Through this practicum course, I have become a more resourceful thinker and project manager in the ways I can tackle technical work, particularly with subject material I have not encountered before. My project entailed supporting the implementation of an open-source machine learning conversion tool for a $35B manufacturing company’s data science pipeline. Before I was engaged in this project, I had no previous experience with machine learning conversion utilities, and equipped with only basic coding skills, I was worried that the project could be outside of my capabilities. However, I quickly realized that I could utilize my variety of related experiences and translatable skills to add value to the project.
Setting up a detailed project scope and issue tree allowed our team to continually revisit our project plan and for our team to revise our approach after each of our milestones and client meetings. Professor Mehmet Ahsen also supported our understanding of the technical details on demo, including troubleshooting and proper language use. Through the process of refining our project and understanding through multiple iterations and strong support from faculty members, I am more confident in how to approach the projects that involve technical deep-dives into new concepts as well. In this way, I found that I could be resourceful by using knowledge and skills I had gained from previous projects and apply them to this one.
Moreover, this course helped me to understand the importance of leadership and communication. As I was a part of a group of college-aged peers, I was able to practice resourcefulness by implementing leadership and communication styles that differed from my previous professional experiences. For example, our team was able to discuss the relevance of coursework we had all taken, as well as teachings from the weekly lectures. In addition, by taking ownership of the work, I documented every meeting with the team and client to determine specific action items for the team. Based on these action items, I was able to take part in the meeting by making sure that the meeting is on point and the outcome meets the client’s expectations. For example, after the midpoint presentation, where we focused solely on technical deep-dive of two conversion utilities, ONNX and MMdnn, we moved on to analyzing the industry impact to draw a bigger picture. With specific notes from client meetings, we were able to set up a driving question to guide our research: “what effect will conversion tools have on the ML and Agriculture industries?” This guiding question helped frame our approach and specify our research findings to be applicable to the client’s lines of business.
During our team meetings, I learned that sharing specific comments from the client helped to convey my own ideas on the team on how to approach our research. For example, we focused on specifying the “effect” related to the driving question into incremental and radical impacts based on a comment from our client regarding similarities between the mobile and agricultural manufacturing industry and various components that have driven radical and incremental changes within the two industries. In addition, leading the meetings by making sure that the team had the right questions to ask during next the client meeting in order to get the necessary information to move forward on the project was another great experience I had which enabled me to practice my leadership skills. Although I was not a formal “team leader,” the practicum course provided me an environment in which I could guide the team to maximize the impact of our work. Through weekly meetings, I learned how to effectively communicate with the members, and working closely with 3 other students with varying backgrounds helped me to view these questions and problems through a different lens as well, which helped expand the insights I gained from this experience. Overall, I believe that taking this practicum course in my senior year provided a great opportunity to practice applying skills and knowledge from previous experiences, as well as helped to prepare me for my next journey as a technology consultant after graduation.