Community Spotlight: Luke Lewandowski
Co-founder Luke discusses how ParentalEQ is helping improve the mental health of parents across Australia and the UK.
At ParentalEQ, co-founder Luke Lewandowski and the team are hard at work providing a service that helps build emotionally strong families. A few of our Software Engineering students got to work on the app with Luke, gaining valuable insight into how real developers think and build.
Thanks for chatting today, Luke. Can you tell us about the service ParentalEQ provides?
ParentalEQ is an on-demand counselling service designed to help with the challenges of parenting. Parents can log on to our app anywhere, anytime and start a conversation with a counsellor without needing to make an appointment.
We worked with a team of psychologists and put together simplified, practical parenting knowledge that’s delivered in specific modules. The modules come with suggested activities that parents can carry out with their kids.
Initially we offered just the self-help modules, but early in 2021 we realised that parents also wanted to access a mental healthcare professional for personal guidance and reassurance that everything is going to be okay. That’s when we introduced on-demand counselling, which has really rounded off the service we’re able to offer.
Whatever a parent’s challenge might be, we aim to provide professional advice and relationship-building activities that help them move beyond it.
Was there a ‘turning point’ or moment when you realised the importance of ParentalEQ?
There certainly was. Very early in the project we discovered 50% of adult mental health issues actually stem from traumatic experiences that occur when people are aged 14 and under. That was definitely a ‘woah’ moment for me and my co-founders – it really spurred us on and reaffirmed our sense of purpose.
We wanted to find a solution to the accessibility problem and realised that if parents are able to receive qualified healthcare assistance in good time, they can prevent these issues from escalating and becoming a chain reaction of problems as kids move through adolescence into adulthood.
When the project started, pre-covid, the wait time for psychologists was about 30 days. Since the start of the lockdown, that period’s increased to a number of months. Lots of the clinics aren’t taking on new patients right now and probably won’t for the rest of the year. It’s creating a second pandemic of unresolved mental health problems.
Helping families to recover from the stresses and strains of the lockdown environment is going to be a long-term fix. The ParentalEQ app will hopefully play an important role in that process. Our ultimate goal is to make a high standard of mental healthcare accessible to as many people as possible, exactly when they need it
Why did you choose to bring our Software Engineering students into the project?
I actually brought Academy Xi students on board to help develop a few of my previous projects. The results have always been great. Once the ParentalEQ project reached a certain point in its development, I decided to get some of the Software Engineering students involved. They were joined by some of the Academy Xi UX UI students and everybody worked together beautifully.
There was lots to be done, so the engineering help was valuable and it gave the students the experience they needed to launch their careers. The students take a leap of faith in their own abilities and it can lead to a total career transformation – from a taxi driver yesterday to a software developer tomorrow.
Four students stepped into the project and the assignments they completed are not throw-away – it’s been something to put on their CVs, show to prospective employers and say “look, I helped develop this product.”
It was a partnership that worked out nicely – the Software Engineering students helped us improve a product that’s on the market and they were able to showcase their contribution to that product in interviews. For everyone involved, it was a win-win scenario.
How did you find working with our students?
I also find the Academy Xi students are like sponges in how they collaborate – they really want to learn as much as possible and are completely open to discovering a more effective way of doing things.
Completing the Software Engineering course asks the students to develop a range of new skills quite quickly – so it’s my responsibility as an experienced coder and software developer to show them how to apply those new skills. They arrive with a toolbox of Software Engineering skills and I show them what work to do with what tools, which really crystallises their development.
I was also very impressed with how the students worked as a team. They arrived from all walks of life, but really bonded and supported each other. Those are vital characteristics to develop, because in the real-world you’ll be working in scrums with a number of professionals and getting things done collectively.
Would you consider working with Academy Xi students for future projects?
Absolutely – it worked perfectly, but at the moment I’m carrying out most of the development work myself. That said, I’d be up for doing something similar in the future. It’s the perfect environment for the students to apply everything they’ve learned, and they also learn some completely new skills at the same time.
I really enjoy the mentoring role the student projects place me in. The students were applying for jobs parallel to completing the assignment, so I also gave them non-technical guidance by helping them polish-up their CVs and prepare for interviews.
It wasn’t just a transactional arrangement of ‘you complete this task and then you’ll graduate’. I dedicated time to giving the students additional mentoring and did everything I could to ready them for that shift into the Software Engineering industry.
That’s wonderful to hear, Luke – thanks! We’ll look forward to working with you again soon and we’ll also keep an eye on the ParentalEQ app. It’s a service that makes a huge difference for all the families using it and we’re proud to be involved!
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