Each month, Code the Dream celebrates a volunteer who has made a special contribution to our community. We’re excited to start off 2024 by thanking Angel Brown, a Software Engineer and Engineering Manager at Calendly.
Last fall, Angel worked with students in our full-stack Practicum, an 8-week group project in which students create and deploy a real project. It’s a great opportunity for students to cement their skills, and volunteers like Angel are incredibly helpful in shepherding student projects throughout the process.
Angel shared a little about her experience working with Code the Dream students.
Tell us about yourself! How did you get into tech, and how did you get involved with Code the Dream?
I took a few CS courses in college, and that helped me get my first tech job in 2007. When I learned about Code the Dream’s mission to greater diversify the tech world, I felt that it was exactly the sort of initiative I want to give my extra time and energy to! It’s been a joy and an honor to be a volunteer at CTD!
Before you helped with practicum, what were some of your other volunteer experiences with Code the Dream?
I was a group mentor for an Intro to React class prior to my experience helping with a practicum. Some of the students in the React class were in the practicum group I worked with.
Share a little more about your involvement in the practicum. What projects did your group work on? What were some of the great experiences, and some of the challenges? How did you see the students grow during the experience?
The practicum was a whirlwind experience! It was very similar to forming a new team in a software organization, but in addition, we also had to design the app we’d build. So it was almost more like forming a startup or hackathon team.
We had a lot of loose ideas to start, then we collected everyone’s hopes for the practicum and tried to identify which ideas would allow us to practice the skills or features we wanted to work on. The group decided to build something like a Meetup.com clone, but also with an idea suggestion and voting component to help users decide on what to do when they hang out together. I thought it was a really creative and fun idea!
Just like any new team, we had to figure out how best to communicate with each other, how to talk about the app and functionality and how to talk about the work to be done. We used a variety of tools — Google Docs for notetaking, Figma and Whimsical for wireframing, and Github projects and issues for capturing tasks and stories. We also had to figure out our collaboration style and cadence. Our team was spread across the globe, with timezone differences as much as 12 hours apart. So we settled on a once a week team meeting that alternated times every other week to try to be as accommodating as possible to everyone. The students also coordinated smaller group meetings amongst themselves. They recorded these meetings and I was always so impressed by how organized and coordinated they were!
It was amazing to watch the students grow as communicators and team members through the process. As the practicum period went on, students took on more ownership and responsibility and became more and more independent. By the end, the team was in very close communication with each other, everyone was helping each other and they were all laser focused on creating a beautiful app for the demo!
What were the rewarding parts of working with the practicum?
I think the most inspiring and rewarding part of this experience for me was seeing the transformation in the students. From the start of practicum to the end, there was such a shift in the level and quality of collaboration, communication and ownership of the work they were doing. They learned to be a really effective team in a very short period of time! And individually, they seemed to all blossom with confidence in their abilities! I think this is because they were learning from each other, teaching each other, and building a fully functional full-stack app together.
Any advice for future practicum students or mentors?
It’s difficult, but try to settle on an idea and get coding as quickly as possible. Ship a working application as quickly as possible. Try to ruthlessly cut scope until you have a very minimally functional app. Then you can build more features on top as you have time. Set incremental and consistent goals to try to avoid a lot of work at the end. Enjoy the experience!
Angel’s practicum students shared why they valued her as a mentor:
As someone primarily handling backend development responsibilities during my practicum, Angel’s guidance on writing better code, being cautious of design decisions, and how to effectively communicate my development and additions with my team, among numerous others, was invaluable for me. Thank you Angel for all your help and support!Mohammad
I really can’t say enough about Angel – she took time out of her busy schedule to help and guide us through our project, including reviewing our code, helping us with more efficient design, troubleshooting our bugs, teaching us about database normalization, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only was she a great teacher but she was incredibly kind and supportive. We absolutely could not have done our project without her and I feel very lucky to have had her as a mentor!Marice
Angel has helped us out a lot on our practicum as well as a mentor for React. When I attended her session, I knew she would be a great mentor for our group so I asked her and I was glad that she said yes. She went above and beyond our expectation on troubleshooting our codes and teaching us how to design our app.Annie
Angel has been such an amazing mentor and we are so very lucky to have her at Code The Dream. I’ve been fortunate to have her as a mentor for both React and Practicum. She demonstrated great professional guidance by sharing her leadership experience working in groups and also practical, hands on skills through live coding. I also appreciate her positivity and encouragement to everyone in the course, fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment. Through her mentorship, I’ve learned a multitude of new skills such as unit testing, scrum, code communication and much more. Thank you so much for dedicating your time and talent to CTD, Angel!Jillian
Working closely with Angel during the Practicum project was an invaluable experience. Her mentorship was exceptional – always available to tackle challenges, offering unwavering support, and cheering us on. I’m truly grateful for her guidance; it made a significant impact on our success.Victoria