The lessons I learned throughout this experience almost entirely relate back to transferrable skills. Transferable skills are things that cannot be taught in the classroom, but you need to learn through your experiences. This class has strengthened my transferable skills not only because of the in-country component, but because of the way the project was structured and the independence we were given to complete it.
The key transferable skills I think I learned are communication, teamwork, and flexibility. These skills were taught to me through a variety of lessons that I learned while abroad and while doing the project here at Pitt. Communication with my group members has been vital at all points as the timeline of this project is fast paced and it is important that we are all using clear communication. In country we also needed to communicate with our client, which meant we needed to adapt our communication style to fit theirs.
Another transferable skill I learned was teamwork. This is a skill that you develop when you work on any team project, but this one in particular broadened my skills. This project involved meeting face to face a lot because we were working on documents that needed to flow together. At first- our group attempted to split up the scope of work into sections for each person to work on. We quickly realized this wasn’t going to work as the document needed to flow together and all of the parts related to each other. This meant we needed to meet, a lot. Getting eight schedules to match up for a lot of busy students who are also working on another CPLE project was difficult and it often meant we needed to meet at inopportune times.
This taught me the importance of being responsive and flexible with a team. We all needed to be ready to meet at moments notice because we never knew when something we were doing would need to be changed or fixed. When we were working together in a meeting it would often be on work that was very collaborative, this meant we all needed to be present group members, we couldn’t afford to have anyone step back and not speak up with contributions.
However, in some instances, it didn’t help to have all eight of us working on the same thing. It was important for us to realize when something was a task for the whole group, and when we should split into our smaller groups of four that we had established earlier in the semester. One thing that made these groups unique from dividing work in another group project was we would still always make sure everyone from the other group knew what was going on with this part of the project. This was important because any of us could be asked any question about any part of the project and it was important we were all on the same page.
A particular instance I can think of that taught me the lesson of communication as well as adaptability was when we needed to give our “presentations”. We started adapting our communication before we even traveled abroad because we changed the word presentation to “collaborative workshop”. This was in attempt to make our communication style more casual, to fit the traditional Trinidad way of talking to each other. When we were actually planning on doing the workshop, we started to learn the lesson of adaptability. The workshop was planned for a certain time and then kept getting moved back until it was moved all the way to a whole new day. This meant we needed to be flexible as we kept preparing for the workshop and then the plan would be changed. Even while doing the workshop we needed to be flexible since one of the members was also watching her kids and needed to be getting up and leaving periodically. This is not something you usually experience when giving a presentation in America and it taught me an important lesson in being flexible and working with what you do have. Some of my group members did a great job at seamlessly catching the woman up whenever she would return to the table.
I think I will use these skill immensely in my future career. I am majoring in accounting and I am interested in going into the audit line of service. This line of service means you need to have really good communication skills with the client, your manager, and your team. This is similar to communicating with the professors, the DORCAS women, and my group. Prompt and clear communication is necessary in the Audit practice and I think a project working with a real client is going to really help me in the future.
Also in the Audit practice you need to be able to spend a lot of time with the same group of people and still be productive and working on a team project. This is pretty much exactly what we did in Trinidad. And, while busy season is nothing like a week in Trinidad, there are some similarities with the team work aspect. In Trinidad, we were never away from our team and we were never not working on our project. Since one of our goals was to build relationships with the women we were almost always working. Before we left we also needed to meet a group almost every day as we would have no access to last minute printing or working on things. This meant we had a lot of long meetings where people were tired and burnt out but we needed to keep pushing through because we had promised a client something. This will have some similarities to working in Audit because there is such a big difference of working on something for a grade and working on something for a client.
Looking back at my first reflection, I predicted personally I hoped to gain relationships with the women in Trinidad. I predicted that having a strong personal relationship would help when doing workshops because it would feel more natural. Looking back, I think this definitely turned out to be true, I am glad we didn’t do any of the workshops until we all felt more comfortable with the women. This meant it didn’t just feel like we were coming in and telling them things they had to do without trying to build a relationship with them. I think looking at the relationships as a goal we can definitely say it was a success. Even though we only spent a week with the women, when we left it felt like we were saying goodbye to our close friends. I know they also felt that these relationships had grown strong and this to me felt like a success.
Another thing I predicted I would gain academically from this project is time management skills and knowing the importance of meeting with a group face to face. This is all very true looking back, this project involved unique time management since we had to get everything done before the trip, we really had no other option. I also talked about how even though the scope of work is hard to write, it will help in the end that it is well written and I think this is true. Our scope of work is well written and that has helped us when organizing our deliverables and making sure they are exactly what we planned for them to be. I think this has helped me learn how important it is to plan ahead especially when doing a project for a client or with a group.
I also predicted this class would help me develop some professional skills I will use later in my career. Looking back to the beginning of this blog, that is very true. I have learned a lot about the Audit practice this semester and the more I learn the more I realize I can connect it to the work I am doing in this class. I don’t think I would be able to say that if I had not taken this class.
As for challenges that arose there were a few of them, I think a challenge we didn’t predict about the project was we might not be able to get everything done in country that we had planned. We didn’t realize the schedule we had made would be so flexible and we maybe wouldn’t get everything done that we planned while in country. The main deliverable we had planned to do in country that was not completed was the SWOT analysis for the DORCAS women. This was something that we had planned as a collaborative activity, so the challenge was how we were gonna make it collaborative while not in the same location as the women.
Our solution to this was to do half the SWOT, filling out just the strengths and opportunities and then send it to the DORCAS women to fill out the weaknesses and threats. I think this was a good solution to our problem, and it showed our flexibility that we gained throughout the semester. I am not sure we would have thought of this solution if it had been the beginning of the semester before we had gone on the trip and done the project.
Overall, I learned a lot of lessons from this class and from the in country portion of it. I think this class taught me a lot of skills I usually would only learn outside of the classroom, and they are skills that will help me in my future job. As for expectations, they were generally what I expected, and more. I would say most of my expectations were exactly what I expected, which in a way was not what I expected. I am so glad to have had this experience and it is one I will never forget.