This was it...induction was over and I was sat on a train crossing over the Welsh border heading towards my first project. The project itself was providing change management support to the implementation of a major client’s digital strategy. This included planning and running road shows across the UK to provide training, and enthuse the audience about the investment in both the technology and themselves. Eleven weeks later and with approximately eight thousand tablet computers handed out I now have time to reflect on the skills I have gained since the whirlwind of induction and that first nerve-wracking train journey. When placed on a project, it is easy to suppose that you will only gain skills specific to the ‘role’ you have been placed on, however, my experience proves that this is certainly not the case...
I have always been very apprehensive when it comes to presenting. It may not have appeared obvious in induction but pure fear and anxiety would overwhelm me and that dreaded clammy, not sure where to look or where to place my hands feeling would soon set in. On day one, we were demonstrated the hour long presentation we would be giving over the next few weeks. We were then instantly scheduled to present to our first group of 30 people, and I could slowly feel the terror creeping in. However, being thrown in at the deep end means your ability to present to clients improves at an extremely accelerated rate. After doing four back to back presentations (as well as learning to hold the tablet the correct way round), I already felt more at ease and ready for the next day. Eleven weeks down the line, and aside from my sad technology jokes that only my colleagues laugh at (out of pity), the paralysing fear has now disappeared and I am left possessing presentation skills that could have rivalled the great Steve Jobs (well, maybe not quite).
My role prior to Capgemini was in a Project Management Office (PMO) and I was able to further utilise and enhance these skills to help mould a project framework as well as support delivery. Tracking 18 consultants, in 19 different locations, handing out tablets to 8,000 users over 11 weeks seemed challenging to begin with. However, owning the project tracker resulted in daily interaction with the client, which has improved my stakeholder management skills, as well as satisfying my typical PMO characteristic need to have everything in an elaborate spreadsheet. Leading the weekly team meeting provided a channel for the entire team to get together once a week to reflect on the successes and learns of the past week but also an opportunity to catch up. Understanding the importance of team spirit, particularly for consultants who can be away from home all week was very quickly obvious to us. After a long day of talking at people for hours having a dedicated night each week to go for dinner as a team and explore (the watering holes of) a new city meant that the project was fun, as well as rewarding!
At the beginning of the project my role was ‘transformation event lead’ which essentially meant setting up the location, preparing tablets, presenting and completing the user’s first log in. By week eight, my senior colleagues felt I had demonstrated the skills required to lead an event and a team, with no senior consultants present. Leading a week long, multi city roll out was a very steep learning curve, at first I felt lost and out of my comfort zone of presenting (I’d never dreamed of calling presenting a ‘comfort zone’), and instead had to manage a team and ensure a smooth roll out. However, after two successful days with a great team, positive feedback and completing my first real V Look Up (yes, not all CDC’rs are excel whizzes on joining!) I felt a real sense of achievement and was pleased I had been able to showcase and utilise the skills I had gained.
A colleague referred to the project as the ‘magical mystery tour,’ and looking back this certainly couldn’t be truer! Every week we were travelling to a different city (sometimes two cities in a week), with different team members, to completely different facilities (holding two simultaneous presentations in one room at the same time is no easy feat). On top of this, on arrival at each location we had to prepare ourselves for the mixed reactions from the users (who ranged from calling it Christmas to sheer terror) towards the new pieces of kit. You have no choice but to be extremely flexible in many ways; last minute changes to the location you are travelling to, the team members you will be working with, and the difficult and sometimes perplexing questions from users you have to answer.
So, with 13 weeks in the CDC down, minus a few broken nails from unpacking tablets, I have come off relatively unscathed! As I sit on a train to another far flung destination writing this blog, I reflect on what I have achieved so far but also begin to excitedly prepare myself to step up to the role of Team Leader for the next phase of the project.
My advice? Whatever project you are given, go for it and make the most of it! The CDC is known for its unwavering enthusiasm, and by utilising this you never know what skills you will gain and what doors it will open for you.