The last day of the Summer Camp is already here. What a journey it has been!
Before starting, I had for sure very high expectations, but this experience managed to be better than anything I could have imagined. Surprisingly, the best part was not even the project we developed during the last ten weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the project very much and I did learn a lot by doing it. Being my first professional experience in Product Design, it was an amazing opportunity to put into practice a lot of concepts I only knew in theory, from planning the project, undertaking design sprints, developing roadmaps and interviewing potential users, to creating prototypes and designing the visual identity.
Nevertheless, the chance to work with a team in a real environment and to get to know different people from a wide range of fields was what really made this experience very special. If the goal to get technical and to develop our crafts was what made us apply to the Summer Camp in the first place, the human connection we got here and the culture we have been submerged into is what made us want to stay and be a part of it. Everyone in the Subvisual Universe, from our mentors to people with whom we talked once or twice, has always been very friendly and available to help us when needed. For me, getting the chance to talk to so many interesting people has definitely been one of the highlights of this experience.
If I had to choose three words to describe the Summer Camp they would be: intense, fast-paced, and insightful. Working within a cross-functional team of like-minded people, focused on creating a product from scratch while learning as much as we could, gave me possibly one of the most important take-home insights of this experience: things are better when done in a team. And if at the beginning, ten weeks seem a lot of time, it is definitely not. They say time flies when you are having fun, and we for sure had a lot of fun together.
What you learn by swimming with sharks
This experience has taught me a lot as well about the problem of starting a project with some preconceived ideas in mind (and finding out they are wrong in a hard way) as well as dealing with the unpredictable and all the things we are not able to control, and the importance of being realistic and prioritizing the features we can build in such a short period.
One of the situations that taught me a lot about dealing with the unpredictable, for example, was before the Design Sprint, when I started a user interview with a script ready to help me navigate it, only to find out, a couple of minutes in, that the person in front of me was a completely different user from what I was expecting them to be. Fun fact: they did not perceive any problem at all in what we were trying to solve. “What happened next?", you might ask. Well, the script was made completely useless and I was forced to navigate the interview in the best way I knew to make the most out of it. At that moment, I was completely frightened but looking back now I am glad it happened so I could learn at an early stage such an important lesson: no person is the same, therefore no user is the same.
What stays when memory fades
At the start of the Summer Camp, my goal was just to enjoy this opportunity as much as I could, to develop my technical skills, to feel confident in my ability to be a product designer, to get to know different people, and overall just to have fun and to learn.
More than technical skills, Subvisual has taught me what humans can accomplish and how can they grow if they are given the right opportunities to do so. Just like a seed in fertile soil. This reminds me of a maori proverb that goes: "He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata" (What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people).
In the future, I am sure this experience will prove to have been a fulcrum point for me both as a designer and as a person, and for it, I am very grateful. The fact is that Subvisual and its Summer Camp absolutely exceeded my expectations and I am completely delighted that I took the chance to apply. The future is now and it is exciting.
Filipa Ribeiro | 2021 Summer Camper