5 Things I Learned About Leadership and Project Management With A High School Startup Team

What was the point of this startup team project?

  • Medical symptom assessments
  • Collated lists of free healthcare resources
  • Emotional self-assessment questionnaires
  • Specialized scheduling user interfaces to help organize care
  • An encouraging chatbot
  • Targeted ads and freemium features for revenue

What is the point of any high school startup team?

  • A fantastic opportunity to practice and improve technical skill, motivated by a peer group
  • Early exposure to professional experiences like disciplined teamwork, leadership, and collaboration with adults in a non-academic setting
  • A superb personal portfolio piece for college admissions applications and resumés
  • Possibility to win entrepreneurship competitions

The Five Things

Keep asking and answering questions, first broad then specific.

  • Can we learn to do this? Your favorite web search + real life teacher
  • Do we understand our goal? We discussed caregiving with a subject matter expert
  • Can we work with our chosen platform? Tong had a prototype web app by week two
  • What are the specific features? Spreadsheet of 80+ features refined during discussions
  • Can we overcome these technical limitations? Rapidly prototyped working features
  • Are these the right features? Expert interviews, testing with prototypes, user surveys

Make plans, and more importantly, be ready to change them.

  • Before we could automate writing medical questions, we needed to get medical data.
  • Before we could get medical data, we needed to find it on the web.
  • Before pulling it off the web, we needed to learn web scraping (code that reads web pages is really important in projects that combine data in novel ways).
  • Before learning web scraping, the team needed JavaScript and data structures practice.
  • And on and on …

Those led by the best leaders will say: we did it ourselves.

A champion must push through the hard parts and the quiet parts.

A project can’t fail if the team stays curious.

Epilogue: This is not the last project.

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