Co-op #1, Month 3: Always Learning

With July wrapped up, I once again took an opportunity to reflect on this past month of co-op. What new and exciting things am I working on? How have I challenged myself? And what have I been learning?

In July, I had the opportunity to join two new projects and develop new skills in doing so. These projects have introduced me to some new people on the team I can learn from, and allowed me to work more closely with others. I also enjoyed learning about the tools and technologies in use, and share my own knowledge of other technologies to benefit these teams!

More New projects

This past month, I’ve had the pleasure of joining two new projects. The first is a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) project, working with a client to help automate their invoice processing procedures. The second is an internal app, meant to guide partners in having conversations with their clients about the challenges they’re facing.

Getting to work on these new projects has let me branch out a bit, and get to gain experience in different roles. For example, on the RPA project, I get to focus more on testing in this cool automation environment. I’m getting to interact closely with the client as well. To ensure that our final system is working and handling the invoice data correctly, users from the client side are involved closely in testing as well. It’s been great to build my skills in client-relations, even on this small project.

On the internal app, I’ve been assigned the role of Lead Business Analyst, which puts me in a place to take a lot of responsibility for the success of the project. Getting to develop our initial mock-ups and shape the vision of the app was a ton of fun! I’ve gotten to learn from stakeholders to shape this app into a tool that will be a valuable resource for our partners.

It’s a shame I won’t get to see the final outcome of these projects, but it’s always a pleasure knowing I’ve had a lasting, positive impact on them.

Learning and Sharing Learning

These projects have also given me a chance to learn new technologies, and share my knowledge I’ve gained from previous projects. On the RPA project, I’ve been learning about UIPath automation and Sortspoke, and helping the team adopt TFS. And on the internal app project, I’ve been using my experience from personal projects to make choices that help us stay within the rapid development timelines.

UIPath is a great tool which allows you to essentially replicate a user’s actions with precision, repetition, and speed. In preparing for this project, I got to work through UIPath’s training course, which helped me understand how it can directly help a business’s strategic objectives. I got the chance to play around with the UIPath Studio software and build a few quick demo “robots”. It’s a really powerful ecosystem, and I can’t wait to explore it more on my own.

Our project also uses Sortspoke, a Machine Learning platform intended for document processing. I had the chance to sit on a training, and I’ve been getting to use this platform as part of my testing. For an end user, it seems like magic, the software finds, reads, and classifies the fields of a document instantly. I hope to leverage this sort of technology in future projects.

Finally, I helped move this project on to Team Foundation Server/Azure Devops, to help us track our tasks and bugs, in a collaborative environment. TFS was a technology I learned in my first week of joining BDO, and I’ve now gotten to share those learnings with others, and help migrate to this platform.

On the internal app, I’ve been sharing my experience, to shape how we store our data, manage logins, and prioritize features, all so that we stay within our six-week time frame. Getting to tackle the challenge of a very rapid development cycle has been a great experience.

Overall, these projects and others are always giving me a chance to learn and grow, and now more often giving me a chance to teach others from what I’ve learned.

Trying New Responsibility

Finally, back on my main project, I had the opportunity to take on some more responsibility for the week when our Lead Business Analyst was away. I got to be a key player in our sprint planning meeting, and expand the requirements for the coming sprint.

Being the “go to” person for BA work was a different feeling but a welcome challenge. I got to have final say on how new features were implemented. In doing so, I really had to think about our end-users and our goals. How was this feature going to impact someone on the day-to-day? How did it fit in with the long-term vision and plans for this tool? Asking these questions definitely gave me more perspective on our project, and I’m going to hold onto this mindset as I continue my work on this project, and on others. Seeing the bigger picture and holding yourself accountable when there isn’t anyone to double check your work was a great experience for me!

Next Steps

As my co-op winds down, I’ll be focusing on a smooth transition, both for myself towards fall classes, and for my teams towards working without me. It’ll be increasingly important for me to document everything I’m doing and plan to do, and make sure that these transitions are as smooth as possible. 

I’ll be creating more software requirements to clarify my vision and share my ideas for these projects, so that even once I’ve left, these teams can continue to implement the features I’ve designed in a cohesive way.

In August, I’ll be working hard at these projects and continuing to learn and challenge myself, as always. I’ll also be getting ready for the Fall semester. Starting classes virtually, and keeping up with everything else I love to be involved with is going to be different, but I’m definitely excited to get back at it, and I’m also excited to make the most of my last month of co-op!