Building a Website From Scratch With Zero Experience, Part 1: Challenges

Just a few years ago, I had zero experience in IT project management. I spent a decade in the hospitality industry, developing projects for cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, and travel agencies.

But I recently took on managing an IT project as part of my role here at JetRockets. I led a team in developing a new website for our company.

The experience was challenging but rewarding. I discovered that with courage and the right background as a base, you could build anything, even without experience in the field. 

Some of the biggest challenges I faced during this project were:
  • New Industry
  • Unrealistic Deadlines
  • Constant Issues and Bugs
  • Other Business Duties
  • Lack of Communication

New Industry

IT was a new industry for me. I spent years in hospitality and knew that environment well. But IT involves totally different cultures, norms, attitudes, and processes.

Fortunately, I had enough training to build off of. Thanks to three online programming courses, one Product Manager course, and some general technical savvy, I started from a good foundation.

Unrealistic Deadlines

Dealing with unrealistic deadlines is almost a rite of passage in the IT industry. An estimated 21% of software developers say their deadlines are unrealistic.

Tales of plans gone wrong go back at least to the 1960s, and many terms and rules of thumb have sprung up in response. For example, Brook’s Law states that adding developers to an already late project will do nothing but make the project even later.

At first, I thought we could develop a website in 1 to 1.5 months. After all, how hard could it be? We’ve all seen and used thousands of websites in our lives.

I was absolutely wrong. It took us 4 months in total, partially due to my lack of expertise. Fortunately, the team was very supportive, and we made it through in the end.

Some developers say that however long you think a project will take, double that number. In this case, even that would have been a low estimate.

Constant Issues and Bugs

Coming from a Swiss hospitality background, I am used to things being perfect or near perfect. The Swiss are famously precise about everything from train times to chocolate.
But the software is rough. You are guaranteed to deal with near-constant glitches and bugs on any project. This stressed me, as my inner hotelier was screaming about things not lining up.

In the end, success in a software project takes patience and a willingness not to be 100% perfect. In any case, perfect is the enemy of done.

Other Business Duties

My main job is as JetRocket’s Business Development Manager. I lead sales processes, meet customers, identify their needs, negotiate terms & conditions, and forecast revenue. 

Since those are my primary duties, I had to continue to run the business side of things on top of running the website project. To say I was busy is an understatement!

But taking on all this responsibility was undoubtedly worth it. No part of any company is an island- the developers impact the business side of things, and vice-versa. It was beneficial to get a sense of how the technical part of JetRockets was running to make better decisions as a Business Development Manager.

Lack of Communication

Communication can make or break a project. Good communication means team members work well together, tasks are allocated efficiently, and stakeholders are kept in the loop about project progress.

The more complicated the project, the harder it is to communicate effectively. Front-end and back-end need to coordinate, QA Tester and Project Manager need to coordinate, and everyone needs to align their goals with the client. 

As you add nodes to a graph, the number of edges increases rapidly if every node has to interact with every other node. And one weak connection can drag down the entire operation.

The Value Of Taking On Challenges

Challenges help you grow. Despite all the headaches, I was glad that I took on this project, because it helped me understand our company and the industry more. 

In the future, I will be better prepared to take on similar challenges. Building the same website won’t take 4 months. Constant issues and bugs will be expected. And I will know how to facilitate communication for my team better.

In the next part of this 2-part article, I’ll take a look at exactly what I learned and how you can apply the same lessons to your project.
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