Tough Situations Build Strong People

As my last semester as a sophomore nears to an end, I have much to reflect upon. While I still allow myself to think about the experiences I missed out on, the ones I gained are more important. When I first started this program, the fear of the Bolivian presidential election was the only event that my team and I thought could prevent our travel to Bolivia. With the COVID-19 impacting everyone, I’m forced to consider how this affects everyone globally. This has led to me being a more selfless individual. With this development, the virus also brought upon many other lessons for me.

My primary intention for this class was to learn about consulting. Although I derived many other lessons from this experience, I did gain firsthand experience in what consulting entailed. Friends of mine who had previously taken this course had raved about their experiences but even their stories could not prepare me for the work that went into providing value to our client. In addition to the typical insight of consulting, this course also showed me what happens when we are faced with obstacles outside our control that affect our ability to deliver the final product.

I also learned more about the importance of teamwork and collaboration. This entire experience was very demanding, but I can honestly say that my members made the situation more manageable and enjoyable. Due to the large scope, teamwork was essential to completing all the work. Although I knew a majority of my team members before the class, as a whole we became very close and bonded over our shared experiences. By having a common goal, we were able to combine our strengths and ideas to benefit our client. Additionally, we were able to motivate one another while teaching each other something.

One transferable skill I’ve developed is my persistence. When news of our trip being canceled was announced, it felt like all our hard work was gone within seconds. However, we knew that we were still providing our clients with valuable information that they will be able to utilize in the future. Not being able to meet the students of CEOLI was very discouraging but thinking about them also drove me to provide the best work. With many other groups that had planned to go to Bolivia canceling, our partnership with Amizade became even more important than ever. We showed our dedication to the client and they understand how passionate we were about the work. I hope to work in Supply Chain in my professional life. COVID-19 has proved that international emergencies can disrupt the supply chain of the work rather quickly. I cannot let the disruption hinder my motivation as I’ll still have many people depending on my work.

Another transferable skill I’ve developed is my communication skills. I never realized how much I relied on in-person communication to relay my thoughts and messages. Before this, being glued to my technological devices was not seen as a good thing, mainly by my mom. But now, it’s the primary method of communication with my professors, peers, and boss. When my boss first got in touch with me via email to continue doing remote work, she told me that in these times it’s better to overcommunicate than anything. Our weekly check-ins were replaced with quick emails being sent to one another. This could also be seen in my group. Quick texts were sent to one another at odd hours to relay random thoughts. There is no time like the present and we had to utilize every second we could to stay in touch. Supply chain involves dealing with suppliers on a global scale. Communicating with them so that every step in the chain is synchronous is very important. Because it’s on a global scale, I will not have the luxury of meeting the suppliers face to face all the time. Therefore, communicating with them regularly and thoroughly so that everyone is on the same page is very crucial.

Pitt Business’s continuing relationship with Amizade was only strengthened during this experience. As word of COVID-19 spread, all the other groups affiliated with Amizade slowly backed out of continuing the collaboration. Pitt Business’s decision to travel until the very end only reassured our clients that we had their best interest at heart. As soon as it was decided that we would not be traveling, we immediately pivoted to a new plan and alerted our client of this. Showing them our new plan and continued passion for our work will only help future consulting groups. When the relationship is strong, they will be more likely to implement our ideas and provide us with the resources we need to finalize our deliverables. We continued to build trust with the client. This will also benefit future groups if problems arise that prohibit them from providing their final deliverables. Past interactions and events will prove that we care about them and that the trust we have built will not create concern for the lack of performance. This experience very much contributed to managing the relationship between the client and Pitt Business on a long-term basis. During our calls, we inquired about how CEOLI and the local community were doing. Not focusing solely on business matters but also their wellbeing showed our concern and sincerity. This developed relationship will also make it easier for future student consultants to bring up issues or concerns they may have. The only downside to the relationship is the barrier of communication. We saw this as we had a Zoom meeting with our CEOLI contact, an owner of a Bolivian juice stand, and an employee at a Bolivian marketing consulting company. It was very hard to communicate with them. This was because of the difference in languages and technical difficulties that arose. But we remained patient to receive all the information we needed to complete our recommendations.

The obstacles that COVID-19 caused will be a talking point for individuals for an indefinite period of time. For interviews, it will be a chance for professionals to demonstrate their transferable skills. This project put all of our skills to the test. In interviews, I would highlight the decision making, communication, and adaptability skills used. A group of fellow Pitt Business students and I were initially tasked with consulting for CEOLI, a center for disabled youth and adults, to improve their streams of revenue during the fourth year of a ten-year plan. However, it turned into so much more. While our team shared the same passion to provide the clients with the best material, we were also challenged with keeping this dedication through troubling times. We were thrown into unchartered territory and navigated it as a group using solely technology. Before, we had used mainly in-person meetings to exchange ideas and complete our reports. The COVID-19 outbreak forced many businesses to close and with that, our communication with retail stores was abruptly halted. We made the decision to gather as much information as we could for next year’s group. My group and I wanted to provide next year’s group with all the resources and information they needed to continue this plan as quickly as possible. Ultimately, the client was the most important component to consider and all our actions centered around providing them with the most value. I will now have the perfect answer when asked for an example of “adapting to change.”

One of the most important things I’d highlight to future groups is to keep the client’s best interest at the forefront of your mind. They come first regardless of the situation. While it was easy to be discouraged by the cancellation of our trip, the realization of what this means for the client overshadowed those feelings. This was a great opportunity for my group and myself to gain valuable consulting experience. But for our clients, this is so much more for them. If you have a passion for consulting, this experience was an excellent way of emphasizing the most important part of consulting: the client. The second most important thing is to pursue every opportunity that comes your way. With this project, you need to utilize your personal connections to make progress. Even if they don’t amount to anything, it’s best to put as much effort into it as you can so that you can be proud of the results. The last piece of advice I have is to expect the unexpected. If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that you cannot always count on your plan to pan out perfectly. Therefore, be able to pivot easily and have a backup plan. If obstacles arise, know the goals you want to achieve and think creatively about ways to still achieve as close to the goals as possible. At times I felt defeated but it was worth it.

While this experience was not what I originally signed up for, I am thankful for every part of it. Each moment I spent talking with my group, clients, advisors, or doing research provided me with lessons that I will be able to apply to my every day and professional life. With that being said, I want to thank everyone involved in their experience. I was able to navigate these hard times because of you and we now share these experiences.