In the two years I’ve been at LaunchPad Lab we’ve helped a lot of companies go from just an idea to a full-fledged business. We’ve worked with B2B and B2C companies in a lot of industries, from health care to real estate to sports. Helping companies run through the product development gauntlet has given us a unique perspective on what it takes to build a successful product, and with that some opinions on the right way to do it.

We’ve made it our mission at LaunchPad to become experts in building products and I see this mentality every day I come to work. I see it in the work we do with our customers, but also in the work we do in our free time. We’ve crafted a whole space (called SPACE) around our own products that we’re passionate about building.

Teaching is something we’re also passionate about at LaunchPad Lab. In the time I’ve been here I’ve taken part in dozens of classes, Meetups and weekend workshops. As someone who came late to coding I take a ton of pride in being able to return the favor to people who are eager to build their tech skills.

Through LaunchPad and organizations like General Assembly and Fullstack Academy I’ve taught workshops on topics ranging from Angular to Arduinos. I’ve also helped out with the Design Sprint Meetups we’ve hosted at our office. Each time we run one of these workshops I get a chance to teach a different facet of product development.

We love teaching these focused classes, but in the back of our mind we’ve always thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could take students through the whole product development process?”. Because the hardest part of the process isn’t figuring out how to build a product, but what to build and WHY anyone should even care it’s built in the first place.

We recently had the privilege of working with the ITA and America’s Urban Campus for a two day workshop to do just that. The ITA is an awesome organization that’s on a mission to build Chicago’s tech community. A big part of that mission involves spotlighting visionary Chicago companies and getting local tech talent to recognize the opportunities available in this city.

It’s not surprising that ITA joined forces with AUC, because one of America’s Urban Campus’ missions is to connect students from local colleges and universities with Chicago-based companies. Both institutions are making strides in boosting this city’s reputation as a tech destination.

With their help and with participation from students from Columbia College and the University of Chicago we launched the Tech Toolkit workshop.

This workshop is our way of condensing our product development process into an easy to digest package. It’s our chance to run an abridged version of how we take a product from idea to reality.

In the workshop students were presented with a problem and from there they learned the crucial steps of vetting the problem, identifying potential solutions and iterating quickly through prototyping.

A few of the skills and techniques we taught the students include how to conduct a customer interview, how to sketch a Lean Canvas business model, the tools we use to prototype and how to conduct usability tests. All of those skills were taught before even jumping into coding, which focused on the React JavaScript framework.

One of the goals of AUC is to equip Chicago college students with the skills needed to succeed in Chicago’s tech ecosystem. At LaunchPad we create product-minded developers and designers who know what to build, how to build it, and why anyone should care it’s built in the first place. Our hope is to equip Chicago college students with skills that companies value and will make them successful in any endeavor they take on.

At LaunchPad we are continuing our mission of building a product-minded tech culture. Working with the ITA, AUC and local businesses gives us the ability to help connect students with the skills and opportunities to help build amazing software. If you’re a Chicago company interested in helping create the next generation of product builders we’d love to partner with you as we host more of these workshops.

Wade Novak

Developer

Wade likes to make things, be it music, buckets or web apps. He got into software development to build meaningful apps that solve actual problems and he's continuing to do that at LaunchPad. When he's not pounding away at the keyboard he's usually playing the drums, playing basketball or taking pictures with his camera that's far too nice for him.

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