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Final Reflection – TI2011

I will not lie when I say that this class surprised me a lot. I think disruptive or different styles of education and teaching are refreshing and should be implemented more in universities. In this article I will explain why my Project Evaluation course this semester exceeded my expectations and I will share some of my final learnings and reflections.

Previously, some of my colleagues had classes with Ken Bauer, but I didn’t. The common opinion was that «we don’t do anything in his classes», so I thought that was a bad thing and since they didn’t do anything I wouldn’t learn as much. This was my first surprise. In Ken’s classes, the students who really are interested learn tons without doing much work. The ones who are just heating the bench end blank at the end of the course.

In my case I was the first category of student. Since I have some experience organizing events and being a team leader, I was really interested in project management. I didn’t have an idea of what it was to be one in a professional scenario, just knew some theory. In this class I learned new theory and also connected with this world in which you meet reality. The format of the class is simple: learn theory by reading a very good book, discuss it in class and have conversations involving those read topics. Homework (which are reflections of the chapters of the book) doesn’t have deadlines and the student chooses when to deliver them. This is a double edged sword.

Luckily again, I have been reading for the past year all about time management to take control of my life at fullest, so it was no trouble facing this challenge. In case a reader is interested, my personal organization method consists of a mixture of two books: Getting Things Done by David Allen and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Boosted by other productivity books, I am in the process of developing a reading habit, so my assignments turned out to be easy. By making reflections and discussions of the content read, understanding comes easier, so in the end I pay attention to a whole lot more concepts in a book as opposed if I read it alone and in one day.

This is the first part of the course that I liked but there are other key elements I identified that enhanced my overall experience in it. Creative freedom is one of them. The usual format in which student deliver these reflections are blog posts, just as this one, but the reality is that you can make any type of material to present your reflections. I made the first ones written since it was faster, and later in the course I got bored, so I started making songs and placing my reflections in the lyrics. This was as valid as a written blog post.

Finally, since Ken knows a lot of people, some with spectacular careers, he invited them to our sessions to discuss and answer project management topics. In this way I was able to learn more than just the theory: I saw what is like to be a project manager, locally, or international, in a big enterprise or in a startup, in the video game industry or in classic software dev, etc. It was awesome.

The main thing that I learned is that there is no secret formula to being a successful manager, because each situation is unique and every project must be handled their own way. Key common elements in success are empathy and passion. You must be able to get along with all people and work your was around them in many types of decisions. Emotional intelligence and soft skills (as Ken calls them, «the real skills») are just as important as coding knowledge. Passion is also needed, because you must be able to believe in your project. If you are fascinated with the idea you are building, you will act in the way that it will bring the best results possible.

Being the perfect manager isn’t easy. A thing that I learned is that you must know as much as the people you are managing to be the best. So if you think about it, the manager has a broad knowledge in both hard and soft skills. It is pretty tough work, but at the same time it intrigues me, I have always liked big challenges. I would like to become a manager one day, or be the creator of my own business, but the course changed my perspective. I didn’t want to be a code monkey and was planning to jump straight to managing, but now I want to observe the whole industry inside out, top to bottom, before managing.

With COVID-19 pandemic, we are stepping in a drastic change in the world, so I think managing will change a little. It would not be that drastic, but it will end up being the same job. A manager must work with the resources he has at the moment and with the environment he is at, no matter what. I have the fortune to have some remote managing experience while I worked in Apple Education, and I know it is possible to bring the same results this way. Same skills are needed, same job can be pulled off, just format changes.

In conclusion, I took a lot out of this course, and I consider it my favorite this semester. I learned that sometimes less is more with a class dynamic. I also learned that there is a whole lot more than it seems in management. I leave feeling motivated, because there is a long way to go, things to learn, experience to gain. Day after day we must keep improving ourselves to reach higher places, and I’m sure the global pandemic isn’t an obstacle.

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