Meet Ryan, Nilay, and Matt. Ryan, a junior operations & information management and informatics double major, Nilay, a junior computer science and statistics double major, and Matt, a senior computer science, mathematics, and economics triple major, are members of BUILD UMass.
BUILD UMass is a technical consulting group that works to provide nonprofits, startups, and local businesses access to software development, web development, and an overall boost in their technological processes. Nilay and Matt are the co-founders and presidents, and Ryan is the director of business development at BUILD, spearheading a group of 35+ students spanning across more than eight different majors.
BUILD UMass is a tremendous opportunity to not only grow professionally but give back to the community by providing technological solutions to nonprofits and local businesses. Let’s take a look at what goes into running such a remarkable student organization here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
What's the mission of the BUILD UMass?
Nilay: We are trying to provide students an avenue where they can leverage all the things they learn in class — especially regarding technology — to aid local businesses and non-profits. Often, these non-profits and local businesses lack the funds, manpower, and expertise to employ people to do these technical tasks, so we provide these services to them for free.
How long have you been involved?
Ryan: I have been involved in BUILD since last December, fall semester 2018.
Matt: Near the end of my freshman year, which was around May 2018. That’s when we started thinking about the club because we wanted a way outside of our classes to develop some of our skills and have more of a community in the Computer Science Department. We started to think of ways in which we could do that and that’s when we ended up starting BUILD in the fall of 2018.
Why did you get involved?
Nilay: I think one of the major reasons for me to start BUILD was that I could see a serious disconnect between students involved in computer science and the way the entire field and curriculum is composed. We were able to learn a lot of really cool things in class, but often times we were not able to use these skills and experience how they work in the real world, which is one of the biggest driving forces for us to get the club started. We wanted more hands-on real-world experience, and at the same time, I am really passionate about trying to help other people, especially those in need. I felt that it would be a better way for me to use my expertise in technology to help people, because I felt using technology I would be able to impact a greater number of people in a given time span rather than going in and using a more traditional method.
Ryan: I came into UMass as an OIM major in Isenberg but I then quickly realized that it would be beneficial to have a technical background in addition to the business classes I was taking; this is why I ended up double majoring in Informatics. After leaving a TA session for CS 121, I saw a poster for BUILD on the wall. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to use what I had learned in classes and gain more experience with it. I also liked the idea of being surrounded by people that actually knew how to code well — whereas I had only just started getting into it — giving me an outlet to improve my skills. I applied and suggested how I could help with the business aspect to the club, and that is how I ended up joining and starting the business development section of BUILD.
What kind of leadership experience and skills development do you get from your involvement?
Nialy: One of the biggest leadership skills I was able to develop from BUILD was the ability to manage a lot of projects, and being able to delegate tasks. Prior to BUILD, I had held a couple of leadership positions but none of them required me to lead a team this big. We had grown to roughly 26 members in our first year, and now we are up to almost 38 members. This requires a lot of trust and delegation, so being able to delegate tasks effectively and distribute them to multiple people to try to get something really big up and running was something that I learned how to do during my time span here. I think this is one of the biggest skills I have learned that I value tremendously.
Matt: With our projects, we really want to make them team activities. While some could be completed by one person, it is important to us that everyone is involved and is learning new skills. Figuring out how to make sure that everyone stays involved even when it might be easier to do it another way is a skill that I have gained from my involvement at BUILD.
Ryan: The biggest leadership skills I have gained was the ability to come in and start something from scratch. Tackling all the different pieces of our business operations and trying to build it up was pretty difficult. In addition to that, finding a team and delegating them to different task while making sure that everyone is on track was difficult. It is one thing to say that you are doing these things, but it is another to actually implement them successfully. It took a lot of effort to make sure that people were doing everything correctly and that our desired image was being portrayed, so learning how to effectively handle the operations of our club was a big skill that I have gained.
What is a project that BUILD UMass has completed?
Nilay: One of the projects we worked on last semester was building an HR management platform. This platform was designed to track employee skills and used different algorithms to suggest the managers who would be ideal to be promoted based on skills and work ethic to avoid favoritism in the work place. This was a rewarding and challenging project that truly pushed our team to work together and provide the best solution and product to our client as possible.
Who should join this club?
Ryan: Everyone. With BUILD, no matter what your major is there is some part of the club that you can influence and be a part of. You can pitch the importance of your role to the team as I did with our business development section if what you are looking for is not yet a position. You can be impactful in BUILD even though it might not fall under our given positions, we are always open to new ways to expand and improve.
Matt: Anyone who is interested in working on a longer-term project. Most of the projects we do are a semester-long and you will stick with them for the entire time. I also agree that any major would be a great fit in BUILD. We have over 10 different majors currently so there is a place for everyone here.
Nilay: Anyone who is interested in being impactful and using their skills to aid non-profits and local businesses is heavily encouraged to join BUILD. Additionally, if you are interested in working in the tech world, whether it be in a technical or non-technical position, it is a great experience to be able to work in teams and function in ways similar to how companies in the technology industry do.