Meeting the Team
So you’ve all submitted your PIs. That was just a few percent of the whole PW journey. You are now about to embark on arguably the most crucial stage of your journey: meeting your groupmates. You may have certain expectations and some of you are undoubtedly filled with a sense of anticipation. Will I get a good group? What if they suck? Will I still get my A for PW?
This first article aims to help you pull through the arduous task of Project Work with as little pain as possible.
The most important thing to remember at this time is not to hold any prior opinions against them and have an open mind. I was thrown into a group of people whom I initially presumed would not be dedicated enough. I was pretty much convinced that I would have to ‘tank’ all the work. However, as the journey progressed, they (thankfully) proved me wrong. They were willing to stay up until 2 am almost every night during the PW block period to work tirelessly on our WR. They sacrificed their public holidays and weekends just to have meetings and work on the prototypes. We all had the motivation to get that distinction so we learnt how to work together despite our diverse personalities.
This entire prospect of working together with people who aren’t on the same wavelength might be intimidating but you must remember to accept each others’ shortcomings. Show your team that you are willing to work equally as hard (if not harder) so that everyone will be spurred to achieve the best out of this PW journey.
The first major decision you guys will be making together as a group is the idea that you’ll be working on for the next seven months or so. This is the crux of your PW journey which determines whether the journey will be a smooth or rocky one. An unconventional idea shows creativity (something which teachers regularly harp on) yet the more offbeat a topic is, the harder it is to find relevant research materials. You might even end up confusing yourself when you reach the WR stage.
Pick a manageable topic (which could still be somewhat innovative) and excel at it using an extensive amount of research and interviews. My group decided to explore the influence of fitness media which is widely found and accessible on the internet. We then designed a fitness mobile app, which was a combination of a calendar, calorie counter and fitness tracker.
In addition, PW will constantly test your communication skills as you need to muster up the courage to voice your opinions, however awkward it may be. My group’s entire solution was distilled from a usually quiet and non-assertive person who finally decided to come out of her shell and voice her opinions. Basically, do not withhold constructive feedback as you could be withholding valuable ideas which could revitalise your project.
The heartache from not having your PI chosen for the WR will eventually fade away but choosing an unsuitable topic leaves a permanent stain. For everyone’s sake, cast your pride aside and look at every PI rationally.
When under pressure, my natural confidence and bravado unfortunately morphed into a stubborn proudness that made me loath to relinquish my ideas. My group always had to change and re-write chunks of our WR because it wasn’t good enough. I hated the idea of my work being subpar and this led to simmering resentment which made me give less than my hundred percent.
Anyway, if no consensus can be made on whose idea to chose, then start a new PI from scratch. Yes, it is daunting, and you’re basically discarding five different people’s work, but your group may actually come up with even better proposal instead. Look at it this way – many minds can harness more creative energy than one. Whichever the option, the bottom line is to reach a decision as a group without wasting too much time.
PW definitely is not going to be smooth-sailing. Tension, irritation and bitterness are just some of the many feelings in this cauldron. They are unavoidable but should not hamper the team’s progress for too long. Ultimately, all of you must reach a constructive end by mediating conflicts. After all, don’t you want to look back on your PW journey and remember it as an enjoyable one?
No matter the extent of your disdain for the subject, you can acquire important life skills through PW. Yes, PW can enhance your future well-being. Shocking. We know.
For one, it teaches you work well with people you disliked. You learn to identify your groupmates’ strengths and weaknesses, which can be leveraged upon for the benefit of the team. My group had this tech junkie who handled everything IT-related, from designing posters to even websites. Another girl had an excellent command of English and supervised the team during the WR stage.
PW demands meticulous organisation. You need to note down points discussed, concerns that need to be followed up on and specific tasks to be undertaken. One of my group mates had a ‘checklist fetish’. He would come up with a checklist after every session, even if it was just a short discussion between two people.
The group must constantly check in and ensure the pace of progress is satisfying. You want to meet all deadlines comfortably, but do not rush and compromise the quality of your efforts. It’s integral that no one is kept in the dark or overwhelmed because PW is all about working like a well-oiled machine where every cog is fulfilling its purpose.
Caitlin, Nathanael and Priya are all extremely relieved that their PW journeys are FINALLY over. Between them, they share an A and two Bs and are now writing this column to advise the next generation on the potential pitfalls which they encountered (and sometimes fell into) along the way. They would like to wish all the new J1s good luck for PW. You’ll need it.