The most important part of any Imagine Cup project is the team.
Software development has become more of a cross-disciplinary effort. Today's developers are working alongside marketers, business managers, user experience designers, system architects, network specialists, usability experts, social-media managers, and many other roles. If you're studying programming in school and you imagine you'll spend your career just working with other programmers, you're probably wrong: with the rise of app stores and software startups, programming is just one of several critical functions in making a great project succeed.
And consider this: for many small teams, the programmer may also be the business manager, the marketer, the UX designer, and so on. Certainly, the more you know about those other roles the more successful you'll be in every job you do because you will be knowledgeable and ready to collaborate.
We wanted to recognize this in the 2014 Imagine Cup season and we're doing that in two big ways.
The first way is our Software Development Lifecycle Challenges. These three contests are designed to focus on "soft skills" such as communications, persuasion, business planning, user research, and project management. From the Pitch Video Challenge to the Project Blueprint Challenge to the User Experience Challenge, we are asking your Imagine Cup team to reach beyond coding. We want you to learn about and embrace these other critical roles because we believe they will make your project, and your career, much more successful.
The second way we're recognizing the importance of cross-disciplinary teams this year is by adding a new element to our rules: associates. If you haven't read about associate members in our official rules, please do so now. But in brief, associates are students who are not part of your core team but who contribute their specialized knowledge in areas such as marketing, UX design, music and sound, business planning, and so on. By reaching outside of the programming department of your school and meeting students in other areas, you will learn a lot and your project will be substantially better. And those associates will get an amazing experience for their resume that will help them get that first great job out of school.
Of course, you don't have to get associates to help you. You may have room on your four-person team to bring on someone like that into your core roster of team members. Or you and your fellow student developers may tackle some or all of these roles yourself.
We know that Imagine Cup students are special. Like devs in any small startup, you do a lot more than just code. You're coming up with big ideas, identifying your potential users, and crafting an experience. With the right skills, or the right help, or both, you can build a winning team, make your Imagine Cup project amazing, and graduate from school with something to show every employer you meet.
The right team can change your life. Find yours today!
John Scott Tynes
Imagine Cup Competition Manager
Microsoft Student Developers