Cliche as it might be, but no pain, no gain

I am truly grateful to have spent this semester with a supportive client, a responsible team, and some great mentors. We have encountered many challenges along the way, but at the end this was a really valuable learning process for me and my team. We have gained not only the machine learning algorithm knowledge that will help us advance our study, but also skills that will last a lifetime and provoked career thoughts that will help better position ourselves in the market. 

Reflecting back to this semester, there are multiple moments when I doubt the question why does the client need business students when the situation is technical. What unique value can I bring as a business student? This question lingered in the back of my mind while we worked through the project. I have learned that, perhaps, the reason why we are brought to the situation was to assess the issue from all perspectives, the people, the technology, and the context. Though the client’s problem would be solved through a specific technical tool, assessing if the business’s context would be suitable for this tool, if there are going to be any people resistance, etc. Those are things that students with business backgrounds can be applied to before calling in engineers to implement the details. 

I have always heard that consultants need to be fast learners and have a flexible brain because changes happen so fast. It was not until I had to learn the technical details of the ML algorithms in need that I realized how fast I needed to be, especially when there is pressure of time and performance. It was overwhelming at the beginning but I was optimistic and took on the tasks without hesitant. As we dig deeper into the concepts, I have realized there are more details to learn. I started to feel exhausted as the concepts got harder and it seems like there is no end. The challenge lies in knowing when to stop and how to prioritize which concepts are the most important to the client. After several discussions with my teammates and the client, we were able to narrow it down to 2 machine learning algorithms and then we did more detailed research comparing those two and see how they can apply in the client’s situation. 

In addition to navigating project management challenges, the project also gave us a chance to practice making a memorable presentation. The senior managers encouraged us to incorporate credibility, simplicity, emotion factors into the presentation to make it trustworthy and fun to listen. This exercise changed my stereotype of a professional presentation and I will keep those factors in mind next time I need to tell a story. 

Looking at other teams’ presentations also opened my eyes to different technology tools that businesses are currently employing. The other teams did such a good job on the presentations, it inspired me to research into those tools as well. It was such an honor to be in the same class with them!