Launchpad Status Update

Launchpad is on a mission to provide teachers the confidence, community, and autonomy to feel more mobile in their careers. In order to do this, Launchpad will offer a 3-week summer workshop series accompanied by year-round events and a website with resources that support career transition. We help teachers reflect on their decision to explore new career paths, hear stories of others who have taken non-traditional career paths, and build the autonomy they need to feel they can access the resources and connections to move beyond their current position.

 

Since our last update, we have defined, planned, and begun to run a pilot of our business concept.

 

Our pilot includes three phases that mirror the three phases of our workshop series (as well as the three essential aspects of making a decision to leave a traditional path that we identified in our genesis research):

  1. Reflection Quiz: The first aspect needed to decide to transition is time to reflect. We created a Google form quiz that prompts teachers to tell us about their experience teaching, asking some basic questions like how long they have been teaching and then progressing into questions about their satisfaction and whether or not and how much they have considered a transition.
  2. Visibility Newsletter: The next aspect needed in order to make a decision to transition away from a traditional path is what we have called visibility. Essentially, it is important for people to see and hear stories of others who have decided to leave mostly linear paths. In order to simulate this we prompted all quiz takers to tell us whether they wanted to receive an email with stories of others who have considered a transition. We have crafted and sent that newsletter which includes the story of one teacher who decided to transition into the field of corporate training.
  3. Autonomy Meet-up: The final thing that allows people to take the leap into another career is a feeling of autonomy. People who feel comfortable reaching out beyond their current community and resources feel empowered to build the career future they want. To test this, we will prompt all individuals who receive our newsletter with the question of whether they would like to be connected with another individual who is considering or who has already gone through a career transition out of teaching. Depending of how many respondents live in a particular location these may be one on one meetings or happy hour/coffee shop chats.

 

At this point, we have promoted our quiz and have gotten 101 responses. Of those 107 respondents, 71 opted in to receive our newsletter. We have learned a lot from these responses and plan to analyze them further over the next couple of weeks. A couple interesting highlights from our responses so far are:

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13 respondents said they have thought of leaving teaching but are scared to admit it.

To the question, “What would prevent you from leaving teaching?” respondents had answers like:

“Being a teacher is all I know. I don’t want to leave the profession and feel clueless elsewhere.”

To the  question, “What are the reasons that your current work is misaligned with what brought you to teaching?” respondents had answers like:

“I do not feel as though I am teaching. Sometimes I just wish the profession was less political and more worth the effort that you give. I cannot imagine giving myself another 20 years like this, I’ll have nothing left in the end.”

We will be sending out the newsletter today and will begin pairing up teachers or planning our coffee meet/happy hour in the next week.

 

Now we will work to …

  • Solidify the narrative of our final presentation
  • Continue running our pilot

 

To do this, over the next week, we will be…

  • Running through our presentation with classmates AND anyone who is interested in being a guinea pig for our presentation. Reach out if you are interested in seeing it pre-final presentation reveal!
  • Finishing our pilot and analyzing our results

 

One way you can help right now is…

  • Sharing our Google form quiz with teachers who are interested in transitioning
  • Offer insights or feedback about our concept. Feel free to email them to us at launchpad.careerexploration@gmail.com

 

What will we allow to challenge what we can imagine?

This week in our theory class we read a number of articles that took a very strong stance on a couple of topics. While all were intended to explore this question of “What limits what we can imagine?”, many focused on a specific arena from healthcare to futurism to the technology of things and had a very clear opinion on the positive or negative nature of these things.

These strong opinions led me to consider that maybe we were not asking the right question as we read these articles, maybe we should be taking a more critical lens to their arguments in general, rather than focusing on the author’s approach to this specific question, “What limits what we can imagine?” (which, by the way, implies we should set limits on what we can imagine and that just seems absurd any way you slice it).

I don’t believe the issue is our imaginations. We need more imaginative thinking in the world today. The issue is how steadfast we should be our pursuit of the future we imagine. The real question should be, “What will we allow to challenge what we can imagine?” And, I will tell you why.

Michael Lewis, the writer of books like Money Ball, The Big Short, and The Blind Side, has created a new podcast that was released April 1st. It is called Against the Rules and explores the idea that Americans have lost faith in the referee (the person who calls out missteps beyond the rules of law, games, etc. in government, business, media, and beyond). I listened to the first two episodes this week. I highly recommend listening to it and was struck by their relation to the statements being made in our readings.

What struck me about these episodes and our readings in relation to us (our class) becoming designers pretty soon is that, in some ways, as designers we are referees. We have power. We are the ones with the power to decide what is ethical and what is fair in terms of the products we design. We are entering the design world at a time where, as Michael Lewis would put it, many groups that hold power in some way are under scrutiny from to police officers to journalists in regards to what they have found to be fair. I believe, we should be held to the same standards as any of these groups.

What our readings lacked and what this podcast highlighted for me was a lack of faith in humanity to make the right decision. The podcast spoke about ways that certain industries are combating this sentiment by giving more sets of eyes to making calls about what is ethical and what is not. For instance, the first episode talked about the NBA call center, where refs review calls previously made by other refs.

How this applies to our readings

In some of our readings, specific social groups were targeted for not being ethical enough or creating products that were deemed unethical.

As an example, last Tuesday, we walked into class to be greeted by this screen:

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Essentially, our attention was being drawn to this “popular” hashtag because it easily summarized an argument made in some of our readings this week. One of those readings was by Byron J. Good and, in it, he talks about the sort of miseducation that happens in med school where you are rewarded for “’not how much time you spend with your patients or how caring you are with them or how good a rapport you establish with them…’, but your presentation of cases.” In a reading by April Starr, a designer who’s husband recently spent a week in the hospital, she says doctors can be (insinuating that all are), “control freak(s) (who) want to stroke (their) ego by talking with the patient in front of all (their) resident minions.”

What I want to point out about these articles and the 111 slides of deck that were created by our instructor to support their argument is that it is blaming humans who operate within a system. If I could distill their argument into a sentence or two, it would be something akin to, “Doctors are imperfect and make poor decisions and so we must do something to stop doctors from being imperfect and making poor decisions.”

If we took that approach, we should probably be tackling the ways that all of humanity is imperfect and makes poor decisions. And the reality is that humans are and will be as human as they ever were and nothing (other than outsourcing human tasks to things like robots) will prevent them from continuing to do imperfect things. But, what we can do is help one another make better decisions and that is what we should be discussing.

How our discussion of the readings missed the point

An interesting thing about the deck that guided our discussion on this topic (which again was mirroring the arguments made in a few of our readings) was that on the 111th slide, it flashed simply the title of a reading that made a more productive argument. Slides 114-117 had screenshots of tables from this article as well but were flipped through at such a rapid rate there was no time to consider them. This reading was about, “Reframing our health to embrace design of our own well-being.” Essentially, it offers an argument that, “Healthcare’s many stakeholders can’t agree on a solution, because they don’t agree on the problem. They come to the discussion from different points of view, with different frames,” placing more onus on the system rather than the humans operating within that system.

The solution they offer to the same problem that these other readings have brought up in a less productive way is something called self-management. “Self-management suggests a fundamental shift of responsibility. Patients reclaim their role as adults responsible for their own well-being.” In other words, the writers of this article, Hugh Dubberly, Rajiv Mehta, Shelley Evenson, and Paul Pangaro, are offering that maybe part of the solution to healthcare is to create products and solutions that empower the patient to guide their own care.

The deck quickly shifted back to the negative consequences of imperfect doctors and the poor decisions they can make. By the 133rd slide, we were talking about instances in which doctors felt so ashamed of the imperfect nature of people in their profession that they felt inclined to apologize.

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The 133rd slide of our reading discussion deck

At just a moment when a portal was opened into discussing the cause of the sentiment that was expressed in our readings and in the subsequent slide deck, the portal was closed, as we quickly flipped to the next slides. It felt like the deck was structured in such a way that was meant to guide us towards a “right” opinion, doing all it could to present the case for this one argument. And it was trying so hard to convince us that it was right, that it negated actually discussing what caused the issue in the first place.

What it means to us as designers

I could talk a bit more about some of the articles we read the past week, about the Internet of things and futurism and management. An article we read by Tom Vanderbilt on futurism states, “Futurology is almost always wrong.” Ian Bogost argues against the Internet of things in saying, “Nobody really needs smartphone-operated bike locks or propane tanks. And they certainly don’t need gadgets that are less trustworthy than the ‘dumb’ ones they replace, a sin many smart devices commit.” Ultimately though, I believe my recount would become a bit repetitive. Most all of the readings have a similar theme. It is that they take a stance around what is right and pit the opposite against it as wrong. As if to say, there is always a good and evil. Black and white. My side and yours. But do little to discuss the actual cause of the issue they are concerned with.

What we need in the world today is not more people who are so convinced their “side” or their opinion is right. As designers this is exactly what we should be moving away from. What we need is not to discuss (even chastise) certain social groups because of the ethical missteps of a few. As designers we should not be as concerned with discussing whether a certain social group or design fad is good or bad. but rather what the negative implications of our designs might be and how be can create a solution that solves for those.

What we need, much like Michael Lewis is stating are more referees in some instances, reform to the policies of the referees in some other instances, and more faith in the referees in the rest of the cases. The world feels more polarized right now than it has ever been before and statements like #DoctorsAreDickheads are not the kind that will bring us together and are never the kind of statements that lead to a conversation that ends in a solution. What’s more, conversations centered around these kinds of statements, whether it is, “The Internet of things is ridiculous,” #DoctorsAreDickheads, #BlackLivesMatter vs. #PoliceLivesMatter usually digress into a conversation around whether one side or the other is “right.” These conversations are unnecessary and shallow when they negate discussion of the actual cause of these issues.

What we need are people who are interested in learning more about one another’s experiences. We need lines of communication between “vying” populations. We need to be talking about the systems at are in place that create any sort of injustice, examining those systems, and then adjusting them, rather than blaming the imperfect humans who operate within those systems

Briefing Teams on Product Development

This week, in our Product Management course, we were tasked with creating a Feature Brief of our banking application. Essentially, a Feature Brief is meant to serve as a presentation of the product development process and plan for all teams involved. It is meant to coalesce various teams from marketing to design to development to legal around the plan for how a product will come into existence.

Part of this involves telling the story of why it will come into existence to ensure teams are onboard and on the same page about why we are creating this product.

As such, my Feature Brief was broken in to 3 parts:

  1. Insights – this section provided insights gathered from research which helped inform why my application is needed
  2. Roadmap – this section explains the plan for how  my application will come into existence at a high level, in a way that is applicable to most teams but not extremely directive to any
  3. Capabilities – this section outlines some of the core functionality of my application so that all teams can begin imagining app in its physical form and considering the mode by which they will be contributing to its development

I decided to develop my feature brief in Google Slides and then convert it to a PDF for presentation. For presentation in class, I printed and bound my Feature Brief. In all, it is 32 pages and you can view it here.

There were 4 steps involved in the creation of my brief.

Step 1: Find Out What Users Want

After working on my mobile application for nearly 3 months now, I have done two rounds of user interviews with 6 users each time. And, yet, as I set out to create this brief, I realized my interviews had been very specific to the flows I had been assigned. I was looking for specific feedback on features and screens within my application and had not been as interested in the usage of my application at large.

As a start, I decided to go back and listen to the recordings of the interviews I had held over the past couple of months. I found that often in the beginning of the interviews and a couple times throughout my participants revealed nuggets of their opinion about banking, banking specifically with Wells Fargo, and what a banking app “should do” (i.e. what features are most important). After pulling out these quotes and theming them, I was able to develop 4 core insights that help bolster my argument for creating an application and creating it in the way that I had:

  • There is a mistrust amongst the general public around banking with Wells Fargo that persists into the relationship that Wells Fargo account holders have with their bank
  • In their day-to-day interactions with their bank, Wells Fargo account holders are looking for unprovoked transparency to give them reassurance about their banking experience
  • Account holders want to know how much money is in their account, where it came from, and where it went
  • Account holders want to be able to easily move money, between accounts and into accounts (deposits)

If I had the foresight that I do now and time, I would certainly have conducted user testing in a different sequence and garnered different input from my users. At the beginning, I would have conducted interviews and contextual inquiry specifically focused on users experience at Wells Fargo, users experience banking in general, and what functionality was most desired in a banking app. Ideally then, I would be able to develop the flows which were most pertinent to users.

In this instance, we were assigned flows to develop. I imagine this is something that happens quite frequently in companies. If I had more time, at the point that I was assigned the flows, I would have conducted research to understand their value to a user before creating them to understand where they should fit into my concept map and how the information architecture should be developed. I would THEN conduct user testing on specific flows, screens, interactions, etc.

Step 2: Illustrating a Generalized Roadmap

For this assignment, I was assuming that Wells Fargo did not currently have a banking application (though they do). After identifying the insights that I did above, I explained the value of this solution to a user as a value proposition which read:

“This project will create a mobile application that allows account holders to have interaction with their bank at any time and in any place with ease.

It will supply them with the most necessary information they expect to get from their bank and allow them to complete the most essential tasks they would hope to complete on a desktop or during an average bank visit from the convenience of their mobile phone.”

The next step was outlining how the application would be developed. I did this by creating a generalized roadmap, which could be applied to multiple teams, of the application development.

After creating a roadmap for the developers who will be building my application a few weeks ago, I was able to work off of that to build my more generalized roadmap.

Group

Drawing it out a few times first, I worked to create something that was complex enough to explain all that would go into the development of my app but simple enough to be applied across teams.

Step 3: Showing Off Capabilities

The next step was to illustrate some of the core capabilities of my app so that various teams could begin to imagine what the app will look like.

To do this, I highlighted various screens and called out some of the reasons I chose the functionality that I did which were aligned with the insights I used to create my app in the first place.

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 8.18.06 AM

This process was a tough one as I worked to balance the fidelity of the screens I was sharing with the amount of screens I was showing and content about each screen that I was sharing. Knowing that most likely other teams will want to see high fidelity screens, it was an interesting exercise in learning where to place time and value and how to tell the story of where you are at in the design process without being finished.

If I were to create my Feature Brief over again, I would have made some of the earlier screens I shared high fidelity and then told a story in my Feature Brief about why the others were still wireframes, addressing the timeline by which I hoped to have all the designs and UI complete.

Step 4: Making It A Physical Thing

After outlining some of the core capabilities of my app, my Feature Brief was complete and the intention was to present it to our class, as if they were members of teams being briefed on this app at Wells Fargo. For this, I converted my Google Slides presentation in to PDF format and printed it on a color printer.

After printing the first copy, I needed to tweak the positioning of some text boxes and color to allow for things to appear clearly and accurately on paper (even if they appeared clearly and accurately in their digital format). This took printing a couple copies before everything was presented as it should be.

A number of my classmates opted to have their Feature Briefs printed and bound professionally. I decided I did not want to do that because I wanted my brief to be a living document that people felt comfortable writing on and wanted to give it a less complete and polished feel so others would be more inclined to give feedback. Since this was my first Feature Brief, I knew there would be errors and missteps in my narrative.

That being said, I wanted my document to have the feel of something somewhat formal, as if I were actually presenting it. I decided to bind my pages with something called a screw post. A quick Google search revealed that they sold them at a number of stores in town and it was just a matter of going to one to get them. Unfortunately, the first store I visited was sold out. The second had enough to bind two packets, but not the 5 that Scott had asked. Walmart told me they did not sell them, even though I had seen differently online. I even found that there is something similar made called a sex bolt and awkwardly had to asked a customer service rep named Charles if they may have any of those, if they did not carry screw posts.

In the end, I spent my entire afternoon visiting four stores and ended up with enough screw posts for two bound packets. This was a big learning for me. Small details like how you choose to print out something for a physical presentation can be a big part of peoples perception of your content. Allocating enough time for the process of printing and creating your physical documents is really important. It may be worth it in the end to pay a company to print and bind something for you to save that time cobbling resources together.

 

Moving Towards a Pilot

Launchpad aims to empower teachers whose experience in the classroom has turned negative but who feel stuck in their current role gain the confidence and autonomy they need to consider other career paths. We help teachers reflect on their decision to explore a new path, hear stories of others who have taken a non-traditional career paths, and build the autonomy they need to feel they can access the resources and connections to move beyond their current position.

Since our last update, we have worked to further define our end-to-end solution.

Interaction with Launchpad will happen in three main stages for the teachers who join our community:

  1. Exploration: We plan to connect with teachers online in a place where they are already connecting about the consideration of leaving teaching: online forums. We plan to direct teachers from these forums to the resource of our website, which will include tips and tricks for the transition, a blog, job search resources, and a calendar of events. Once they have learned about us online, they will be able to attend storytelling events to hear about other teachers transitions, as well as, career exploration events where they can learn about some of the roles they could potentially move into. These events will happen year round.
  2. Engagement: After going through a brief application and admissions process, teachers will join one of four possible cohorts of a 3-week workshop series held each summer. Over the course of the workshop series, workshop attendees will be prompted to reflect on their decision to consider other paths a bit further and learn how to transfer their skillset to 1 of 5 possible careers through everything from resume workshops to shadowing employees at companies.
  3. Advocacy: Once they graduate from the workshop, alumni will receive a weekly newsletter listing job openings of our partner companies and tips and tricks for the job search and will be invited to networking event and talks from speakers at companies about the transition

In defining this experience, questions were raised about our business model and how we hoped to make this most viable. We were clear that we intended to have teachers pay for events and that there would be a set cost for the summer workshop. We also knew we hoped to have buy in from companies on our concept but were uncertain of the ways this may be valuable to a business. This week we also spent some time exploring the value that this kind of service could provide to companies by connecting with a hiring manager and a recruiter at two different companies to learn more. Both offered a number of ways that our model could be valuable to companies down the road from selling a “resume book” of sorts to companies to offering workshops for their employees as well. We have not decided on the nature of our relationship to companies at this point in time but intend for there to be a value to them as well which we will better define in the coming weeks.

Now we will work to …

  • Define an appropriate pilot of our end-to-end solution in order to validate demand and see if we can provide value

 

To do this, over the next week, we will be…

  • Developing several potential concept for a pilot
  • We will launch a pilot of our product

 

One way you can help right now is…

How I Will Be An Ethical Designer

This weekend, while I was reading some of the articles we were asked to read for class this week at a coffee shop, a man approached me and asked if his friend could use one of the extra chairs at my table. Of course. I wasn’t planning on anyone joining me.

After he returned to his table of friends, with chair in tow, I caught him attempting to make eye contact with me a couple of times and, the few times we did connect, giving me an extra big smile. It was not surprising then when he approached my table and greeted me again about 20 minutes later. As a part of his greeting this time though, he asked if I may have one minute in which he could share the gospel with me.

Immediately, my mind (and I am sure, subconsciously, my body) recoiled. But, I, then, quickly, considered the passion one must have for something to approach a complete stranger and share their beliefs on that thing, without expecting any sort of monetary pay off in return. I replied, “Yes, I do have a minute.”

I listened to his just shy of a minute worth of story about his parents divorce and his journey to Jesus. I was impressed with the narrative he was able to relay in such a short amount of time. I explained afterwards that I am Jewish and so do not believe in an after life but rather believe in being as great a human as I can be in this world, right here and now. I do not have much reason to be saved for the next life. But I told him that I enjoyed listening to his story and appreciated him sharing it with me. I was happy that Jesus had helped him find his place in this life. And I appreciated his concern for my after life.

This experience was a wonderful exercise in practicing the values we were asked to consider in our readings this week. I decided to enroll at AC4D because I believed (and still do believe) in the power of design to transform systems of inequity and have hoped to apply my learnings to developing products and experiences that reduce that inequity, specifically in the pubic education sphere. The articles we considered this week asked us to consider 3 main questions by each offering their own take on one.

Where does the role of the designer begin and end in the effort to create a more equitable society?

After I explained to the man who had just shared his gospel with me that I hoped to be a good person in this life, as a friend, as a family member, as a coworker. He asked what I did for work and I said, “I am studying to be a designer.” I could tell he was confused by my response (as if considering how a designer of any sort could have the ability to affect anyone’s life deeply) but he politely nodded in agreement. I understood his confusion. A designer is not providing any sort of direct or immediate service to others in the way a social worker, a teacher, even a community organizer might.

Many of the authors we read this week grappled with the question I imagined by new friend asking: what role does a designer play in making the world a more free or equitable place? Each author we read offered an answer. Pierce Gordon, in his article Radicalizing Innovation: Are Activists the Invisible Designers?, argued that activists are the best example we have of using design thinking for equity. He says, “the focus on end users as the main drivers of societal change distracts (designers) from the institutionalized systemic issues of society.” In his article, our very own Richard Anderson refers to a Jazmyn Latimer and Sarah Fathallah. He mentions their argument that there is a distinction between activists and designers. That “activists have committed to a solution to a problem and engage in a variety of activities to see that that solution is implemented. Designers, on the other hand, (are supposed to) approach a problem with no solution in mind, and, ultimately, (should) only advocate for whatever solution emerges from a design process influenced by a multitude of constraints.” Gajendar argues that designer’s power lies in their ability to be a change agent in the organizations they exist and work in. He says, “The truly adept designer of masterful influence knows how to be an effective force multiplier by pushing and pulling just the right levers upon people, problems, resources, and so forth—those pragmatic elements of everyday work.” And, Thorpe nearly agrees. He says, though “most design seeks to improve the conditions of life for people (…) good design (usable, profitable, beautiful, meaningful) doesn’t usually constitute activism on behalf of excluded or neglected groups.” Monteiro argues that to the question of where you can do good work we should always respond, “The answer is so obvious as to be painful. Right where you stand. That’s where you do good work.”

I agreed with most all of these arguments. Like Gajendar expresses, I imagine the role of the designer in affecting change to be very dependent on their ability to affect change within the organization they work within. The more influence a designer has within their organization, the more capacity they have to create an impact. And I would agree with the arguments expressed in Richard’s article as well as Thorpe’s article, that it is the role of the designer to create products and designs that offer solutions to problems they uncover in their research. Activism, as understood in these articles is meant to be operating with less constraint but aiming for just as genuine change and equity. Gordon argues nearly the opposite. And while I agree there is much to be learned from activists by designers, I do not believe that designers should seek to be activists in the same way, but should see to make an impact on their product within their organization. I believe impact is most effectively made from within one’s sphere of influence, akin to Monteiro’s point.

How does creating technological products complicate efforts to be equitable?

After my conversation, I consider the form that most design solutions take today: digital. How does the digital format of a solution affect its ability to make an impact? A number of the authors we read this week sought to explore answers to this question.

Hubert argues that people are spending too much time connected to technology and that designers are part of the reason why. She suggests that in order to create things that are actively improving people’s lives rather than overtake them we should ask four questions: Do our outputs support conscious actions? Can we change the types of businesses we work with from those that take advantage of end-users to those that don’t? Can we stop supporting UX tactics that are aimed at hijacking the end user’s brain? How can we be more aware of how out work affects the world around us? Carr talks about how technology can be used to manipulate people, how the use of smart phones can become a compulsion through tactics used by companies to consume people with their products. Wu talks about how convenience is the most important factor is much of what we make today (especially from a digital perspective) and says it can lead to a lot of negative consequences for the user. He argues we should aim to make things more inconvenient to really best serve the user. Cugelman also talks about the way technology can be used as a tool to nearly manipulate people. He talks about how designers, unethically, play off emotions to draw people into technology products. And finally, Martha Gould-Stewart, the VP of Facebook, talks about how with the great power of technology comes great responsibility. She says that the great power that we have in creating digital products affects things socially, culturally, environmentally, economically, etc. and we has designers have to consider the implications of our designs in these spaces. She says, “In a sense, it is a new kind of digital urban planning.”

In short, most of these articles argue that technology always complicates ones ability to truly make things more equitable. And I agree. Technology is just recently being considered a mode by which people’s social, cultural, political, etc. experiences can be affected and yet we know that these arenas of life can be very affected by technology. Though, as I stated above, designers should seek to create impact in their own work and through their own designs and that they should not feel they need to incite large social change with all of their designs, they must consider the implications of their designs and acknowledge the ability of their designs to unintentionally cause large positive and negative social change.

How can we ensure that we as designers are being equitable in our designs?

This conversation left me wondering how I hoped to make a positive impact on the world through my work. As I enter the last month of school and look forward to embarking into my career as a designer, I started to think about how I may ensure that I am creating designs that are equitable and have a positive impact on the users my designs will serve. Another set of authors we read this week had opinions on how to measure equitable design.

Aye spoke about the popular trend of design competitions. He spoke about how he had judged a number of design competitions himself and felt surprised by the lack of criteria. He said there was plenty of criteria by which to judge is something had good contextual or physical design and barely any to judge if a design had positive impact. He offered a set of criteria that may help us determine if a design will make a positive impact. Buchanan shared with us the four ethical dimensions to design because he says, “Most important, from an ethical perspective, is assessment of the consequences of the product’s creation on the lives of individuals, society and the natural world.” And our own Richard says that ethical design is designing with, not for. And that in order to design with you should ask people what they want, counter to what many in business will tell you is best practice.

 

 

 

As I left my conversation with my new friend at the coffee shop and got back to work on my readings, I began to take a closer lens to how my opinions and beliefs might sway the ethics of a product I am creating. How might the fact that I do not believe in an afterlife (a belief I do not reference often or consider top of mind) affect my designs in the future?  How might other beliefs I hold, subconsciously affect my designs in the future? And who will be the judge of whether the design decisions I make are ethical or not?

As a designer, I plan to operate from a place of understanding that I am a biased party and an imperfect human. I hope to learn as much as I can about people different from myself and be able to create designs that respect varying experiences. I plan to do this by soliciting feedback as frequently as possible in the design process and allowing my designs to be challenged and recreated as many times as they need to be in order to be empathetic and equitable to the populations they will impact.

Mapping Our Road

This week in our Product Management class, we took a harder look to the designs we had developers estimate last week,  parring them down to a more economical size, and creating a roadmap for development.

There were four parts to this process, which I will talk through in more detail below, and a number of learnings, which I will share at the end of this post.

Part 1: Trimming the Fat

After my meeting with my developer, I learned a lot of interesting things about the amount of work that would go into developing some of the features of my app. A number of my assumptions were tested as I found that some features I considered small and insignificant would take much longer to develop than I anticipated. And vice versa a number of things I imagined would be complex and take much time to develop were estimated to take less time to create than I thought.

This added an interesting element to the value of each of my features and even to each of my flows that for the first time was not based solely on the needs and convenience of my user.

To understand this I printed out each flow of my wireframe as well as the estimates provided by my developer. I then wrote down the time he gave me as an estimate on each screen and each feature that he gave me an estimate for. Group 2

Once I had everything estimated out, I walked myself through the entire app to weigh the cost (in the amount of man days something would take to create) against the value of a feature, screen, or entire flow to my users.

Some features, screens, and flows were very easy to cut as they took a lot of time and I observed that they were not very important to users in user testing. For instance, you will notice in the image above, I have completely cut the ability to choose a frequency with which to transfer money from one account to the next. Each option of a frequency (i.e. monthly, weekly, daily) would take the developer 3 (wo)man days to code and the calendar feature which allowed users to select and end date to their recurring transfer would take another 3 days to code. Knowing that this was not important or essential to my users, I cut this feature and the screens associated with it, trimming the fat.

Part 2: Mapping It Out

Now that my wireframes were trimmed down, I worked to group and then name features and screens as tasks for developers.

In this way, I was able to identify how long each flow would take and then could add some additional data for prioritizing flows before others, outside of the information I learned from my user interviews.

IMG_3537 (1)

In the process of considering what I learned in my user testing, I began to prioritize what was essential for the users I spoke with, what wowed them, and, ultimately, what would need to go into development first. I started laying this out into a roadmap using a tool called Teamweek.

SIDENOTE: I looked at a couple different options of roadmapping tools and ultimately settled on Teamweek because it was free, it was very intuitive, and it had the ability to be synced with Slack and Google calendar and offered a feature called “Button” which allowed you to link tasks and the entire roadmap to other tools like Trello, JIRA, etc.

I also appreciated the functionality it offered in providing notes for my developers and additional information about the task.
I also appreciated the functionality it offered in providing notes for my developers and additional information about the task.

I laid out all the flows that still existed after I trimmed the unessential bits of my app, dividing to development duties between two developers I assumed were working 40 hour weeks. I created the roadmap that you see below.

Product Roadmap v1
The green portions are assigned to one developer and the blue portions are assigned to the other

This new parred down app appeared that it was going to take. In the end, it appeared that even in this parred down state, my app would take 8 weeks and 40 (wo)man days between two developers to create.

Part 3: Creating an Ant out of the Ant Hill

I had been tasked with identifying the features that were most essential so that there could be some semblance of an application in production 20 days into development. Though difficult to reduce the capabilities of my app by a more than significant amount, I had already arranges my Product Roadmap in terms or priority. So the experience of parring it down by half again was more simple of a decision than you would at first imagine, because I had already thought through and organized features and flows based off of importance.

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 5.43.22 PM
I ended up with a reduced Product Roadmap that looked like this.

You can see my updated reduced roadmap in a larger version here. The final three flows that were left after this cut were my Log-in and Check Balance flow, my “Transfer Money” flow, my “Deposit Check” flow, and the basic functionality of my “Set Alerts” flow.

SIDENOTE: In doing this, it was very difficult to evenly divide and fit all tasks neatly into days and weeks while also considering the sequence in which they may need to be developed (some features needing to be created before the next).

Part 4: To Infinity and Beyond

Now that I had a finalized roadmap of my first 20 days of development, I began to consider how to plan out the remaining weeks and months of development so that my app would ultimately include all the features that I had in my initial thin slice, and then hopefully eventually include most all the features I had in my very initial wireframes.

For this, I turned to Trello, mostly because I have used Trello in professional roles previously and found it to have all the functionality I wanted for illustrating and tracking progress on development over time. You can view my long term roadmap on Trello here.

I grouped the tasks I had created for my developers into two week sprints which I lumped into lists in Trello. I named the list for current sprint “In Progress,” the next sprint “Up Next,” and the third sprint “Confirming.” With the first 6 weeks organized, I created two additional lists: one called “Exploring” and another called “Icebox.” “Exploring” is a list of all the features that are left to be developed after my initial cut. All of these features have production dates associated with them that could be adjusted based off of progress in the first three sprints. And, the “Icebox” is a list of features that were a part of my initial wireframes that are in a metaphorical icebox until we get some of the more essential functionality of the app created.

Learnings

There were a number of learnings this week which provoked questions that I have and hope to answer in the following weeks.

  1. In Product Management, you’re going to have to make tough decisions – I had to make a number of tough decisions this week. They all fell into one of two categories.
    • Decisions that could disappoint the user
      • I had to cut many flows from my initial wireframes using the limited information I had from my user testing to consider what was most useful and valuable for my user. If given, I would have taken a little more time to do user testing before eliminating the amount that I did.
    • Decisions that could disappoint the stakeholders ($$money makers$$) in my company
      • There were a number of times that the estimation given to me by my developer exceeded the amount of time that I had left to allocate for a task. Rather than risking leaving my developers twiddling their thumbs, I decided to assume they would run ahead of schedule and be able to complete some tasks a day early. This is a risk that could leave the company in a bind, either over budget or with an incomplete project.
  2. Developers are really important for making things – I knew this. They are the ones who will ultimately be working to bring our ideas to life. But it was not until this week that I realized there is most likely an indefinite amount of information we can learn from them in order to create designs that meet the budgets of our companies and fulfill the needs and desires of our users. I wish in my meeting with my developer I had asked for more specifics around some of the estimates he had given me for particular screens. Was there a feature of a screen that I could consider adjusting or eliminating so that I would not have to forsake an entire flow but could just get make a change to that feature?

Built For Use

For the past couple of weeks, we have worked to solidify the wireframes of our redesigned banking applications. For me, this involved going back through each of my flows and considering all the “unhappy paths.” Often, we refer to the path we want the user to take as a “happy path.” But, what happens when the user tries to do something else other than the one option you have given them? Or what if user error has caused them to get off the initial path? How do they get back? When I say that I have been considering the “unhappy paths” for the past two weeks, I mean to say that I have been considering all the paths that a user may take beyond the one I have chosen for them and then building out a flow that represents that.

To add, I have spent time refining, organizing, and adding annotations to my flows so that they may be presentable to a developer. Oddly enough, as a designer, I have spent a lot of time considering the user of the ultimate app in creating my wireframes. The exercise of making them readable to a developer asked me to consider another user, in the developer, for the first time and to consider how to make our wireframes most readable for the ones who will have the ability to make them into anything more than .png files.

I met with a developer (and former AC4D alum) this week to discuss my wireframes, consider gaps in my considerations, and get an estimate of the amount of time (and money) it will take to create my app. Below I am sharing some of the various flows I created:

Check Balance w:Annotations

Deposit Check

Transfer Money (Part 1)

Transfer Money (Part 2)

Transfer to Non-Wells Fargo

Set Alerts

Pay A Friend

Automatic Payments

In order to make our work as readable as possible for a developer, it is important to break down the various complex components of screens to show what they entail. Below you can see some of the components I included the “break down” I gave to my developer.

Breakdown

As I met with my developer, I learned about the estimated amount of time each screen would take to build. I learned that some elements would take significantly longer than others because of small customized elements I chose to include. I also was able to learn about gaps in the comprehension of my flow. He was able to break down the various screens by time estimate in a spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 4.59.15 PM

My meeting with my developer was very constructive. My biggest learning is that I am possibly being “too detailed” in the wireframes that I am developing. That my intention is communicated more than I assumed. As I continue to build out my wireframes and annotations, I will work on being more strategic in my time and noticing what I can assume someone would know as standard from the Apple Human Interface Guidelines or other such guidelines.

I have estimated that it will take 198 days to build my app but imagine as I work to build out my last couple of flows that number will expand by a bit.

Reflections and Solidifying of Concepts

The capstone team of Sara Miller and Kelsey Greathouse spent the past week better defining our concept and business plan as well as reflecting on the past 3 quarters and how we may use our learnings from those quarters in this final quarter. Our concept is LaunchPad, an ongoing event and summer workshop series that supports teachers in making a transition out of teaching and into a new field.

Learnings and Reflections From the Past Three Quarters

In Quarter 1,

we learned…

  • How to synthesize disparate information
  • The application of design theory to design work
  • How to formulate and articulate a unique viewpoint
  • The importance of narrative to communicating a concept
  • To have courage to put ideas into the world and get feedback

…in the process, gaining the tools of…

  • Presentation
  • Sketch
  • Illustration
  • Recruiting
  • Contextual inquiry
  • User interviews
  • Transcription
  • Storyboarding
  • Theming

In Quarter 2,

We learned…

  • The value of working creatively with a team (melding ideas with people around you)
  • Systems thinking
  • Creative recruiting strategies
  • How to present project updates to a large audience
  • About and executed on the process of service design

…in the process, gaining the tools of…

  • Managing a client
  • Co-creation with a client
  • Storyboarding as a tool to communicate a design concept
  • Sketch
  • Product exploded view creation

In Quarter 3,

We learned…

  • The application of insights from research to a broader audience
  • Validation of demand by putting imperfect things into the world

…in the process, gaining the tools of…

  • Concept zooms, showing how a concept works in a larger ecosystem and when zoomed in
  • Rapid design concept creation, framing a problem
  • Pitching
  • Wireframing
  • Usertesting
  • Lo and high fidelity prototyping
  • Theory of Change
  • Lean Canvas
  • Forecasting
  • Business model creation
  • Market research
  • Landing pages

 

Vision for One Week After Graduation

After listing our learnings and laying out the tools in our toolbelt, our team was able to clarify where we want to be one week after the program, knowing our timeframe and our goals. In short, we hope to be able to clearly communicate our business concept and our plan for its development to any investor, partner, or user. But, not only do we want people to understand our concept, we want it to provoke and wow them.

 

We hope to do this by creating a narrative explaining our work on this project, a service blueprint, a business plan, a provocative demo, a tested MVP, an outreach campaign with measured results, and at least 2 confirmationations of investment or partnership. We hope to run a pilot of our product before the end of the school year. We are currently imagining that pilot to be an informative event for teachers on the first steps towards leaving the field.

 

In the next week, we will be creating artifacts that help tell our story, begin creating a landing page, and start getting the word out there about the event we will be creating as an MVP.

Our Concept and Pitch

As we mentioned before, our concept is LaunchPad. LaunchPad is a event and workshop series that supports the transition of teachers from transition into a new profession. As such, we created a short “elevator pitch” for our concept and where we are at in the development currently.

 

We exist to create a world where, people do not feel stuck in and feel empowered to pursue paths outside of their current career. In order to make that vision a reality, we’re creating a product that helps teachers transition out of teaching. To do that, we’re working to answer the question of what is the best solution to help them do that and what are the components of that solution. This week we’re going to ideate several formats that our solutions could take, define what components each format would have, compare each of those, validate, if needed, and choose a format.  

 

The Canon of Designing for Social Impact

Over the past two weeks in our Theory of Interaction Design course, we have read 16 articles by 15 authors. These articles varied in intended audience and format, from informal articles on online forums to published articles from academic institutions. Each of these articles explored the concept of design for social impact. And, each took one of three different lenses to this topic: current trends in design for social impact, examples of design for social impact (both positive and negative), and exploration of an aspect that affects positive design for social impact.

We also read two articles which provoked deeper reflection on our individual identities as designers which I will discuss after I share a bit about each along with my biggest learnings from the collective anthology.

 

Current Trends in Design For Social Impact

We read four articles, which commented on trends in the design for social impact space. All offered a critique of these trends which spurred some consideration in me, as a future designer, about how I plan to interact with these trends as a professional.

Social Business Plan Competitions

Michael Gordon and Daniela Papi-Thornton explored the current trend of social business plan competitions. Social business plan competitions “invite students to address a specific, pressing concern, typically in a short period of time,” essentially a hackathon for designing a business that has social impact. Gordon and Papi-Thronton argue that, in looking for a business idea as the solution, these competitions favor the creative idea over understanding the problem space and developing an informed solution.

What kept coming to mind as I read this article was the idea that the same scrutiny should be applied to any social impact business. It is possible that someone could be a part of a design competition and design a solution for a problem they understand deeply, having it be equally as effective as a result. In the same way, it feels quite possible that anyone could create a social impact business in a less condensed amount of time that creates a negative impact on the population it hopes to serve. Is the real issue in the reward offered by these competitions? Is it in designers creating solutions for problems they don’t understand? Is it a matter of time? Just because a business has investors and real people it is serving now does not mean it is more impactful.

Considering “the Poor” as Consumers

Aneel Karnani critiqued C.K. Prahalad’s BOP theory and the trend amongst multinational businesses towards applying that theory. We read about Prahlad’s theory in our first quarter theory course. Essentially, that business is missing out on profit by not selling to the millions of people living in poverty. He argues if they were to consider this a target audience of their product impoverished customers would be brought out of poverty by gaining purchasing power. Karnani argued that Prahalad’s theory is flawed and inconsistent with evidence. He says this is because the transaction size of a good that an impoverished person could afford is so small it is not worth it for businesses to invest in those kinds of products. He also mentions the large cost associated with distribution and marketing to poorer populations, since they usually live in rural, uncentralized areas. As a solution, Karnani says we should consider the poor as consumers if we truly intend to lift them out of poverty.

Many of the points Karnani brings up were ones I considered when reading Prahalad so appreciated his similar lens to the argument. Including an alternative solution (of recommending businesses think of poor populations as producers) really bolstered his concept. As a designer, this concept emboldens me to consider ways I may involve a local population or a population in which my company is hoping to affect change in actually building the final product.

Conducting Effective Research

Jessi Hempel discusses the design research practices of Studio D, a design firm. She tells the story of a research trip to Saudi Arabia in which they were doing research for a project for a telecommunications company. Rather than targeting a group they hoped to reach and interviewing them, Studio D essentially conducted contextual inquiry with their users to understand their needs.

This article highlighted the even greater importance of research in design for social impact. Truly understanding your participants can allow you to build designs that not only make an impact, do not negatively impact the populations you are hoping to serve.

Designing FOR (not with) Social Impact

Joyojeet Pal spoke about the pitfalls of design for good. He talks through a couple reasons for the rise of “design for good” mentioning the emphasis put on social impact by universities, amongst other reasons. He asserts that design for good implies intentionality and in order to make a real impact designers must understand an issue in depth. He says participatory design does not happen enough to make things that are truly impactful.

The point I most appreciated in this article was the idea that we must recognize the limits of design and honor the people whose lifework it is to make an impact on communities. As a soon to be professional designer who studied social work and urban planning in my undergrad, I have great regard for those professions. I recognize the ways in which their work is much different than what a designer would create and intend to work hand in hand with these kinds of professionals in the design process with and then pass the baton to them the moment a larger design vision is created and communicated.

 

Examples of Design for Social Impact

We read three articles discussing three separate examples of social impact initiatives. Amongst all of them, there was a lack of clarity around what impact these ventures intended to have if not a lack of clarity around the actual impact they generated for the populations they served. While each of these seemed creative solutions, it made me think back to the Gordon/Papi-Thornton reading to consider these examples for their impact rather than creativity of the concept.

The Highline

We read an article by Laura Bliss which discussed the intentions with which The Highline, a green walking space, was created in Manhattan and how the space has been problematic than positive for the neighborhood. The main offering for why is is problematic is that it is mostly utilized by wealthy tourists and not the people who live in the public housing directly next to the Highline. It was conceived of after 9/11 as an effort to thwart an expected exodus of business from New York. Bliss argues that the space should have been better codesigned with the neighborhood to serve its original purpose while making it accessible to the community.

I was yearning for more examples of why this is a problem. Ironically, I felt I wanted the voices of the neighborhood in her article to hear what their issues with the development were. This diluted her solution statement around cocreation. It made it feel broad knowing that it is possible that the Highline is offering some benefits to the community and that there could be adjustments made or additions added that mitigate some of these problems she raises if we heard more from the populations who live around it.

Robinhood Restaurant

Lauren Frayer tells the story of the Robin Hood Restaurant, which is designed to charge the rich to feed the poor, in Spain. It uses the profits raised during breakfast and lunch to feed free meals to the homeless at dinner. She speaks about the owner’s desire for the people who dine at night “to eat with the same dignity as any other customer. And the same quality, with glasses made of crystal, not plastic, and in an atmosphere of friendship and conversation.” She mentions unemployment (at the time the article was written in 2017) was at 20% so it was a prevalent issue for the community.

While I imagine some would call this a bandaid for the real problem, I think bandaids are needed to help with the impacts of the problem, while ideally the root cause is being tackled simultaneously. The aspect that stood out was that, while those experiencing homelessness may feel like any other diner in their general dining experience, they are never interacting with paying customers. In this way, the business model innately otherizes this population from everyone else. Without changing the business model, how might this venture grow or be iterated upon to provide that kind of interaction? What would the impact of that be?

Crowdfunding Homes for Haitians Post Earthquake

Adele Peters wrote about a nonprofit called New Story, which built 150 homes in Haiti after the earthquake, at a much faster rate than larger nonprofits were able. She remarks that they were largely successful because large donors donated the cost of the overhead of the nonprofit while smaller donors had the ability to contribute to an individual home, learn about the family it would house, and get updates about the building progress. They were also able to be effective because they were focused on this sustainable solution of housing rather than more immediate solutions like food, medical assistance, etc.

What I felt was missing from this article were the ways in which the organization is measuring impact and ideally adjustments they have made to their model to be more effective. They mentioned a partner called Mission of Hope in the article. It would be great to know exactly what their partnership might look like and if Mission of Hope is measuring the impact of the partnership and their work.

 

What Can Impede True Social Impact

We read 6 articles that discussed aspects that can affect actual impact of social product and business development. Generally these articles discussed how using technology to solve social issues can have an overwhelming impact if not utilized correctly, how branding can exaggerate or mask true impact, how often business ventures fall short of actual impact because of a lack of follow through, and how motivations for giving from donors can have an affect on actual impact.

Technology

In an excerpt from his book, Mark Manson talks about how technology is causing people to be over inundated with information. He talks about how “the world runs on feelings,” how emotions are what motivate peoples actions. He highlights how when there is too much information, as there is now, everyone can find some information to support their individual feelings and in this way people become divided.

This is a very important point for us to be considering right now as designers entering the workforce at a time of great political, economic, social, etc. division. It feels important to recognize that providing people with an overabundance of information can actually work to divide people. As a designer this inspires me to bring simplicity with an emphasis on human connection to whatever I may be creating.

Branding

Alex Holder talks about how brands have the ability to emphasize the “impact” of a product through branding but that there is not much accountability for how much actual impact a product is having. He takes his argument to a more provocative level stating that in fact branding the impact of a product is essential for it to sell today, regardless of whether there is actual impact.

Branding is a part of the product development/design process. If we, as designers, are not considering how something is branded we are overlooking a big part of how a user will interact with our products. As a professional, I hope to be constantly be measuring the impact of and iterating on a product I might create to be serve the population we intend to impact. A big piece of this is working with marketing to ensure the branding actually reflects our true impact.

Branding Again

Cindy Phu also talks about how branding can skew impact. She specifically refers to the Project (RED) campaign, which provides 50% of profits from all (RED) products to AIDS services in Africa. She brings up points around the buying power of the consumer and asks, “If people are willing to buy an iPod that says (RED) but not willing to donate the cost of an iPod to AIDS services, is bad to harness that desire?” She speaks of the many pitfalls of this campaign, most importantly the lack of transparency about where these earned profits go and who they affect.

The idea of harnessing the buying power of consumers did not sound like a bad one. It alludes to the same argument I made earlier about creating a bandaid while the real solution is being built. At the same time, Project (RED) has been around since 2006 and it feels as if the concept should have been iterated on many times at this point and more transparency given to the campaign. Potentially if that were the case, the solution to the root cause would have been generated at this point and the organization could have moved onto another cause to affect change within.

Branding 3.0

Our own Jon Kolko also discusses the influence of branding on social impact. In his article, he conflates branding and UX saying that they are both, “colorful way(s) of framing total control over a consumer.” He says, “we must acknowledge the huge responsibility implicit in our work and constantly vocalize how our work supports humanity and the cultural landscape that surrounds us.” So rather than focus on just the “colorful way of framing” things we must be considering the larger ecosystem we operate within. He talks about how successes are too frequently tied to profit and marketshare rather than positive and long-term culture change.

As a former social work and urban planning student, this is not something you have to tell me twice. But I appreciate the freedom this perspective gives me a designer to push boundaries on the tactile problems I am solving to recognize the larger change it is creating as a result.

Follow Through

Our instructor Richard recounted the experience of attending a design challenge at the Twitter headquarters, which asked participants to consider how to make Twitter accessible to the community. His team created a grocery story concept that would offer interactive events within the community. Unfortunately he visited Twitter again later to see that none of the concepts had been implemented.

This reading raised questions of the importance of expectation settings. Was this workshop intended to truly develop something within the community? Was it an opportunity for people to creatively consider a solution together? Was it meant to just be a forum by which the community in which Twitter exists could come together? This echoes a similar sentiment I expressed when discussing the examples: the importance of being clear about the impact you intend to have.

Expectation of Reciprocity

Our instructor Richard discussed his experience with creating a funding campaign, comparing it to a few others he found online. He speaks of this idea that when people give they want something in return, if they have not already received something from you previously and feel obligated to give in the first place.

I appreciate the opportunity for reflection on what motivates people to give at all that this offered. It seems the motivations people have to give are strong (especially in this climate of giving and impact that Holder spoke about) and provoke consideration of how might we harness that motivation and what people expect to get from it towards a cause to make an effort as impactful as possible.

Why it matters to me

This week we also read an article, which described two types of people: an order muppet and a chaos muppet. An order muppet is risk averse, appreciates things that are predictable. A chaos muppet thrives in the unexpected.

We also read an article which was a conversation between our instructors Richard Anderson and Job Kolko about the value of theory to design.

As I consider these articles and how I will interact with topics they discuss as a designer, I recognize the large responsibility I have as a designer. These articles provoke me. They cause me to agree or disagree wit their assertions and thus develop my one cannon of truth, my own theories for how I hope to design professionally. My biggest takeaways this week would be:

  • the importance of setting and communicating expectations for impact
  • the importance of measuring that impact and iterating on a product to ensure it is serving its intended purpose
  • the importance of co-designing with other professionals and users throughout the process

Jon and Richard’s conversation helped me more deeply oncsider the value of what I was reading. While the muppet article, beyond the fun aspect of it, helped me realize how I may best contribute to a team who is working to reach goals for impact, where my weaknesses may be in achieving my hopes a designer, and how I may work to strengthen them.

 

 

 

Bringing Definition to a Business Idea

This week the team of Sara Miller and Kelsey Greathouse made strides with our final two concepts:

 

  • Casa – turnkey living-learning community for students enrolled in bootcamps
  • Launch Pad – a summer workshop series that gives teachers the confidence, knowledge, and ability to identify and articulate their skill set needed to enter a new career in recruiting

 

For the past two weeks, we have been working on building and refining two pitch decks for these concepts and have learned a lot in the process. We have outlined this experience and all we have learned below.

 

#1 Creating two decks for different audiences

 

In an effort to more deeply consider and define our concepts, we began by creating two decks for each concept: one for the ultimate customers of our products and another for potential investors or partners in our products.

 

For Casa, we have identified our early adopter customers as perspective bootcamp graduates. Ultimately, we may home to expand the qualifications of our residents to allow students who are enrolled in online programs or who have designed their own educational curriculum through a compilation of alternative learning pathways. Yet, to start, we will be focusing on connecting with prospective bootcamp students to give us a targeted subset of our audience to design for and speak to in marketing.

 

As far as investors for Casa, we created a deck to be presented to the bootcamps themselves as we are imagining they would be important promotional and operational partners in our business. This is another way in which we imagine targeting bootcamp students would be a most valuable place for us to begin: with the right partnerships, it would allow us to utilize the existing infrastructures of these programs to connect with our students initially, best support them throughout our learning and fill in the gaps on outcomes assistance at the end.

 

In this process, we began to consider our business and revenue models at a much deeper level. We spent some time looking at potential properties to buy in Austin, looking into grants for coliving and affordable housing development, and considered the process by which bootcamps could inform their perspective of our housing option.

 

It was in the process of creating similar decks for Launch Pad that we transitioned our concept in the way we spoke about last week (from a website that aggregates alternative and informal education into a summer workshop series for teachers). The process of considering who our customers and investors would be with our initial concept stirred conversations around how we may be able to create a product that would be financially viable while ensuring that we would be solving the problem we initially set out to: to allow individuals to see and have the confidence to pursue alternative career pathways. We will speak more to how that concept really was able to come together in the next step.

 

#2 Hone in and condense to one deck

 

The next step in our process was to take a look at the finalized decks we created for our two respective ideas (a total of four decks) and condense them into two decks, one for each concept. This was a essential part of bringing definition to our concepts.

 

With Casa, it was a matter of simply reviewing the two decks we had created to identify which elements we hoped to incorporate into our narrative for a larger audience, one that could resonate for customers and investors or partners.

 

 

We decided to begin by highlighting the dramatic growth in number and students enrolled in bootcamps over the past 5 years. As this slide iterates, there are over 60 more bootcamps today then there were in 60. We also emphasized how the population of students enrolled in bootcamps has grown from around 2,000 in 2013 to over 20,000 today.
We decided to begin by highlighting the dramatic growth in number and students enrolled in bootcamps over the past 5 years. As this slide iterates, there are over 60 more bootcamps today then there were in 60. We also emphasized how the population of students enrolled in bootcamps has grown from around 2,000 in 2013 to over 20,000 today.

After setting up this trend, we introduced the problem that exists because of it, which our product is attempting to tackle: that with this rapid scaling of the marketing not all bootcamps will deliver on their promise to transition students into a career in tech. The schools that survive will be the ones that have students who evangelize their programs because of the enriching experiences and supportive community they had there.

 

To provide evidence of this, our team spent time scouring the reviews on a site called Course Report, which is a Yelp-esque site for bootcamp students, to get a sense of what themes existed amongst the 5-star reviews and what the biggest complaints were across the 1-star reviews. Across the board, we heard that the larger community of a program and support that that community offers is important. We shared some quotes from these reviews in our deck.

 

We then introduced our concept as the solution to this problem. We spoke about the business model which will be sustained through student rent and renting of our event space. We spoke about our plan for beginning our venture by simply assisting one cohort in securing housing and relocating to Austin, in our first year. This is will allow us to get to the know the student experience very deeply and be able to create a product that serves them best. Our intention in this first year is to solicit bootcamps for a portion of tuition if these students ultimately enroll. In the following year we will work to secure a living environment and build the infrastructure for students to be able to move in.

 

As I mentioned before, the process of creating this deck for Launch Pad was a bit more reflective. As we made our initial decks, we immediately felt that the audience for both and the solution our problem was solving for was too broad to clearly communicate what we were confident was a very strong concept. Our customer in that first round was “professionals” and our investors or partners would be “companies.” Our value proposition was that, through what we were imagining to be a website, we would make it really easy for recruiters and hiring managers to be able to see what a candidate gained in each of their professional or alternative educational experiences to truly fit the best candidate into the best fit role. The value proposition to professionals was similar in that we would provide a tool to allow you to define and articulate your skill set to level up or over into the role you want, while also being able to identify gaps to see what you needed if you were not quite there yet.

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In the very initial stages of creating these decks, it became obvious that our concept was amorphous and our audience too broad. We had spoken with many recruiters over the past couple of weeks and validated a need. But, this problem immediately felt bigger than we could tackle in one product and we realized a need to hone our focus.

 

In one of our conversations with a recruiter at Google, she had said in a casual manner that Google will often look for applicants who were formally teachers when hiring recruiters. At first listen, this did not seem at all intuitive to either of us. But as we pressed her with a couple of questions about it, it became immediately clear that this was nearly an obvious transition given teachers ability to communicate effectively, evaluate and guide people, manage various stakeholders, amongst others.

 

Our minds went back to that idea as we began considering how to focus our concept. What if we could really focus on helping get teachers into recruiting? What would we learn in the process of helping some teachers transition into a new field that could be applied to other fields? Enter our new concept: the summer workshop series for teachers that gives them the confidence, knowledge, and ability to define and articulate their skill set to be able to apply it to a new career in recruiting.

 

As just alluded to, our hope is that by focusing on creating a sort of formula for really understanding the gaps between these two careers, neither of which necessarily require a higher degree or very technical training, we will be able to really understand the pain points in any professional’s transition to a new field and ideally be able to create a solution that solves for those pain points and allows anyone to make the transition.

 

We chose to focus on teacher because of the high attrition in the field. Our new deck pointed this out as the very obvious problem that exists for this population (as it does for any who want to change careers).

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That most teachers will want to leave teaching. 50% will leave in their first 5 years.

 

We also emphasized the growth of the recruiting market, which is expected to grow by 14% in the next couple of years.

 

All of this in the effort to set up our solution. We assumed that teachers will want guidance in their transition an so allowed our service to be an a la carte series of workshops. Each teacher will have a consultation with our team and we will assess where they need extra support and enroll them in the specific workshops we offer to get them to a point of confidence and great presentation of their skills by the end of the summer.

 

In our deck, we spoke about how we will begin very much as a concierge service, helping teachers one off to learn from them on a smaller scale at first and be able to develop our product in a way that meets their needs best.

 

We also worked to make sure that this deck spoke to companies (specifically hiring managers and recruiters) as well as teachers looking to leave teaching. We highlighted the overlap in skills between teaching and recruiting and the rising demand for recruiters in our new deck.

 

#3 Move forward

 

With each of these concepts, we have a much clearer sense of our audience and have considered a number of funding streams. However, our team is completely set on creating a solution that really solves the needs of our customers. As such, we are not married to the concepts we have created here, now.

 

Our intention is to place these concepts in front of the audiences that they will serve (the customers) or affect (investors or partners) most and get feedback.

 

This week, for Casa, we spoke with a student currently enrolled in a web development bootcamp in Denver. Half of his class has dropped out of the program and is down to 6 students. We learned about the importance of expectation setting and the importance of feeling settled (whether technically or physically) to success in a program.

 

This next week we have meeting scheduled with the teams at General Assembly, Hack Reactor @ Galvanize, and Austin Coding Academy to hear both about the pain points on business side of building a strong community that evangelizes their school as well as barriers they have witnessed on the student side to having that stellar experience.

 

For Launch Pad, we also spoke with two teachers, one who recently left teaching and does not have a plan for her next role and another who is seriously considering leaving teaching after 7 years. We learned a lot from these conversations about the overwhelm that teachers feel in all the opportunities that could be available to them after teaching from graduate school to property management. We also learned about the strong way in which teaching can be tied to a person’s identity and the fear of leaving teaching and loosing what feels like an essential piece of who you are.

 

In the upcoming week, we hope to speak with a couple more teachers to really understand this experience and begin to hone in on our concept.

 

What we could use from you

 

As we enter a week long break from school, we look to hone down to a single idea. We will be gathering all the information we can over the next few weeks about these two concepts (both of which we are very excited about) and ultimately making a decision to persist with one.

 

  • If you or anyone you know is familiar with these populations, teachers, bootcamp students, or recruiters, we would love to connect with you or them
  • If you or anyone you know is familiar with developing or working for a similar business concept to the two we have above, we would love to swap notes.


Feel free to reach out to us at sara.miller@ac4d.com or kelsey.greathouse@ac4d.com