For the first time in my professional career (of 2 years :) ), I was going to work with a new manager on a long term project. I had worked with Val to streamline hardware purchases for the SD group in our India office and integrating his mapping engine into my first project. But the move signaled that year 3 was going to be just as interesting (if not more) as the first two years.
We started work on a brand new Sales Planning tool that would become one of the flagship products in our suite once it was ready. By the time I joined the project, there had already been considerable design work done so I thought this would be a breeze. The project team was a mixture of developers with experience ranging from 0 to 14 years. It turned out to be a extremely educational experience for me, as it would give me the opportunity to improve my mentoring skills and work with new technologies.
The first few months were a frenzy of activity in preparing for demos and developing the application as per the design. This period also included my third trip to Evanston. During the trip, I got to be a part of a lot of project planning and design meetings. The application had so many moving pieces we decided to split the product into two. This was a herculean task at a scale that I hadn't faced in the past. The more experienced members of our team were old hats at dealing with these kinds of situations.
One night in particular was particularly memorable (though not enjoyable). I got back to Chicago from New York where I had gone during the Thanksgiving weekend, on Nov 30th 2009. I was pretty tired from my trip but geared up for a long day ahead as we prepared both applications for a very important demo the next day. What started as a simple clean up exercise soon turned into a sprint to get the application to even work all the way through the demo script. True team spirit shone that day/night with everyone in the US working through the night with the folks in India on an open phone line working through their day, jet lag and all. The demo was a success (and everything worked!).
We thought this would be the beginning of a sales spree. But sadly, by January 2010, we were pretty sure that two applications would have no takers. It was time for the management team to take a step back and figure out what went wrong. For the rest of the team it was time to reflect on what was for a lot of people their first professional project failure. For those of us who are the glass half full type, this was another rite of passage and a great learning experience. All said and done this was probably the best thing that could have happened to us. We came out a stronger as individuals, as a team and ultimately our entire business unit benefit from our learning. More on that in Part 2.