Coding, Collaborating & Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed

What happens when a handful of ambitious software programming students collaborate with an international growth company, devoted to helping entrepreneurs succeed?

In our case, the outcome was a time tracker made specifically for entrepreneurs.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to February 2018 when everything started.

At Zervant we’re creating better ways for entrepreneurs to get paid for their work. You can imagine that this mission keeps the Zervant team quite busy. However, it doesn’t stop with easy invoicing methods. We also want to improve the way entrepreneurs keep track of their working hours. That’s why we sought out help from the coders of the future: software programming students from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki.

Erja Nikunen, a principal lecturer at Metropolia, explains:

We have a new course where we’re looking for ways of teaching functional programming in different languages, like Java and Clojure. When I heard that Zervant was offering a project on Clojure, I thought that this is a really good opportunity for our students to deepen their knowledge of this programming language.

For Mika Laurila, lead architect at Zervant, the prerequisites were clear:

From our side it was important that the students had knowledge of developing backend applications and competence in User Interface JavaScript. The chosen team of students was a great fit.

Learning by coding

The students took the responsibility of delivering a backend code for a time tracker. In return, the Zervant team offered them the possibility to learn technologies such as Clojure, React/Redux and alternative ways of coding.

The intentions were good and expectations high:

I had to learn Clojure, Typescript, React and Redux – this whole project was a big learning experience for me. The best thing was that we could specialise in the things we were most interested in,

says Metropolia University student Kasperi Närhi.

Communication is key

As with every collaboration, challenges arose. Both parties agree that there were a few communication issues at the very beginning:

The biggest challenge we faced during the 4-month project work was the communication.

says Helen Tran, a member of the Metropolia student team. The lack of information flow caused some delays and confusion for both teams.

Mika from Zervant adds:

The students have dedicated two working days for developing the time tracker. Synchronising our schedules was problematic at the beginning. Sometimes we weren’t able to provide the needed information on time. However, the communication significantly improved during the course of the project.

The solution was to communicate more often and more effectively, both online and by meeting face to face.

Helen continues:

I learned a lot about communication and team work, because for me it’s not that easy to open up and share ideas. With this project I really had to step outside my comfort zone and grow. Everything I learned from Zervant will for sure be useful for my personal future and career.

The initial goal for the students was to develop the backend for the time tracker only. However, they’ve been working really hard and taken this project seriously. So after four months, we didn’t only get the backend, but also the base code for the user interface. They clearly exceeded our expectations.

An eye-opening experience for both sides

Mika comments on the outcome:

They were a good team to work with. We got a feature we can integrate to the product, and the students got some work experience. Now that we know them and they know how we work, there might even be the chance for future employment.

Helen sums it up:

This was a really eye-opening, humbling experience that I really cherish. It made me see the potential and impact I can have working as a developer and working within a team.

A big thank you from the whole Zervant team to the students of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki. Your time tracker will help thousands of entrepreneurs all over Europe to keep track of their work.

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