Upskilling next-gen developers from Mapúa Institute of Technology

Every so often, On-Off Group likes to deviate from the usual corporate audience and take our workshops to a younger crowd– students! Their endless curiosity and willingness to learn makes students among our favorite participants.

So when the WebMasters Guild of Mapua invited us to hold a series of seminars for them, we jumped at the chance to share the wonders of UX Design and Design Thinking with a student audience and it was worth it.

A new kind of class is in session

In true On-Off Group fashion, we took the boring, lecture-filled seminar and flipped it on its head. For our first workshop, Phil, our Managing Director and Lead Facilitator, gave them a dynamic, activity-based introduction to User Experience principles and best practices. Despite the challenge of condensing our all-day workshop in just 2 hours, it proved to be a success.

As it turned out, it was the first time that the organization had ever experienced a workshop-type seminar. “I expected it to be like the usual talk, with the resource speaker just sharing their knowledge with the audience”, said Justine, one of the event organizers, “but it was a very different experience because the activities were so unique and engaging”.

The audience’s positive feedback prompted Alianna, the COO of the Webmasters Guild, to invite us back. She shared with us that they, “didn’t think twice to reach out to Phil and ask him to hold another workshop but this time for Design Thinking”.

So last June 9, Leo, our Design Thinking Strategist and Facilitator, taught them the fundamentals of Design Thinking through lectures on the power of Empathy and Customer Insights as well as key activities like Ideation, Persona-Creation, and Prototyping– all in just 90 minutes. After the event, we sat down with some of the organizers and participants to hear about their experience.

Empathy: pass it forward!

For the organizers, the event was very successful because of the level of engagement and learning. They were amazed to see that the participants who they did not expect to stay for the whole workshop were among the most engaged during the activities. “The results of the workshop went beyond my expectations”, said Jeff, a Computer Science major in his 3rd year.

There were participants that caught onto the concept of Design Thinking from the get-go. Junie, also a Computer Science major in his 3rd year, said that: “When I first came across Design Thinking, I knew that it was the better framework to use”.

He first encountered the concept when he attended an event wherein Phil was part of the panel of judges. Junie said that Phil accommodated all of his questions, much to his delight and surprise. Phil encouraged Junie to never stop asking questions so that he can continue to “grab that ambiguity” and “expand his curiosity”.

Junie said that he was so inspired by Phil’s insights that he recommended On-Off Group to his school organization, Webmasters Guild. And that’s how this workshop came to be– it’s always so amazing to see the network effect at play.

Junie’s key learning from the workshop was the concept of Empathy. Prior to the workshop, Junie felt that he often became engrossed in creating his project and too biased in the output.

“Because of UX and Design Thinking, I realized that I have to consider the customer more when I am programming. I often ask myself, ‘Kung ako ‘to, ano ba yung kailangan?’. [If I were this user, what would I need?] I realized that kailangan ko makiramdam sa kanila [I need to empathize with them] and Design Thinking allows me to put myself in their shoes.”

With this insight, Junie said that he now designs with his users in mind. This allows him to get rid of the unnecessary features and focus on the user’s needs. He now sticks to a process of “designing, consulting with his users to get their feedback, and adjusting accordingly”.

Out of all the workshop’s activities, Junie appreciated pen-and-paper prototyping the most. He enjoyed “the use of sticky notes and fast iterations” and felt like “it promoted active learning”.

The workshop even made believers out of those who had doubts about Design Thinking. Rhianna, a 2nd year IT major, shared with us that when she was first told about the event, she thought to herself, “Do I really need this? How could this impact my technical work?”.

But by the end of the workshop, she had experienced the benefits of the framework firsthand. “Once I applied Design Thinking in a team setting, [specifically] when we had to generate ideas and create a prototype, it exceeded my expectations”, she said.

She was so convinced that she recommended On-Off Group to two of her friends taking Computer Science in DLSU-Manila and and both of them ended up joining our internship program. Again, the network effect in action.

Imagining a new kind of curriculum

The participants went on to say they would recommend our workshop to their fellow Computer Science students and wished that their own curriculum would incorporate Design Thinking principles and practices. Sueanne, a 2nd year Information Technology (IT) student, added to this by explaining that she had already experienced the benefits of a Design Thinking-based curriculum when she previously studied in Singapore. “I came from a school that used Design Thinking and the rate and efficiency of what you can do with it is much higher. You can’t compare it.”

Sueanne believes that Design Thinking could help grow the Philippine IT industry because “teaching it in school would help students adjust and avoid culture shock when they enter the workforce.” Justine added to this by saying: “After this workshop, I realized that Design Thinking is a skill that we will all need when we graduate and enter the industry”.

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