When Wrong Plans Turn Right: A STEP Blog

Siobhan Ali
Monday 3 August 2020

By Iona Bielby

Project: “How do we define what enterprise capabilities look like in real life?”

After a worldwide pandemic abruptly canceled my summer of dream-worthy internships, I was left with the question most students have come to know relatively well: “What am I going to do now?” Seeing that the University was advertising a new initiative to both teach and test the enterprise capabilities of the student body over the course of the summer, I quickly signed up, received an acceptance email, and began to enter the wild digital landscape of the Summer Teams Enterprise Programme.

I showed up to the first day on Microsoft Teams and was subsequently placed in a group with five other students I had never met before. We were given the task to create a series of podcasts that reflected on what enterprise capabilities looked like in real life. Simple, right? Well, not really.

The first meeting was awkward and chaotic. There was a sense of reluctance in the air – of hesitation that this programme could be nothing but boring and a waste of our time. This reluctance was then catastrophically met with a bombardment of ideas from everyone and an overwhelmingly obvious lack of chemistry between any of us strangers.

Wallowing in my own self-pity while wanting to get this project over with as quickly as possible, I debated closing my laptop, walking away, and emailing the STEP coordinators that I was no longer interested. Yet, lost in my own narcissistic daydreams, I found the project coordinator had asked everyone to turn off their cameras if they were not interested in being the project leader. I looked up. All cameras were off and I had found myself, by default, the leader of a group of students I had only just met.

Fast-forward a good seven weeks late when our podcasts are completed and I’m writing this blog post, and boy do I miss it. Our group fell into a clockwork routine where we attended workshops on Mondays (covering opportunity, creativity, leadership, and other entrepreneurial traits) and group discussions on Thursdays where we shared our own thoughts regarding the individual entrepreneurs we had been assigned to research. Our conversations were rich and informed and I was impressed and intimidated by the intellect of my teammates. All hundreds of miles from one another, we cultivated a space of critical thinking underpinned by a unique desire to support one another. STEP not only taught me the core attributes of entrepreneurship, but also the skills of optimism, accountability, and meaningful collaboration.

A lot can happen in seven weeks. Plans get canceled, podcasts are made, and strangers grow into colleagues who develop into friends. Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned about myself was the extent to which I cared about the wellbeing of my team and the final product we delivered. I’m proud to know that this is how my leadership style has developed with thanks to the once-strangers I’ve met with an approach that is caring and above all, kind.

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