Arcurve’s Community Social Responsibility (CSR) project is a long-standing tradition where the summer student interns must design, develop, and deliver on an initiative to give back to the local community. This year the students decided we’d produce a custom kombucha to raise money for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, but each year the students get to decide on their own initiative. Past projects have included a support local businesses challenge, a weekend learn to code program for kids, and a fundraising carnival.
On the surface, it seems odd that a technology company like Arcurve would encourage their interns to divert some of their already limited hours away from their software development, project management, business analysis, and quality assurance tasks to put towards something like the CSR project. However, as an intern who has gone through this Arcurve rite of passage, I have a newfound appreciation for the project and how it taught me essential leadership skills in the context of the real-world.
As summer fades into fall, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. The importance of empathy
If you ask any aspiring software engineer what the most important skills that a developer needs to be successful, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say “empathy”. Before the CSR project, I certainly wouldn’t have. At one point, I was tasked with a follow-up phone call with a vendor. While I didn’t think much of it at the time, I decided to hold off on calling them for a week because I knew they were busy with an audit. This seemingly small act introduced me to the empathetic sales approach: understanding where your client is coming from allows you to make the experience as easy and seamless as possible. The same technique applies to software development. A client requirement may seem technically inconsequential but may play a large role in alleviating stress and meeting their business needs. Understanding your client today will ensure that they remain your client tomorrow.
2. Stay agile
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of putting together a project over the course of two months only to have it almost fall apart at the eleventh hour. Whether it’s learning that you need to have a liquor license to sell alcohol or realizing that rising Covid case counts are probably going to shut down our booth at the company barbecue, our team was faced with the daunting feeling more than once. Thankfully, with some quick thinking, contingency planning, and the drive to deliver no matter what, we quickly pivoted on to the next idea. The same idea is reflected in agile software development: develop iteratively and respond to changes swiftly. You won’t always start on the right path, but if you can adapt and be flexible in your approach, you’ll find the right path a lot sooner.
3. Play to your strengths, challenge your weaknesses
When I applied to Arcurve, one of the bullet points on my resume was “edited a 40-minute film for submission into the Engineering Week Movie Competition”. Video editing has always been a hobby of mine, but I never imagined that I would draw on those skills at my software development internship to write, film, edit, and produce an ad for kombucha. The CSR project encouraged our team to think outside the box, draw on the skills that might be considered unconventional for software, and apply those skills in a meaningful way. Beyond that, the project also gave us opportunities to grow and challenge our weaknesses. Public speaking is far from my favourite thing, and yet, somehow, I felt motivated to take on the challenge of giving a sale pitch at the company Lunch and Learn. The same principles are found in software development. Sometimes you’ll be to go-to person for a specific technology or framework. Other times, you’ll have the opportunity to step into unfamiliar territory, learn new technologies, and grow as a developer.
Like many things, the CSR project is more than meets the eye. Sure, it’s not what you typically encounter when it comes to software development, but the lessons I learned will undoubtably make me a better software developer and leader.
If you want to learn more about how you can help with our ongoing CSR Project in support of the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, click here.