Starting Anew and Learning from Failure
Last November myself and my team of 9 (Seven Developers & 2 Contractors) pitched our game Project Nautilus to the Game Studio cohort here at Champlain College. After pitching our game we awaited to see if our game would be Greenlight to continue production into the Spring Semester, or if we would be disbanded and spread out to other teams.
Isthmus Studios Nov. 22nd, 2021
I’m happy to announce we were approved to go through and expand to our full team now 21 (16 Developers & 7 Contractors)! We started our second development phase this January with the new team and it's been a strong 7 sprint development. Since then myself like others have become a lead on a large team. Up until this point the largest team that I had ever produced was a 9 person team. This has been an amazing opportunity and has given me a lot of invaluable experience as a Producer. Looking back and reflecting on these 7 sprints I have had 3 big takeaways thus far. All of them come from growing pains that come with a new team, and
1. Lean on your teammates
When we started this team our goal was to be a human first, and that no matter what we always prioritize the team and the health of the team. When the original team became leads in the second semester many of us including myself decided to try to go it alone and take the world on our shoulders so to speak. As the sole producer I would always take on the management and organization of the team because I could handle it on my own comfortably. However when we expanded I kept trying to do the status quo. I would try to shoulder the world on my shoulders and manage everything. I came to find myself tired and burned out, and I had to take a step back and realize my own limits. I was just one person and trying to manage the large amount of communication pipelines that came with 21 people was an uphill battle. Taking a step back I was able to see that my teammates not only had the ability to help organize the new members, but an actual willingness to do so. Folks wanted to help out and help spread out the weight from that side of things. It didn't mean that I no longer had to produce, but that I could delegate small things to other leads on the team and trust them to do so. I know some folks have found themselves in a place where they can't ask for help, but the biggest thing to remember is YOU ARE A PART OF A TEAM. Your allowed to rely on your teammates because that's what you do. You support one another as you all work towards a goal. This gets me to my next takeaway.
2. Admit when things aren't working out
At the start of this semester we were very confident in our ability to expand as a team and create Project Nautilus and have things just work. Our first two weeks were online and remote and we came up with a team structure that we thought was great. However once we got into being back in person we realized that something felt off and like things weren't moving at the pace that we thought. Another Sprint went by and things were just not getting done and we had people genuinely lost and confused and that led to a loss of work. It took a lot for us to come conclusion, but we had to be humbled and realize that we didn't have a good structure and we had to make adjustments. It took a lot to realize that we hadn't nailed it the first time, but at the end of the day that was what we needed to acknowledge. We had a lot of success in the past semester and we just assumed that would carry over and with a doubling in team size. However it didn't work out the way we wanted to and that's okay. The biggest thing that I know I took away was that things not working out is okay, but what wasn't okay was admitting their was something wrong and doing nothing about it. When we discovered there was a problem we reacted quickly and with the support of our new members we brainstormed a solution. Leading us to a more streamlined team structure allowing for more communication. As a Lead it was incredibly satisfying to help guide the team through restructuring ourselves. This brings me to my final takeaway about all of this.
3. No one is invincible
Going through all of these changes and growing pains while rewarding was definitely challenging. I would be lying if I didn't say that the these changes didn't come with a realization about limits. I have always done everything that I can to help support my team. If I had to be in the build to help make prefabs, I built them. If I had to help run a QA testing session because someone couldn't make it I was there. If someone needed a document proofread I would proofread it. However being there for your team is one thing, but not being there for yourself is another. Being pulled in so many different ways can help the team in the short term, but in the long term it leaves you feeling burned out. I would keep trying to be everywhere at once and this semester I was able to realize that I AM ONLY HUMAN. Its hard for folks to come to term with their limits, but I know that I want to be there for my team and supporting them so they can have everything to do their best work, and the only way I can do that is by stopping and taking a breath. Its crucial for people to advocate for themselves on teams. Teams can't achieve great things if the pieces of that team are not willing to acknowledge they need help and that they are overworked. Because at the end of the day everyone has limits and to be a good teammate one needs to understand their limits, and I'm very thankful I have been able to experience that with my lovely team.
As I write this we are in Sprint 7 and are approaching the next half of our production cycle. I'm excited to see where we go for these next groups of weeks. I have learned so much from this project and I can't wait to grow more as a teammate and as a Producer.