It’s hard to believe that our semester and time with CEOLI has drawn to a close. Despite our virtual-only contact, we found that we were able to enjoy a relationship with the client, getting to know them more with each meeting. This has resulted in a bittersweet goodbye, as it is both calming and sad to think that we are now done with our work. I still hope that one day I have the chance to go to Bolivia, to see all of the amazing sights that Jean-Carla and others described, to (try to) dance with Rodrigo, to cook with Ariel, or to paint with the kids. For now, I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet everyone and learn as much as I did.
I have no doubt that one of the reasons we were able to form and benefit from a relationship with our client was due to Pitt’s past involvement with them. Ours was the fifth year of the partnership with CEOLI, so we had many resources even when we were just starting our work with the client. There was a lot of information for us to look through and brief ourselves on, so we did not enter any meeting “blind”. We were able to form an idea of what CEOLI was like, what they have done and do for their community, and how Pitt has aided this. As we began our own relationship with the client, we added to our understanding where they were now, as well as what they could use from us. It became clear what our deliverables would be, through more conversation with both the client and our Pitt contacts, Arielle and Hillary. With their thorough knowledge of CEOLI and their goals, it was much easier to discuss how we could help the Foundation. We were able to see past work as we started ours, which was focused on one new and one continuous goal. Grants were an objective that previous groups also shared, as CEOLI is working towards a more sustainable and independent financial position. The group I was in was focused on the former, which was to develop the plan for an art show. Since this was a newer goal, we had to be careful to not rely on past reports and work too much. Though, we did find a lot of it to be useful when it came time to incorporate card sales into marketing as well as the event itself. This has been a long-standing objective for the partnership, and is one we kept central to the idea of the art show. We hope that our work has furthered the relationship between Pitt and CEOL!
There were also many opportunities for us to learn from the experience, as we developed both our relationship to the Foundation as well as our deliverables. It was clear that we would be furthering skills we had, while also building new ones. As some of the situations I had never been in before, I can definitely say that adaptability is key, as I had to be open to these new circumstances. This was part of the reason I applied for the program, as I wanted to gain experience in previously unexplored areas. One of these was working with an international client, which was both exciting and slightly challenging, but overall was a lesson in flexibility. Though we were lucky to be in the same time zone as Cochabamba, we had to adapt our styles of communication as well as our pacing of it. Bolivia is a high-context culture, which means that they focus on relationships over information, and this differs widely from the methods found in the US. An example is our mid-way meeting, where instead of a more formal presentation of findings with charts or graphs, we opted for a conversational style discussion of what we had done so far and what we were planning. We also were continuously careful to leave spare time in our talks, to ask the clients how they were, share how we had been doing, as well as for translations. We were lucky to have a few native speakers, which definitely helped facilitate smoother conversations. In this way, I learned to be patient and always tried listen to what others were saying very closely. Despite the virtual environment and not meeting our clients, communication is a skill that can always be built upon, and we were sure to do so. It was only through Teams, Zoom, emails, GroupMe chats, and shared documents that we could have had a chance to complete our work. We were sure to check-in frequently as well as collaborate and/or meet when needed to adhere to deadlines. I know that thorough communication, as well as teamwork, will be crucial skills in my future. I can see utilizing these as early as this summer, as I take on a new position as an intern at a management and logistics consulting firm.
On the topic of internships, I am sure that I will be using the International Consulting Projects experience as a highlight of my resume in the coming years. I would say that it was a near-perfect introduction to the field, as it met or exceeded my expectations. I was slightly nervous at the start, as I did not have any background and was unsure if I would enjoy the work while actually doing it. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I completed the deliverables as well as the semester. Though I must admit I may be slightly biased, I was very passionate about the art-related event we planned as well as the meaning behind it. I was able to bring my background from an arts high school, which helped my motivation for the project. Overall, I was most satisfied by the fact that as much as I was helped by this experience, the client was too. I knew that they were always the focus and center of our work, as everything we did was to aid CEOLI. Helping a business, foundation, or client is why I was drawn to consulting, so I was very grateful to have this experience as my first. It has solidified my interest in the industry and made me want to work harder to get to where I want to be,
Although our time with CEOLI is ending, I know that as the fall begins, a new team will take on the project. My advice to them would be to stay open-minded and flexible, as you consider any and all solutions to an issue or ways to approach a goal. Going into this experience, we were under the impression that our show was to be held in-person when the circumstance allowed for it. When we learned the intention was for it to be virtual, we had to adapt our ideas accordingly, re-thinking our methods and initial understanding. I suspect the next team may have a similar moment, as they may have to come up with a completely new goal if the art show has already happened or occurs early in the semester. Besides continuing grants, I am unsure what they would be working on, so I wish them well in developing what I know will be a successful new plan for CEOLI. Although they may be working on something not done before, I would still encourage them to look through the past group’s reports and documents. These can give a better understanding of the Foundation, the past group’s objectives and how they achieved them, as well as how they can continue work such as grants or card sales. I would also say, don’t be afraid! Reach out to other group members when you need to, and you will need to. There is probably someone else who is in a similar position, and would appreciate a gesture of collaboration. Use the tools you have, virtually and hopefully in-person! Start conversations early and keep up the communication as needed. Lastly, always remember to keep the clients in mind. They are the reason for everything we do, and we depend on them just as they depend on us. It is crucial that decisions and deliverables are tailored well and client-centered. The more you can do, the better, but quantity is not more important than quality! Make sure everything will benefit them, now and in the future.