I have been involved in several team exercises and projects during my course at university. Working in teams has always been an experience I have cherished since there are tons of new skills that I can learn from my colleagues. Through them, I have developed my ability to communicate, present my thoughts freely and even improve my confidence to lead a team. Due to my unique position of having experienced the University of Southampton as an international student in both its Malaysian and UK campuses, I have had the opportunity to work with dynamic groups of people with completely different approaches to work and interaction.
Back in Malaysia, when the Mechanical Engineering cohort was just 24 people, taking part in academic group projects was very simple. Due to the smaller class size, everyone in class knew each other as friends and communication was easy. The 24 hour campus meant that teams could meet whenever, wherever, in order to work together – No Shakira pun intended. Moreover, the smaller campus and the fact that most people lived in the same halls of accommodation made the logistics of the entire group-work so much easier since colleagues were easily reachable. These conveniences made the entire team work experience quite relaxed. Since team mates were most likely also friends, work could be discussed in all sorts of settings in a casual way.
Here in Southampton, the dynamics of team work are a whole lot different. You’ve probably never seen most of your team mates before the first meeting. Just like you, they will have their own schedules and so, working out a time for a meeting is a more involved process. Not everyone can make it to the meetings and sometimes a team will have a member who is like a phantom or ghost: enrolled in Uni but untraceable, unreachable. There is usually a lot more pressure in terms of making the best use of the limited time during which the team can actually be together and so the quality of work isn’t always up to mark. On the bright side, since team mates live separately and have different flat mates who are in different teams themselves, there is always tons of help when you need it.
In retrospect, I have learned a lot from both experiences. I have learnt to adapt to new environments and new people quickly. Back in Malaysia, I got used to doing things a certain way and feeling very relaxed about it. Now, I have to be on my toes to communicate my point and effectively participate in a relatively faster paced environment. Also, usually most communication between team mates occurs virtually through a social media platform or emails. In USMC, I realised that within the same group, most people had similar work styles and so groups got on well spontaneously. This is not the case in a more dynamic environment like Southampton; and so, a key skill that I have developed since coming here is the ability to quickly establish good rapport with new colleagues and integrate my working style with theirs.
Picture Source : http://www.reallycoolpicsart.com/2013/01/pictures-of-cute-cartoon-teamwork.html