Who the hell is this Mahad guy?
It was the end of my first year as a university student. Saying it was a rollercoaster of a year would be an understatement. I was pursuing a business degree at Laurier while low-key trying to break into the design industry. See, I loved design, and I was kind of good at it as well which made me feel weird because business and design don’t have a lot in common. I spent my first year building my portfolio by helping out clubs, businesses, and other students develop their brand. Did I mention I did all this for free? I made a name for myself at Laurier as a design guru and the next step was to go for the Lazaridis Students’ Society (LazSoc). LazSoc was the big leagues. It was the student-run association that worked on bettering the experience of business, economics and double degree students that attended our university. So I applied, and to my luck I got in as their incoming Director of Marketing Design. It was hype. Fast forward a month later I met the rest of the team. It was a room filled with 40 passionate and hardworking individuals all with one goal. I was hooked. That was when I first met Richard. Richard was the VP of Technology Development at LazSoc and he announced that he would be getting rid of our old wordpress website and creating a new one from scratch. I saw this as a great opportunity since I was really curious to learn more about UI/UX and web design so I decided to take action. I did not know much about development at the time but I approached him after the meeting and introduced myself. I told him my position and asked if I could help his team on the site, giving a designer’s perspective on everything. He was totally down and said he will definitely reach out when they need a hand. Never heard from the guy for the next two months. Don’t you hate it when people get your hopes up like that?
Two months passed. June was when we had our LazSoc retreat where we met on campus and got a chance to better meet the whole team and set goals for the upcoming year. It was a 2 day event so each exec was assigned a roommate who they would share a dorm with for the night. Guess who my roommate was? The one and only Richard. With the first day coming to an end, we were sent to bed around 10PM and set our alarms for 7AM to meet the team for 8. Rich and I did not get much sleep that night. By the time of our meet I had taught myself a lot more about UX design and was able to make valuable points about things to change. We were up till 5:30 AM that night and we talked about anything and everything. What started with us roasting our old website, lead to a discussion about our goals, what we were passionate about, stories of entrepreneurs, Tim Ferris podcasts and so much more. At 5:30 AM with still so much more to talk about we decided to act like responsible individuals and get to sleep so we have energy for the next day. The next day which was starting in 1 and a half hour.
That night Rich and I got to know each other a lot better, but most importantly we both crashed that night with a fire lit inside of both of us and a goal to solve a problem. The reason we both were able to meet and have this chat was a coincidence. It was a coincidence a lot of people count on when it comes to their personal growth but sadly the chances are slim and sometimes the opportunity never presents itself. This drove us to create a platform that brings together the Laurier community and allows them to connect/ learn from each other not due to a coincidence but an introduction (match) made through our creation.
From that day on we worked on a new and improved platform with the two biggest goals of ours. Give Laurier students an opportunity to share their opinion and knowledge, and our second goal to create a platform that helps students with similar interests connect with each other.
Walk the talk
Through summer we worked hard on building this platform putting in countless hours. We would call every week which turned to a daily thing towards the end of summer. Our goal was to launch the site by Orientation day 2017. As the day came closer and closer we realized we were not ready yet. From the very beginning our plan was to release a product 70% done so we could get real feedback (Inspired by AirBnb’s mindset when it comes to launch) but what we had was simply not ready so we decided to hold back. It was a tough decision to make but it taught us a lot about the reality of Product Management and realistic goal setting. We settled for just showcasing our work on O-day promising a launch coming soon in the semester and see what everyone thought about it. I put together a quick InVision prototype and we did it. The day is hard to forget. We got a chance to show more then 1000 people (of which 90% were aspiring freshmen looking for inspiration) what we had worked on. The response we got was unreal. The students loved it and were amped for it to launch. Instantly Rich and I had become celebrity’s with kids coming up to us and asking to connect with them on LinkedIn.
The energy we got from everyone really fuelled our desire to keep pushing and make our goal a reality. The rest of the year was spent continuing to work on the platform and finally after encountering many barriers we launched on January 9th, 2018.
Richard and I continue to work on and improve this platform as much as possible. This project has taught us so much more than expected. We started this to for the hopes to learn more about design and development, while we picked up how to work with teams, what it is like delegating tasks, how to set realistic deadlines and so much more.
This is just the beginning and we hope to leave a mark behind once we graduate.
If you have come this far into this article I want to Thank you. I wrote this story to inspire others who are in the same situation as I once was to get involved and take on projects like this. I aspire to someday become an entrepreneur and this project has given me a peek at what my life can potentially be like. It has made me realize that this is what I love doing. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. I promise you won’t regret it.
The next few parts in this series will break down my journey as a designer while working on this project. As an aspiring product designer, it is crucial to document the work you have done to show what your design thinking is like. So if you’re interested in learning more let’s get going!
PART 2 COMING SOON
If you have any questions or want to chat about anything entrepreneurship, Product, or UX design related reach out to me anytime! Here’s how you can get in touch!