The most important lesson I learned throughout this experience is the difference between high context business relationships and low context business relationships. We learned in our class that high context business relationships mean that people think it is important to establish a relationship and a deeper level of trust before / while conducting business. This was an important lesson to learn because I am used to low context business relationships because in the US we frequently dive right into business relationships and do not typically get to know business partners on a personal level. Because our clients live in a country where high context is expected in relationships, we had to be mindful about fostering a deeper personal relationship in order to establish trust. This was a little bit of a challenge to do virtually, but I enjoyed getting to know what we learned about our clients.
This was an important lesson for me to learn because in all consulting business relationships — not just cross-cultural ones — I need to be ready to adapt to the needs of my client. Adapting to meet clients where they are at helps establish a stronger partnership and may lead to longer term business relationships.
One transferable skill I really had the chance to practice during this project was problem solving. The virtual environment tested our problem solving skills as we had to come up with creative solutions in order to do things we would have normally done in person in a virtual environment. Additionally, I had to problem solve to come up with a way to improve the Instagram for @ceolicards. The Instagram’s foundation was already nicely set by one of Amizades team members, but I needed to think of ways to make it even better because it will serve as the main form of promotion for the art show. Through research and problem solving I came up with some changes that could be made in order to improve the interactions and engagements.
Pitt Business and CEOLI already had a very established and strong relationship. This was helpful as we worked on our project. I stated before that CEOLI is in a country where high context business relationships are the expectation. While it was a little more difficult for my team to build personal relationships with our client because of the virtual setting, I could tell that the CEOLI team members were willing to trust us anyway. They were willing to trust us because the previous ICP Bolivia teams had made a positive impression on them. I could tell through our interactions that both CEOLI team members and ICP Bolivia alumnus had special bonds and relationships with each other. This was beneficial in helping my team work with CEOLI despite our inability to physically “meet” them.
I am going to pitch this experience as one of my handful of opportunities working in consulting throughout my collegiate career. Each project that I have worked on so far has enriched my academic experience by giving me additional practice putting concepts I learn into real life scenarios. Consulting allows me the opportunity to collaborate with a team, and work to maintain positive client consultant relationships. One of the most important things I’ve learned about consulting — especially through this project — is that it is important to manage the expectations of each piece of a consulting puzzle. As a consultant, it is important to not overpromise, in order to ensure you don’t underdeliver. You have to be realistic about what you can achieve so that your client is happy and satisfied with the end result.
The three most important things that future groups should know are:
- Your best is all you can do!
Sometimes in consulting work — especially as a student — you won’t have all the answers. Problem solving is hard! Try your best and work hard. When you’ve done all you can…
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
One of the best things about being a student consultant is that you have a wide network of people that are valuable resources — especially at Pitt. Reach out to professors or study abroad advisors or program alumni! Everyone is rooting for you to succeed. Especially in relation to this project, there are so many people that have an invested interest in this partnership, so they want to help you continue creating excellent work.
- Take in the moment!
It is wonderful to be able to build relationships through the consulting project, so don’t take for granted the time that you have to get to know your teammates and your clients. For the future groups that get to visit Bolivia in person, take in the moment twice over – once for you and once for us. One of the biggest disappointments of the virtual semester was not being able to travel to the beautiful country of Bolivia and meet our friends from Ceoli, so make sure to cherish your time when you get to go!
It has been nice keeping up with you all through these blog posts! Here’s to learning, growing, and relationship building! A big shoutout to CEOLI for trusting me to work for them for the semester. This consulting project has been a personally interesting and academically enriching opportunity.