6 Amazing Benefits of Starting a Side Project

Final Picture Stembuds
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There are a lot of life skills that you can learn from attending college:

  • How to wake up before noon

  • How to live with a roommate who, despite your school’s “matching” system, does not want to be your friend

  • How to identify a  “bro”

  • How to avoid (or maximize) hanging out with said “bro” (depending on your preferences)

Though these are all very important life skills, they may not necessarily get you a job once you graduate.

That’s where work experience comes in.

“Waaaaa,” you cry, “but how am I supposed to get work experience when I can’t get hired without work experience?”

If you haven’t already, you should watch our video about what our VP of Engineering, Steve Girolami, looks for when hiring entry-level employees. During the video, Steve says that experience doesn’t necessarily have to come from having a job. Certain types of classwork and outside projects can count as work experience because they provide necessary workplace skills.

Don’t believe me?

Just check out these six skills that the founders of STEMbuds developed by creating their collaborative learning website.

1. Self-motivation

STEMbuds was started by three students: Brandon Moffitt, Rehan Muhammed, and Miles Aron. All three were studying STEM courses and enjoyed school, but wanted something beyond what they’d been assigned in class.

They decided to come up with their own project; a project they could apply their knowledge and experience to in a meaningful way. Not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

They saw an area where their field of study could be improved and decided they were going to try to improve it.

2. Problem-solving skills

If you haven’t already read our post all about STEMbuds and what it brings to the STEM community, you should.

If you have, that’s great and you know that it provides students with a place to ask questions and get answers from many different perspectives.

The three founders of STEMbuds decided that their project would be to make this collaborative learning experience accessible for all STEM students.

But how were they going to do this? They weren’t sure.

Unlike their homework problems, this question had no one right answer and there was no one to turn to for guidance. It was up to them to figure it out.

They spent a great deal of time talking over the most helpful parts of collaborative learning, researching other internet resources, and brainstorming what they liked and disliked about the options available to students.

Still, even after all of that, the initial solution they came up with is completely different from what STEMbuds is today. They worked through trial and error to come up with the current site layout and question and answer format.

3. Time-management skills

Not only were there no right answers to any of their questions, but there were also no set guidelines or due dates.

At first this freedom felt liberating. They were overflowing with ideas and would have hour-long brainstorming sessions followed by sleepless nights as they let their minds roam over the ideas they had discussed and the ideas they were still forming.

But just talking about something doesn’t make it happen. Especially when school started back up again, it became evident that timelines would have to be put in place (though even with time constraints, sleep didn’t seem possible).

Having never taken any business courses, Brandon, Rehan, and Miles researched what went into starting a business, finally decided upon an actual starting point, and created a business plan for themselves.

4. Adaptability

None of these guys had any experience building a website. Things started to get complicated as the actual construction began. After realizing how limited their coding skills were, they knew that certain aspirations would have to change.

Not only that, but the more conversations they had about the website, the more it morphed and changed. Sometimes it would change so drastically that the things they had been working on were no longer needed and they realized a different approach was necessary for accomplishing their main goals.

It was hard to abandon these tasks that had once seemed so important, but the boys recognized the need to cater to the “big picture” and how necessary it was to be adaptable.

5. Customer service / User experience skills

One of things that Brandon, Rehan, and Miles were sure of was the fact that the user was the most important person when it came to STEMbuds.

They were, and still are, very encouraging when it comes to feedback. If there’s something that users find difficult or annoying, they want to know so they can change it. It doesn’t matter if it’s their favorite part of the site. If it isn’t working for the user, well, then it has to go.

They’ve included a “feedback” button at the bottom of the STEMbuds website and have a Facebook page that they check regularly for any comments that might help them improve the site.

6. Communication skills

Throughout the entire process of building STEMbuds, all three founders were constantly talking things over with each other. Since its completion, they have continued this high-level of communication. Even though Miles is currently doing research in Switzerland, they work around timezones so they can regularly chat on Google hangouts (and these hangouts are for more than just the awesome disguises). The founders are always brainstorming ways to make STEMbuds even better.

Brandon, Rehan, and Miles may not have formal work experience, but there’s no arguing with the fact that they have the skills necessary to enter the workforce. I’ve only named six, but working through this project has no doubt opened them up to most of the skills employers look for in employees. It’s funny that creating STEMbuds actually forced them to think in non-STEM ways.

Homework time! Firstly, if you’re a STEM student and you haven’t already checked out STEMbuds, go do that now. Then, start thinking of a “side hustle” of your own. What’s a project outside of your schoolwork or current job that will set you apart in your industry?

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