I joined Hack for LA in June 2021. It was a very fruitful experience for me as a design researcher, and I wanted to share the highlights of my experience with the community.
Hack for LA is mainly a volunteer-based organization. I already knew that it is hard to keep people engaged in the work while they are not being paid off, but when I joined Hack for LA, I met many talented and dedicated people including UX researchers and designers who tried so hard to do the projects. There were some impressive projects already carried out by the Hack for LA team. You can check them out on the website.
After you join the organization you have to attend an onboarding session. During this session, you will learn about the projects and how to create your user profile on Github. Then you can choose between different openings. When you ask to join a project, you will interview the product manager, and they will tell you if you are a good fit or not. The good news is that you can be very ambitious in choosing the project and prove your enthusiasm to the PM, and then you are good to get the job.
When you join a project, you are supposed to report your progress to the supervisor weekly. Weekly meetings ensure you and your supervisor that you are on the right track.
During your work at Hack for LA, you can learn from former volunteers who secured their jobs at various tech companies like Facebook, Google, Tiktok, etc. They are usually invited to talk as a guest speaker sharing their professional experience, some interview, and job hunt tips. You can also stay in touch with them through Linkedin or Twitter.
There are also some soft skills which you will learn or improve while working at Hack for LA. I have categorized these soft skills according to this article by Jane Justice Leibrock . These skills are:
Persistency: in Hack for LA, you have to find your way to learn something. The difference between Hack for LA and many other places is that you choose your project yourself. Although you have a supervisor, you have to ask questions from others while doing the project. You should not give up if you message someone several times with no answer. You should keep trying and find people who can help you.
Collaboration: You learn to collaborate with others in an agile environment. Collaboration would be online mainly through slack for sending messages or files, and zoom for meetings. It is an impressive practice to familiarize yourself with how to keep being engaged while working remotely.
Innovation: in Hack for LA, when you are assigned to a job, you have to bring up new ideas to the team. Tasks are not defined step by step, so you need to be creative in choosing different methods for every research project. There is a slack channel that you can access your colleagues and ask them questions.
Organization: In Hack for LA, you are not expected to be involved forever. Instead of forcing people to stay in the position, they encourage you to document your work, so other people can continue it when you leave. You learn to document every single step you take for the project by using Google doc, GoogleDrive and updating your progress on Github. Therefore, everyone in the organization or joins later would be able to continue or modify their work.
Being friendly: A lot is happening in Hack for LA, and some people might be very busy with the volume of the work. You need to get along with people and help them when they ask a question. On the other hand, you should be patient when you need people’s feedback.
Hack for LA is truly a community of practice. You learn from others and guide others. You will improve your skills in employing different research methods by working on various projects. You don’t have to have previous experience, all you need is to be enthusiastic and persistent.