MSBA: Practicum team Dynamics

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In this day and age where data rules the world, being a data analyst is like changing the world in the middle of a storm. The field is getting more sophisticated day by day, and that is why I decided to join the UC Davis MSBA program last year. This program has allowed me to learn essential skills while networking with friends and colleagues who share similar interests worldwide. One of the other advantages of the MSBA program is the practicum project. In the practicum, we get the opportunity to work with an outside company, tackling real-world problems, using the skills we learn during the course.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

I have been very fortunate to be in a team filled with motivated and talented individuals and work on a significant project. We work with a media non-profit, KQED, based out of the Bay Area and is a part of the consortium of non-profit media organizations around the US. It boasts of an audience base of over a million and many nationally syndicated programs. However, like any other non-profit, it depends on donations from private and federal sources, and around 60% of its budget comes from individuals. Due to the quality of its content and large user base, KQED has largely been spared from the high donor churn rate many other non-profit organizations face. However, it is still a concern, and we are tasked with coming up with insights and suggestions that can help KQED increase its donor retention.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Collaborating with KQED has been a wonderful experience for two significant reasons:

1. We are gaining experience working on a challenging problem with a natural effect on society as KQED broadcasts entertainment shows and educational videos available for free to listeners and viewers.
2. It is helping me find my identity of working in a team.

I have worked on various teams in my academic and professional career, but almost always, most of us have a similar background or possess a matching set of skills. However, at the MSBA practicum group, I am working with people from 4 different countries and 2 different continents, speaking various languages and possessing varied skills. This experience is helping me realize my strengths and weaknesses of working in a diverse team, similar to what we can expect to be working in after graduation.

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It is interesting to experience the dynamics of leader and follower in a group. During our MSBA program, we have learned that being a follower is as essential as being a leader. Before I go ahead, let me explain what I mean by follower or leader. A follower is a person who accepts guidance or follows orders, with the ultimate aim of helping a group of people achieves a target. A leader assumes the responsibility of guiding or commanding a group of people towards a common goal. A follower is equally critical to a team’s success as a leader. Even though we have pre-defined roles for all the team members, there is no one leader. Anyone can assume that responsibility based on their personal experience and expertise tackling a particular section of the larger goal. This has many benefits:

1. Every team member can explore various aspects of the project, which can help them decide about their future job.
2. Every team member gets the chance to become a follower and leader, and hence, they realize their strengths and weaknesses and decide on a correction course based on their interests.
3. This approach also benefits from not isolating a part of the team from the larger picture. Instead, everyone in the group stays on the same page and progresses together, an essential aspect of an efficient team.

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

This structure has worked well for us as we have been proactive in learning from our mistakes. Since every team member is aware of the project’s overall progress, everyone can pitch in during team meetings, leading to some ingenious ways to solve the problems. Personally, I have realized that I am good at following rather than leading. I learned that I like working on the technical aspects of the project, and I would love to know more on the technical front. I can develop my technical skills more efficiently by being a follower.

I realize that such a team structure is only possible in a small team; as the number of team members grows, it becomes more challenging to have everyone on the same page. But, in a small group, our flexible structure has worked well, and we have made good progress in our project.

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