Director of Engineering, 2014-2015
RISE was a student organization which used technology to mobilize students and pique their interest in politics, and encourage them advocate for socially conscious policy. RISE aimed to promote its mission through education, storytelling, advocacy, mobilization, and technology.
While I led the engineering team, I worked with developers to build software, design APIs and develop tools which would help engage people to push for immigration reform. Since I also lead front-end development, I get to work closely with the RISE design team to ideate, design and prototype new concepts, which I then brought to life along with the rest of the engineering team. The back-and-forth, constant brainstorming and the ability to move across disciplines and iterate quickly was probably my favorite thing about working with RISE.
Our first project was the "Stories" page – essentially a full-bleed interactive map that tracked and helped tell the stories of immigrants who came to the United States by defying great odds. Activists used it at rallies and events to help raise awareness about immigration reform. People could read immigration stories and send then to their state representative in the form of a printed letter, in order to pursuade them to take an active stance in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
Challenges: We hit multiple roadblocks while trying to iterate quickly after getting feedback. Since we were printing and sending actual letters and postcards, we were legally obligated to store the sender's address, which in turn forced us to require account creation. From the end-user's perspective, we'd envisioned it to be as simple as walking up to a computer at the rally, viewing a story that moved you, and clicking a few buttons to send the letter. The fact that they'd have to spend time signing up, providing their address, reading a story and then sending it – usually with other people in line behind them – was enough to dissuade a lot of people from using our tool. People liked our tool, but our dropoff rate was high because we were asking for sensitive information and requiring account creation because of legal constraints.
For #passHB3528, our second project, we found a workaround that increased overall conversions: Instead of asking the user to sign up/log in, we only asked them for their name, city and their ZIP code. Since the letters and postcards were printed under RISE's name anyway, we used our office address, and signed each letter and postcard with "Sent by RISE on behalf of [person], [city - zipcode]."
I designed RISE's identity and brand, and the initial release of the website with Chelsea Choi – we based our colors on the American Flag. White and Navy as a base, with Crimson for CTAs and headings.
RISE's objectives and manifesto changed to some extent, and we tried to get our second iteration to reflect that. We realized that it's hard to introduce young people to politics if we present a formal image (like we did with our last iteration), because the politics has a million negative connotations asociated with it. We went with a brighter colors and typefaces that say, "Hey! We're friendly, but we mean business."
Our previous brand and identity screamed 'Murica, which wasn't exactly what we were going for with our revised objectives.
At the moment, undocumented students in Illinois cannot apply for state or federal financial aid. HB3528 is a house bill proposed in the Illinois General Assembly which will enable all residents of Illinois equal opportunity to apply for monetary aid and scholarships. We built an advocacy tool that lets residents of Illinois send postcards to their district respresentative, encouraging them to support HB3528 in the Illinois General Assembly. After we pushed this live, the tool received 600 hits, and 87 postcards were sent to district representatives in the first day alone. I designed and developed this tool along with Neville Jos, our backend developer.