff, my teammate, has a background in business administration and works as an Administrative Coordinator at Lufa Farms. As for Lotfi, he has a background in Finances and Actuarials, and worked as a sales manager for years. While our backgrounds are different, we share a common curiosity and drive to learn. Still, as first-timers, how did we pull-off coding a whole web app remotely? Read on.

Adapting fast

We were committed to delivering a top notch product, so we naturally did everything in our power to adapt — fast. Having a strong sense of motivation made all the difference. Everyone was on board and all in. Plus, we were lucky to have a good system for remote work put in place by Le Wagon, with speedy help via online ticket submissions and remote access to our teachers.

Online stand ups every work day

Every project day (Tuesday and Thursday nights, plus Saturdays) we had a “stand up” meeting, Agile style. Each member of our team would share what they did before the meeting, what they planned to do after, and if anything was blocking them. We helped each other and prioritized our tasks together. Sometimes, we fixed bugs. Other times, we asked more experienced developers like our teachers and TAs to guide us out of a problem. With so little time to spare, we got straight to the point and maintained a spirit of collaboration throughout.
Jeff coding with Belis, another student from the batch. Reaching out for help meant asking other students too <3 (thanks Belis!)
No such thing as too much communication

I can’t stress enough the importance of communication while working remotely. We spoke daily on Slack and took maximum advantage of the screen sharing feature to show our code. We made sure to inform the team before touching the all-important “master” code, and checked in with each other whenever we had new ideas or wanted to create new features. Most importantly, we cheered each other on when the going got tough. Sending jokes from time to time helped lift our spirits and making sure every team member felt appreciated for their efforts went a long way. 

Everyone could see each other’s tasks 

Our to-do list was shared with all team members on Trello. Whenever we finished a task, all we had to do was look in the “to-do” column for a new challenge to take on. Everyone knew what was going on, even before our stand ups. 

Most importantly: we had fun breaking the code

Every time we had an error or a bug, Jeff would say, “great, something new to fix!” Don’t get me wrong — he was actually happy to say it! We had a great time as a team even when we had problems to solve because that’s when we learned the most. It didn’t hurt that Lotfi always made a point of celebrating our small victories.

GIF by Lotfi of course
In the end, distance brought us closer and made us more productive than ever

Social distancing forced us to make a bigger effort to ensure everyone was on the same page. We made sure to be smart with the time we had together during conference calls, and focused on how to help each other out.

I know working remotely hasn’t been easy for everyone, but I know I’ll be applying some of these best practices in my daily life —  now, and even after this crisis is over. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m sure we’ll have the right skills to adapt.

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