Global Project Program Nonprofits: London, England

Name: Gwen Sieman

My STEP Signature Project was completed while doing the Fisher Global Project Program Nonprofits. During the Fisher Global Project Program Nonprofits I spent the Spring semester learning about consulting and the nonprofit I was working with in May. During the May term, I was able to go to London, England and complete work with my designated nonprofit organization. I was able to work with Soles4Souls which is an international nonprofit that helps distribute shoes and clothing to disaster relief and developing countries for those who wished to start their own business.

First, I learned so much about myself and the business world. More specifically, I learned about being a woman in business. Before going to England, our primary contact at Soles4Souls was a woman, who was very nice and helpful. Since I was the project manager I was responsible for leading the discussions and contacting companies before we visited while in London. During the trip in London, it was very interesting to watch the dynamic between men and women in the office setting. More often than not I was more dresses-up in business attire than the men in my project group, and I often talked more than the other people in my project team. However, regardless of how thoughtful or in depth my questions were, if a woman was conducting the meeting she would make eye contact and listen. On the other hand, if I was in a meeting with a man he would often pay more attention to the males in my group regardless of the content of their questions. I did not think about it until the last week of the project, but it was something I had to keep in the back of my mind. Since I am a woman in business I am likely to be encounter this behavior where men I am working with receive better treatment or more eye contact.

Second, my view of time changed during our stay in England. As Americans, we want everything to be given to us now and on time. On the other hand, in England things are slower and people are less rushed. During a typically dinner at a pub, it would easily take more than two hours. Rather than sitting down and ordering a drink right away and then the bill coming with the food, British people allow people to take their time. It was a strange adjustment since you must allocate more time in your days for meals. However, it was very nice to know that you can sit and enjoy your food. It taught me how to savor things and really enjoy the moment.

The first transformation I discussed above was my view on how I need to conduct myself in a business setting. As a woman, I need to be forceful because what I have to say is important and can be helpful. However, I also need to be sure that I am not being offensive or over bearing. If there is a male in charge rather than a female I may need to change my behavior depending on the situation.

In addition to how I conduct myself, I learn that as a project manager I need to change my leadership style. I believe that I lean towards being a consensus leader, who makes sure everyone’s voice is heard. I believe that everyone has something important to say, and their opinion should be valued. However, at times in business there need to be hard decisions made. In a group of thirteen in London, it was at times difficult to come to a group decision. It was more chaotic preparing for business meetings because people would fail to do so regardless if I reminded the team multiple times. I realized that I cannot be too nice as a leader, and some times decisions need to be made that are not consensus. For example, the night before a company visit I reminded my team to research the company and assigned tasks that needed done. However, some did not finish the assigned work. In the future, I plan on being more direct and stating what needs to be done rather than lead those in my team not do their work.

The last transformation I wrote about was living in the moment and taking your time to complete a task. My team went on a visit to a company that we thought would last around two hours. However, it ended up being closer to four hours. The man conducting the meeting was very knowledgeable and interesting, so asking questions was incredible. During the meeting, he often stopped to let people go to the restroom, but also gave out snacks, coffees, and water. It was nice to sit in the long meeting, but relaxed and in an environment that was timed to be relaxing. He knew when to take breaks and enjoy the time we had as a group. While the meeting group have been long and tiring, it was interesting and captivating. I realized that things do not always need to be quick like meetings or lunch. It is so much better to enjoy and sit back and listen.

I am currently a finance major with a minor in nonprofit studies. The Global Project Program Nonprofits was an incredible experience for me to receive some hands-on experience in the nonprofit sector. However, since it was a nonprofit organization working with for-profit companies it was very interesting to see the relationship between the two and the business interactions. I learned about how to interact as a business professional, send professional emails and follow up emails, as well as polish final reports for companies.

I learned so much about being an effective project manager and leader, which I am excited to bring back to campus and use within SCNO, an on-campus student organization. In addition, as a woman in business, the project has prepared me for the future in a variety of ways that I will undoubtedly require. Lastly, I learned to cherish the moment, which will be helpful whether I am listening in business meetings or I am sitting around a table at dinner with colleagues or even family.

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to use the STEP funding to help with the Fisher Global Project Program Nonprofits. While I have only mentioned a few things that I gained from the trip, I have gained so many more invaluable experiences that I will be able to use as a business professional and human being for years to come.

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