Early in my work term semester, I set some unique goals for myself that I would attempt to achieve. These goals were highly correlated to my role as an Operations Developer at Polar Mobile and dealt with certain skills that I truly wanted to develop.
In order to ensure that my goals were realistic and manageable I used the SMART guideline in that each goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time targeted. Below I have outlined each goal and the corresponding status.
This particular goal is actaully a carry-over from the previous work term. While I did feel that I made a lot of progress last semester, going into a brand new company (and getting out of my comfort zone) proved to reconfirm that this was something that I needed to work on. This particular skill appears to be one of the most important when working in small teams. Communicating effectively goes a long way and tends to make all projects run smoother. The specific goal that I set out to achieve was to be confident and comfortable talking about my projects in a small group.
In order to accomplish this goal, I decided that I would go out of my way to initiative conversation regarding the projects that I was working on. More often than not, this revealed new insights and particular use cases that I would not have thought of myself. I asked a lot of questions but this definitely sped the process along and meant I got the chance to work on many different things. Certainly, oral communication is still something that I can continue to improve but I feel like I made some great strides. One particular situation that shows this is that I had the opportunity to give a presentation about the project I was working on to the entire company at Demo Day. I found that trying to stress less prior to the presentation allowed me to perform better overall.
In my first couple weeks at Polar Mobile, a project manager asked me the following question: "How long will it take you to finish?". My reply at the time was "Good question". I realized that I wasn't accurately able to give an estimation and this was something that bothered me and that I decided to combat. In order to answer that question, I needed to be able to plan out and organize each project that I worked on, so this became the foundation for a second goal that I would achieve during my placement.
To accomplish this goal, my action plan was to establish what I wanted to get done each day when I arrived at the office. This allowed me to be able to gauge how closely I was able to follow the plan and estimate how long features and projects would take me to complete. I was quick to realize that this would not only be a skill that I would benefit from but also would allow the company to plan accordingly, which is very important for meeting deadlines. I can quite happily say that I feel that I have achieved this goal in that I am now able to determine how long a given project will take based on its description or specification. If nothing else, this should be extremely helpful in my academic studies.
A third and final goal that I decided to tackle this past semester was that of essentially absorbing as many new technologies and programming languages that I could. One thing that became very obvious to be when I arrived at Polar Mobile was that I had a lot to learn. I was introduced to a variety of new concepts and technologies that I had really never heard of before and that fuelled me to take in as much as possible. I felt that this goal would serve me well in the future in that it would strengthen my ability to choose the right tool for the job. The specific goal that I wanted to achieve was to become well versed in the tools that I was using frequently: Python, Django, Git and Buildout.
Although this goal was slightly open ended, I feel as though I made a significant dent in conquering it. By putting my plan into action of actively researching and reading documentation pertaining to these new languages and frameworks, I feel well versed and comfortable using the above tools to take projects from start to finish. One thing that I really was able to gain from this was that searching out the right tool can be an immense time saver. I appreciate the exposure that I received to so many young and booming technologies that I likely would not have had the opportunity to work on, had I worked at a different organization. I touch on some of the core technologies used by Polar Mobile in the Technology section.
This particular goal is actually a continuation of a goal that I set in my previous work term at Polar Mobile. In essence, it was my intention to try to learn as many new programming languages and technologies that would be possible in the four-month span. In Computer Science, this is something that you could easily spend your entire life pursuing since the field is advancing at such a rapid rate. I really felt that it would be wise to expand my arsenal of tools such that I could complete new projects with relative ease. The technologies that I would be focusing my attention on this semester were Hadoop, Hive, Saiku, Clojure, Backbone.js and CoffeeScript.
Now that my second term was been wrapped up, I think that I progressed well toward this learning objective. I continued to use a variation of the plan that I used last semester in that I would seek out good books, documentation and tutorials to assist with my learning of the tools. I feel as though I do have a working knowledge of the technologies listed above though Clojure is something that I feel I should definitely continue to stay on top of. It is the type of language that is very powerful if you know what you are doing.
Another of my work term goals this semester is to develop the ability to give direction and guidance to others. This should include dishing out tasks and helping those individuals succeed. The accompanying skills that go along with this learning objective are something that are virtually nonexistent for me at this point in time but depending on the path that I choose to take in my career, it could be very important. The specific goal that I intend to achieve is to work with an intern and mentor them in their learning to actually complete a project.
To complete this goal successfully, my action plan was to put in additional work to plan all of the material that will need to be covered by the individual that I am working with and generally be able to answer any questions that they may have. I would work with the individual on a one on one basis and help direct them through projects that I have assigned just as I had been during my first work term. Since my work term is now complete, I believe that I made some good steps toward this goal. I cannot say that it was an outstanding success since this was my first time in a leadership type role but I definitely learned a lot. One thing that really helped my progress was that I actually got double the exposure by working with two interns that each had separate goals.
A final learning objective that I would really like to pursue this work term will be to enhance my decision-making skills. One thing that I distinctly recall that my manager said after my first co-op term was that I should try to take more initiative in my tasks rather than just producing whatever was expected of me. I really took this to heart and so I decided to make it a focus during my second work term. Taking more initiative would certainly involve examining the short and long term effects of certain decisions and being able to determine if a given decision is actually warranted. The precise goal that I hoped to achieve would be take my ideas for projects and run with them rather than requiring constant validation from my team members.
To meet the criteria for this goal, I will attempt to do more independent research about my tasks such that I won’t need as much guidance. Also, I will attempt to classify certain decisions to determine if they require outside input or not. Since this can be a challenging task, I will play it safe and continue to request support if there is any grey area. Having now completed my work term, I can genuinely say that I feel as though I have achieved this goal. I ended up taking more risks than I had previously and I personally think that they paid off. This skill is definitely a balancing act and I will continue to monitor it as I further my career.
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