A Pandemic’s Impact on Virtual Consulting

The effects of the COVID-19 reach far beyond individual exposure and health. How do you imagine the coronavirus has impacted the country your client lives and works in as compared to the United States? Do you think it has any significance on your project? If so, please explain.

As our project is coming to an end, I have a lot to reflect on this past semester as my team eagerly awaits to present to Nature Seekers. This has truly been a whirlwind of a semester, with coronavirus being the root of the craziness. There is not one person in the world that this pandemic has not affected in some way or another.

Based on the meetings my team has had with our client, I have learned that the island of Trinidad and Tobago has taken Covid-19 very seriously. Fortunately, our client has still been able to go into the office to work. However, they have not been able to host their beach clean ups. Additionally, travel is only allowed between Trinidad and Tobago, so there has been no international traveling allowed at this time. These strict orders have made it hard for Nature Seekers to earn revenue because their revenue relies on in person events like ecotourism and craft markets.

For the United States, making the virtual transition was relatively easy compared to Trinidad and Tobago. According to the American Community Survey taken in 2016, it found that 89 percent of US households had a computer. This made transitioning to an online work from home platform quite easy for most people working in the United States. With Trinidad and Tobago being a smaller, more rural island nation, this technological shift has not been as easy for people working there. This has obviously affected our project in many ways. Because of this we have had a harder time building a relationship with our client, we have had connectivity issues which causes us to have to fill in many blanks, and we also have not been able to get as much information out of our client as we initially thought we would be able to.

How has working with your client virtually impacted your project work so far? What is challenging about working cross-culturally in a virtual setting? What are the positives?

Working with the client virtually has been a challenging experience for our team. Obviously, working in person is easier to see body language. Seeing Trinidad and Tobago would help us see their culture. This would give us a better understanding of their ideas and different problems that they face. Virtually, we are not exposed to these differences as much as if we would be in person.

Additionally, in order to conduct business, it is vital to have a strong line of communication. Specifically in Trinidad and Tobago, building a strong relationship with business partners is the key to success. This has been a difficult challenge for my group to navigate. We learned early on in our project that Trinidadians have a strong relationship-based way to business. It has been extremely difficult to build a strong relationship with our client given that we are all virtual and there is no in person aspect to this project. Between the natural barrier that exists in relationship building in a virtual setting, and connectivity issues that arise in our meetings, we have not been able to really make a connection with Nature Seekers.

When working with Nature Seekers, our Zoom connectivity has been quite weak. The poor connection issues have led to us missing out on important parts of conversations, having to assume what was said during parts of the meeting, and not being able to watch videos that are embedded in presentations. We have tried moving the calls to emails if connectivity gets bad and send meeting minutes after the meeting to ensure our group heard everything correctly.

Some positives that have come from working cross-culturally in a virtual setting is being able to get to experience a new culture from the comfort of our own home. Being able to make connections with our client and Amizade partner in Trinidad and Tobago while the world is still in a state of lock down is incredible to me. I have learned so much from this experience and will take away many soft skills I developed by working through this project.