A quiet murmur fills the back of the room before the session begins as our speaker Rebekah Monson and a few friends fill the front of the room with chattering, laughing and maybe a little bit of hugging.
Monson is the head of product and cofounder of WhereBy.Us which works on several products, including The New Tropic. Monson created this company with two of her friends, Christopher Sopher and Bruce Pinchbeck.
The New Tropic was “built on human-centered design” and incorporated a lot of research that seeks to understand their users and needs of the market. Since it’s creation, the team has grown from three to 10 people; it is profitable; and has reached half a million Miami locals. None of this was an easy feat.
Monson’s biggest piece of advice?
Document, collaborate and just make sure you’re ready to take on that puppy.
“Don’t make stuff from scratch… unless you absolutely, positively, supercalifragilistically have to,” Monson said.
There are so many available resources online for open source tools that organizations and individuals have built, Monson says use them. Her company did, and because of that, they were able to move much quicker through the creative processes.
“There is amazing stuff in the world that you can start with. Why not be lazy when you have the opportunity to be lazy?” she said.
Laughter slowly starts to fill the room. She compares these projects that you or your company may take on to adopting a puppy. Her advice for adopting a puppy was “open-source it,” because sharing is caring. But don’t forget to document.
“You are going to ignore this, and it is going to hurt and it is going to hurt real bad,” she said.
The documentation she aims for includes comments, READMEs, naming conventions, style guides and coding standards. Documentation makes tools accessible for both your future self and other users.
“Make reusable things. No one-offs. Ain’t nobody got time for that,” she said.
Monson will often ask herself and her team “if we are going to make it how can we use it again?”
Questions she will ask a lot:
- Who needs this?
- Why do they need this?
- How much money and time will this save or earn vs. cost?
- How do we know this thing is great?
- How does this scale and how likely is it that we will actually scale it?
- What is our maintenance and support plan?
- Who owns this adorable puppy? Who owns this project?
Monson points out: you are not alone in these processes. She advises people to build and utilize your networks. Working with other people allows her to continue to learn even though she left graduate school early to pursue her startup.
“There is a bonding that happens when you make stuff with people,” she said.
In a large projects, Monson will seek help when the workload is too much or involves skills outside of her realm.
Monson invites everyone to help collaborate. Click here for a shared doc for tools, open-source projects and other resources.
Feel free to follow Monson on Twitter @rsm.