See Your Work Product in Its Natural Habitat

April 15, 2013 Trace Wax

I took a day off of work recently, and learned more about what I was working on than in several months of coding.

My current Pivotal client project is CaseCommons, using web technology to modernize child welfare and foster care so social workers can spend more time with kids and families. We’d just completed a large set of work about court hearings, and now I was attending one. I went to see my friends finalize their adoption of two little boys they’ve been fostering, with their wedding to immediately follow.

Everything I’d done and learned paled compared to seeing the judge and social worker speak about how the kids’ lives improved in my friends’ care. One of the boys was in a wheelchair a year ago, and now here they were joyously laughing and running in circles around their new parents as the adoption was completed and wedding vows were spoken.

I talked to the social worker at length and learned things I hadn’t yet come across, like how most adoptions are with extended family members, my friends were the exception. I also saw the clerk entering the details of the court hearing into their computer system, which looked like it hadn’t been updated since the 1990s but it still was blazing fast. They’re not using our product yet, which is much more streamlined. But they’ll expect it to be equally responsive.

Now, whenever I’m doing a feature or fix for social workers, I see Tania’s face as she hugs the children and speaks with my friends about the kids. When I work on court hearings, I see the clerk navigating so quickly to enter in all the many details.

I won’t always get to work on helping people help kids. But when I move on to my next Pivotal project I can’t wait to set aside some time much earlier on, to look users in the eye and truly understand how what we’re building will make their lives better.

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