Spring Week 9 – Cali Chesterman Postmortem

It’s been a rocky road.

4 Good —– TLDR: 
(1) I love our characters
(2) I learned a lot about computers and rigging
(3) We overcame our challenges
(4) I didn’t turn in deliverables late

  • I loved the designs of our characters and the world. We have established a fun color palette and cartoony characters. We stayed true to keeping purples in our project and bringing a feminine touch to the senior year.
  • When I came to college, computers were strange, magical machines to me. I am not and have never really been great with tech, but I surprised myself with how much I knew how to troubleshoot issues. I developed an appreciation for rigging, which works a lot like how computers do, or at least my understanding of them – upper and lowercase letters make  a difference, moving a file will break the data, and the project needs to be pre-organized with a logical workflow. I learned a lot about computers on a personal level.
  • Two of our biggest challenges were working with / animating a quadruped and learning/working with Renderman. I think we’ve overcome these challenges as a team, although it was a learning process. I made a lot of mistakes along the way that I won’t make again.
  • I wasn’t a TERRIBLE project manager, but I wasn’t great. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on myself, but at least I never turned in deliverables late… except first term. We were all trying to get into the swing of senior project and made a few mistakes.

3 Bad —– TLDR:
(1) I sucked as a project manager and was too accommodating
(2) Too many cooks / opinions diluted our project, I got worn thin
(3) Our advisor was too fickle

  • This was my first time managing a 9-month project, and I have done a terrible job. I feel I let my team down repeatedly, making dumb mistakes, and getting berated for it, but not really knowing how to fix the problems. There are situations I thought were non-issues until they became issues, like establishing a naming convention for files, or finding a more professional way to communicate and store files besides Facebook and Google Drive. It was also bad for me to assume that everyone knew how to do the basics, because everyone was taught differently – this caused a LOT of problems. It is easy for me to manage myself and my pipeline, but difficult when everyone has an established personal workflow, and trying to be accommodating of them. I was too accommodating — but I also didn’t know if my way was the right way, so I didn’t enforce a way to do things. Now I know.
  • There was a lot for me to juggle between listening to my teammates, listening to our advisor, listening to the head of senior project, listening to the outside faculty, worrying about resources like server space, and available lab space to physically work in, all while trying to work, take classes, do personal upkeep, and figure out my life after graduation. My apartment also got robbed and I lost some important tech. It was wayyyyyy too much to handle and took a heavy toll on me. It was also stressful to deal with teammates waiting until the last minute or flat missing deadlines (myself included), not using the project management software, and having different working schedules early on. A lot didn’t line up, but also sometimes people didn’t meet me halfway when I went out of my way to make sure their work/school/life schedules were accommodated for. It was very, very stressful trying to be the person that each person needed me to be and I wore myself too thin taking care of everyone but myself.
  • Our advisor has been scary hot-and-cold about his feedback. One week he would tell us how great we’re doing and to keep up the good work and approve a lot of ideas/storyboards/workload. After an all-faculty presentation, he would completely 180 on all of his feedback and be seemingly irate at us and himself for not seeing all the glaring holes. Months later, he would approve the same exact thing he told us to change in the past. It was a headache trying to appease him because his needs would change constantly, and one day he would approve of something and disapprove of it the week later. I’m not just a dumb student that has a problem with taking criticism. I’m a frazzled senior project manager that is trying to juggle the fickle needs of her advisor and the requirements of the senior project

4 Learned —– TLDR:
(1) 9-5 jobs are a privilege. I know I can crunch when I need to, but not for months at a time.
(2) Have a support network outside of school/work, and don’t bring personal life into workplace.
(3) I need project management / leadership training.
(4) I need social interaction in my workplace, not strictly solo computer work.

  • In the past few months I have been in the labs every day for 40-70 hour weeks. It has taken a terrible toll on my mental health, my immune system has been destroyed (I got sick 4 times, and got two bad infections, when I rarely ever get sick), personal life, and relationships, as I’ve had to repeatedly prioritize school work over family and social life. I’ve been absolutely miserable and on edge as my laundry piled up, my significant other being constantly disappointed (but understanding) of having to cancel plans, leftovers molding in the back of my fridge, and general neglect of my home and myself as a person. I had to take a leave of absence from my job, which has been hurting me financially. I’ve learned that having nights, weekends, holidays off, even a 9-5 job are all privileges. I can survive crazy hour weeks in crunch, but I might accidentally kill myself from personal neglect if I don’t make time for myself.
  • Work is stressful enough without having to be at the blunt end of other peoples’ personal problems. It has been imperative having friends outside of my “workplace”. Our work environment got toxic for a number of reasons, both the people and the conditions of the labs, and the only people that never wanted to talk about work were people who didn’t even go to my school. I value the hell out of those people. There was a point where the criticisms and beratement stopped being about the project and came directed at me as a person. As much as my teammates are/were my friends, there is a certain level of professionalism I wish was maintained. Halfway through, I learned it’s important to keep my mouth shut about my personal life in a work environment.
  • If I am ever going to lead another project, I need formal training. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing half the time, and it was difficult for me to be assertive without feeling personally guilty about it. To some extent, this project is “our” project, but I don’t know how/where to draw a line between creative freedom and meeting deadlines.
  • We would spend all day together in the labs and not talk much, and often the only talking would be crits or needs for the project. That’s harsh, after not socializing all day. I’d go home and be mentally exhausted from not talking and moving much, but physically awake and shaky. I need to have social interactions – I don’t think I can sit in front of the computer all day like this. There has to be something to look forward to… I really have liked my jobs with customer interaction … I need people.