An Unforgettable Experience

In the start of this academic year, I remember seeing an advertisement for this new course being offered the following semester. I was immediately interested because I thought I would learn many skills through experiential learning and working with real clients on actual business operations. Professor allowed me to enroll in the class even though I was a sophomore at the time and it was meant for juniors and seniors. Following our first class session, I was nervous because I was not sure if I had the right background skills and knowledge to be successful. I thought I might have made a mistake by signing up for this class and I contemplated dropping it and maybe taking it later down my college path. Seeing that half the class had dropped the class by our second meeting did not make my decision any easier, however I decided to stay in the class and try to learn as much as I can. I knew these skills would be valuable to learn early, so I would have a strong foundation to build on as I progress in my career and become an upperclassmen. 

Looking back on my experience now, I believe that I have learned a great deal from this consulting project.  I have experienced growth as a problem solver and team member from the beginning of this project till now. Our fortune 500 client wanted research on open source machine learning tools and their potential impact to the agriculture industry. I have been interested in learning more about machine learning, which is why I was attracted to this project. Though I had no previous experience, I wanted to learn more and felt like this was the perfect chance.

 The scope and goals for the project were constantly revised as we met and updated our clients on our progress. This experience taught me a lot because in normal school work, I feel like I am so used to being given a straightforward problem and having to solve it. However, in this case, the key step was understanding exactly what the problem truly is. I appreciate this new skill because I think it will be very useful for me in the future no matter what specific career path I choose.  Once understanding what the problem is, our team brainstormed specific techniques to yield a solution. We broke down the problem and used our resources to become knowledgeable about the open source machine learning tools and how they could impact our client. As a team, we never expected to have to build a model using the machine learning tools, however we ended up doing this as well for our client. No one in the team had strong technical skills in terms of machine learning, however we were able to overcome this.  I think having this experience is very encouraging for me because now I know that no matter what I encounter, I can find a way to figure it out.  

This class and project have also led to my communication and presentation skills further developing. Throughout the semester, we presented to the class and clients frequently. This helped build my professional skills on how to communicate with clients. I also learned from my upperclassmen teammates the key points in building powerpoint slides. They helped me make slides visually pleasing by only putting key information. The weekly presentations also helped my presentation skills due to constant practice in front of real people. 

Overall, I am appreciative of all the applicable and vital skills this class has taught me. I had a great experience in my first consulting project and hope to do more in the future. This class embodies the meaning behind experiential learning, and was a great addition into the school’s curriculum. I am very happy with my choice of staying in the class! As stated previously, I feel much more confident in my own abilities as I head into the last two years of college.