Joining Co.Lab #2: First impressions

In the last week, Co.Lab officially kicked things off with its latest cohort of software developers. The program is meant for aspiring product managers, designers, and developers to gain practical experience by teaming up to create and ship a Minimum Viable Product in six weeks. The PMs had already been working for weeks on identifying problem spaces and coming up with product ideas; a little later, the designers came on board. We developers were the last to join the teams.

These are my quick impressions of the program after one week.

  • Structure. One of the first things I noticed was how much thought seems to have gone into designing the program. Besides the product teams—each comprising a PM, designer, one or two developers, as well as a mentor—each participant also gets a discipline-specific peer group with its own mentor.

    This way, each person doesn't only get to work with their own team, but to meet regularly with the other participants to tackle discipline-specific issues (in my case, development), whether technical, career-related, or anything else. One feels like they always have a group of people to turn to, which is especially important considering the fairly large size of the cohort: about 14 or so teams, each with 3 or 4 members of various levels of experience.

  • The cohort. I also can't help noticing how international the cohort is, which I appreciate. While the bulk of the group is divided between the US and Canada (the program founders themselves are split between Seattle and Toronto), there are participants from various parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia as well. As far as I can tell the industry mentors are drawn mostly from North America.

  • Activities. Besides meetings with one's team and peer group, there are also a few regular cohort-wide meetings: status updates every Sunday, where each team gets to quickly present an honest account of where things are with their projects (a great way to see how everyone else in the program is doing); workshops led by mentors—this week it was a two-part series regarding agile development; and various networking sessions.

So far I'm quite impressed with the program, in both intent and execution—it is already turning out to be a unique learning experience. I think it will turn out to be a bigger time commitment than I anticipated, but I also think the next five weeks will zoom by very quickly. In my next posts I'll try to write about my team specifically and the product we're building.