QUEST Goes Global in 490H
Immediately upon joining QUEST, one hears about the challenge of 490H. One hears that it’s demanding, realistic, and enriching- the pinnacle of the QUEST program. This spring, eight students from Cohort 23 have ventured even further outside of their comfort zone for their 490H projects. For the first time ever, the QUEST Program has teamed up University of Maryland students with students in Australia and Sweden.
“Providing an opportunity for students to work on projects with geographically dispersed teams has been a goal for the program for the past 5 years,” explained Kylie King, QUEST’s Program Director. “When asking our alumni how QUEST could be better-structured to prepare students for the real world, this emerged as a significant opportunity for improvement. Funding from the Office of International Affairs helped make this possible.”
Students working on the global projects have not only welcomed the challenge but say it’s right-in-line with what they signed up for when they decided to join QUEST two years ago.
“I think one of the biggest goals of the 490H consulting projects is to give us a relevant ‘real-world’ experience while we are still in college,” said Andrew Dicken, who, with Shmuel Gold is paired with a team from Sweden. “Working with international teammates is a very realistic challenge that many professionals deal with on a daily basis in 2016.”
These students were not only up for the challenge, but some even searched for it and welcomed it with open arms.
Joseph Dadzie, who with Alex Huang is paired with an Australian team and client, says he ranked all of the global projects as his top choices. Currently studying chemical engineering, he’s interested in working internationally in the future. “I’m involved with a lot of global programs at school, and I studied abroad,” Dadzie said. “Gaining a better global perspective is something I value.”
While the time differences and geographic positionings are two of the most prominent challenges these students face, through today’s technology, these students have been able to adapt and adjust. Being able to critically think through their group’s challenges and come up with innovative solutions echoes not only what real-world international professionals do, but what QUEST students have done since day one.
“[A] challenge that we have faced is that our Swedish teammates were not able to physically visit our client’s warehouse with us,” said Dicken. “Therefore, it is somewhat difficult for them to get a full picture of the challenges that our client is facing and their current solutions. We have tried to overcome these challenges by skyping with them while walking around the facility as well as answering any questions that they have about the layout as they come up.”
“There’s about a 15 to 16 hour time difference, so we have to schedule meetings in the late evening here, which is early morning for Australia,” said Dadzie, whose team has realized how valuable the time they can meet actually is. In order to make meetings more productive, his team has had to take a slightly more individual approach where they perform their individual tasks for the week on their own prior to meeting up, so that their team members can spend time on Skype monitoring progress and delegating work.
“The biggest challenge was finding a balance where we all remember that we are one team together, despite the distance,” said Shmuel Gold. “Along those lines, we also struggled with how to properly divide the work without separating into two teams entirely.”
Embracing the challenges and benefits of this unique experience, QUEST students are not the only ones getting this taste of international business. Their clients have also realized the prominence of global projects in the world today and have eagerly welcomed this opportunity.
“Our clients have fully embraced this challenge,” said Dicken. “They are very enthusiastic about working with us. They think that it is very appropriate that they have an international team consulting for them because Intralox is an international company, and we are facing many of the same challenges that they face on a daily basis.”
Hao Tian, one of the project champions from Intralox, stated that “the students have been very impressive so far. They recently handed in a statement of work with well-organized objectives and a great understanding of our current process and operations [at Intralox]. They came up with a very good approach for moving forward.”
Tian said that Intralox was interested in a global project because it provides the company with “a great opportunity to have a chance to work with students and gain new insights and opinions.”
Kylie King is the faculty advisor for the Intralox team. “Advising the Intralox team has been a wonderful experience so far. It was fun to tour the warehouse with the Swedish students joining us over Skype. The combination of the student skills and experiences has already resulted in some interesting findings. I can’t wait to see where this team takes their project.”
The students too have not only fully embraced this challenge, but also the opportunity itself to learn about new cultures. While Dadzie admits that other QUEST teams have had a lot more time to get to know each other, being that they’ve taken 190H and 390H together, his team has already gotten close enough to crack jokes in meetings and chat about differences in sports, culture, and slang.
“You realize how big the world really is,” said Dadzie, who eagerly looks forward to the opportunity to present his final presentation with his full team at the QUEST Conference this May.
King explained, “In addition to welcoming the international students to our final presentations here at Maryland, we plan to send the students working on projects in Sweden and Australia to present their final results at their client sites. I think this will be a rewarding experience for our students and will help showcase the quality of QUEST across the globe.”
If you’d like to check out the final presentations here at Maryland, be sure to save the date for the QUEST Conference on Thursday, May 5th, 2016 from 5-9PM at the Riggs Alumni Center!