I approached this class with an open mind, eager to see what experiences the class has to offer. As I am majoring in data science in grad school, I thought that my project that had to do with machine learning was a perfect opportunity to learn from. This project was challenging in that it was an unfamiliar topic that I had no foundation in. The first time I read the project description, I only understood that it vaguely had something to do with machine learning. I was unsure of the specifics and was thoroughly confused during the kickoff dinner as my team and I tried to pinpoint what exactly the central issues were. During the project, we often found ourselves struggling to understand the topic we were researching or the troubleshoot issues we encountered as we tried to code. I learned to utilize outside resources and experts to help combat these issues. We reached out to experts via GitHub and worked extensively with our mentor. As I am interested in the career of a consultant, I realized that I may encounter similar issues in the future and learning to find outside resources is a skillset that I believe will prove very valuable.
I challenged myself to take on the role as the team leader and was in charge of client contact. I have learned a lot of valuable skillsets from taking on this role, and am confident that it will help me excel in my future career. For instance, I remember struggling during the first kick off dinner. I did not know how to engage or start a conversation with my clients. I remember coming to the first client meeting at the site with only the Engagement Agreement and Project Plan and that was what I planned on discussing that afternoon. After the meeting, I asked my team how they felt about it and they said they felt that we were unprepared. After that meeting, I always compiled a PowerPoint and an agenda on what we will be covering in each subsequent meeting. I send a copy of the PowerPoint a few days before the client meeting to our client so that they have a heads up on what we will be discussing. I realized that the preparation contributed to the overall flow and work structure of the project. In the middle of the project, our client reached out to me to give me feedback and advice on ways I could better structure the weekly client meeting PowerPoint. After taking his advice, I found our meeting much more productive and the discussions with our client more engaging. As we ended our project and delivered our final presentation, I believe I definitely improved regarding client engagement and mastered sending emails and hosting meetings professionally.
This class has helped me understand how to manage a project and the importance of seeing the big picture. This was the first time I managed a project and I realized the importance of being organized and having a plan. I mapped out the project and divided it into phases. I had to confirm with both my team and my client to make sure that was a feasible timeline that everyone could work with. When analyzing what were best ways to conduct analysis or research, I always had to think about whether the work we were doing would ultimately tie in to the end project and the bigger picture. It was definitely challenging, but I feel much more confident going into the real world with this experience under my belt.