As our project concludes, I am left with three emotions: sadness, satisfaction, and hope. I am sad because this marks the end of my time working with my team, Amizade, and CEOLI, who have all been absolute pleasures to work with. My satisfaction stems from the fact that our team was able to deliver what we set out to do, which should help CEOLI accomplish its mission. Finally, I have hope. I hope that we have delivered to CEOLI will allow it to grow into the organization that it deserves to be and continue improving the lives of young disabled people in Bolivia.
Over the course of the semester, this project has provided me with many lessons. My biggest takeaway from this experience was how to organize a project team. With opportunities to meet up limited, working collaboratively was not always easy, which presented a problem when it came to completing our work. However, we were able to get around this by splitting off into two teams: one art show group and one grant search group. As part of the latter, we were able to further divide the work by having each person focus on one grant to explain. Using this approach, we were able to get the most productivity out of each of our members and accomplish a lot more. As they say, “Divide and conquer.”
It was also vital to be able to be organized with time. There were several stakeholders within the project. Most obviously, there was our client, CEOLI, and their parent organization, Amizade. Moreover, there were the coordinators at PittBusiness, our sponsors, and finally, the team itself. It was common to have to correspond with multiple of these groups in any given week, and success required careful management of the work ahead of me. What really helped with this was the GroupMe that our team had. Using that, we were able to stay on top of tasks by reporting to each other and letting each other know if there was anything we needed from anyone. But it was also important to scroll through the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and highlight key dates for deliverables to keep in mind later.
Both of these aspects of organization will help me as I enter the professional world. Across many professions in business, it is common to work in teams, and with growing preference for remote work, the tactics that our team employed during this project will likely become more useful going forward. It is equally common to work for multiple stakeholders at once, particularly in professions like consulting, where you might have to manage multiple clients at once, and in those situations, holding yourself accountable for the needs of each client is important.
The other takeaway that I can take into the professional world is the importance of client meetings. As a consultant, your job is to maximize the outputs of an organization, but to do that, you need to know the inputs. The client meeting is the only way to gather information about what you have in front of you besides documents and spreadsheets. It is crucial to hear the perspective of the people running the organization, or you might miss something important about what the organization does, or what “maximizing output” even looks like. Your clients also have limited time, so you don’t have endless opportunities to meet with them, and therefore you have to make the most of each opportunity. To ensure that, you must prepare well for each meeting. You must have a list of questions ready that will extract the key information you need to complete the project. The client meeting is also crucial for building the relationship with the client. This is how you ensure that your recommendations will be implemented, and how you also entice your client to working with you in the future. Therefore, and especially with Latin American clients, you must use the client meeting as an opportunity to bond and let them know who you are.
This experience will be a great asset to lean on during interviews. Consulting and finance firms are always looking for evidence of ability to manage relationships with clients, and in that regard, this experience has been invaluable. I will also be able to speak about my experience looking at data and reports from previous years and using that as a foundation to deliver something greater. Finally, this experience speaks to my demonstrated interest for consulting, and the passion that I put into improving myself within this field. Prospective employers will surely appreciate the skills that I have taken away from this experience and the indicators that I have given to show that this is the work I want to pursue.
Fortunately, we were able to build off the great work that previous teams have done. For the grant search initiative, we carefully studied the methodology that previous teams had employed in the past and adapted it to fit our needs. Using the reports that we had from them, we were also able to avoid redundancies so that CEOLI could receive some fresh opportunities. Reports from Deloitte also helped us to further understand the reasons why CEOLI was applying for grants, which we kept in mind as we searched online for grants that would be helpful for them. We also benefitted from the help of previous teams, including Sam Hovis, who was very active in ensuring that were progressing in the right direction throughout the project.
Now it is time to leave our work for a future team, and let other students reap the benefits of this hands-on consulting experience. They will come in with fresh, new ideas, and continue to help CEOLI advance as an organization. I hope they know that I am here as a resource if they ever need advice. For now, the main point I would like to emphasize is the importance of communication within the team. Creating a GroupMe is a great step to take, and I would suggest creating one at earliest possible opportunity. This makes it much easier to coordinate with team members outside of class, talk about upcoming deadlines, and ask questions. Having this resource enabled our team to work much more effectively and bond as a team.
On a concluding note, I want to thank CEOLI once again for the patience that they had with us in this difficult time for the organization. Despite the language barrier that existed between most of the team and CEOLI, we were able to build a great relationship throughout the semester. I hope that CEOLI can grow once again after this pandemic is over, and that its children and young adults find success in life. Goodbye, and good luck, CEOLI!