Community Business Project

Hello again! 🙂

In my classmate Mursal Shamsi’s post — “A Taste of the Real World,” he provides you with a broad overview of the Community Business Project (CBP), its significance to our self- and career development, and the matching process that the Business Career Centre (BCC) used to assign students to projects. And so this post will focus on my CBP experience.

We’re now in the home stretch of this 6-month project and in the midst of preparing our final report and presentation for this coming Friday. I believe I speak for many people when I say that I can’t believe we’ve somehow managed to arrive to this point!

Our client is Options Community Services Society (OCS) in Surrey, BC — a non-profit registered charity providing social services in the Fraser Region — whose vision is to improve child care access in Surrey. My team is composed of 3 members, including myself as Project Manager. The other 2 roles are Client Liaison and Faculty Liaison. As Project Manager, my core responsibilities included creating a project schedule to meet objectives and deadlines efficiently, coordinating and delegating tasks based on team members’ strengths, and maintaining effective internal communication to ensure information consistency within the team.

The challenges faced by my team fell under 2 umbrellas — issues with (1) team dynamics, and (2) project tasks.

Throughout the 6-month duration of the project, we had to produce several key deliverables while simultaneously working on multiple other team projects for other courses. As can be expected, the challenge was how to maintain high team performance to meet deadlines, in the face of competing commitments and fluctuating motivation levels. Stress only served to magnify the gravity of perceived problems — an important point to remember for my team. It’s okay to be frustrated at times, but focus on what you can do.

My experience in this project highlighted and reinforced several lessons in team management. You may find them “common sense,” but it’s very easy to forget when you’re in the centre of things.

  • A critical skill to have as Project Manager is the ability to think long term and set realistic goals. There’s much you can do to minimize overall stress by properly prioritizing tasks and setting weekly goals for your team members.
  • From the outset, the team should set some ground rules that all members understand and agree on. This lets everyone know what is expected of them and is an important tool for maintaining efficiency. Also, don’t be afraid to remind them of this agreement when needed. Team meetings should focus on brainstorming, discussions, and decision-making — they’re not time to work on individual tasks.
  • The combination of strengths and weaknesses will not always be ideal, and so you may find that the balance of work may not always end up equal. You just have to make it work. Don’t be quick to judge your team members. Strive to identify individual concerns and address them. I found that to be an effective way to raising my team’s performance because sometimes it’s just an issue of self-confidence. The key is to really understand each member’s strengths and weaknesses, but concentrate on the strengths because that’s what you’ll need to effectively delegate tasks. Sometimes, you may find it necessary to personally guide a struggling team member to get things done because it’s better than not doing anything at all.
  • While it may seem to go against your instinct, trust your teammates. Ensure that everyone is on the same page, but give your team members the latitude to deliver their assigned tasks. Just because it’s not perfect in your eyes doesn’t mean it’s not quality.

With regards to the project itself, the main challenge came from negotiating a feasible project scope and set of deliverables that could be achieved within the time limitations. A lot of teams faced this difficulty because the project scope changed from what was initially proposed during the organization presentations. However, being able to negotiate a project scope is an important skill to possess, as the BCC and our supervisor have reiterated. The required commitment is three hours per week per student, but depending on your project, you’ll likely find yourself putting in many many more hours. Don’t be afraid to offer your insights and suggestions to your client. Utilize your resources — the BCC, your supervisor, the librarians, to name a few.

Now on to our project scope… The City of Surrey has been curiously resistant to actively supporting child care, and so our client wanted to look into gaining support from the business community instead, as a temporary solution. My team’s project scope involves developing a business case about the economic benefits to Surrey employers of providing an affordable and quality workplace child care program. Important goals of the project are to create an operating model for setting up workplace child care facilities and to conduct a survey on Surrey employers’ perception of and willingness to support employee child care needs. Certainly, there were several challenges associated with our project scope. However, the value of the CBP project for me wasn’t in how much business knowledge or frameworks were required to complete the project but in the soft skills it has helped me to develop.

Aside from project team management and scope negotiation, working on this project gave me insight into the layers of complexity that organizations have to constantly deal with, such as grey areas and political factors. In addition to dealing with our client, we conducted several informational interviews with various organizations. You may walk in to a meeting with certain expectations of how it would proceed or of what you want to get out of it, but you may quickly realize that the real working environment is less structured than what you supposed. For me, it was particularly interesting to observe the nuances in people’s interactions. As a person who likes order, my takeaway is to prepare as much as I can but be adaptive when things turn out differently from what I expect.

Okay, I’ve probably lost all my readers at this point, stopping now. Well, I hope my ramblings have been or will be useful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below!

Until next time,

Rachel Lim (LinkedIn profile)

What I Have Learned About Myself in This Program

Hello, hello! We meet again!

Today, I’d like to share with you three major things I’ve learnt about myself in the MM program. They’re not anything too novel or profound but definitely a refreshing revelation!

1. I enjoy teamwork.

My undergraduate scientific training involved largely individual work, so I’m used to working independently. The thought of suddenly having to work frequently in teams had both excited and concerned me. In my experience, level of motivation seems the most important differentiating factor for successful collaboration. But it’s not just how motivated you are, it’s also how you motivate the people around you–which is the tricky part. In the MM program, I’ve been part of diverse teams. Having a tendency to focus solely on the work, I continually remind myself to pay attention to team dynamics and to learn from the interactions of my team members. It’s certainly a continuous process of learning, which has given me a newfound appreciation for teamwork.

<I can still hear our Organizational Behaviour professor, Angela Kelleher, in my head saying, “Remember, you’re not a group. You’re a team!” *wild cheering* <- Alright, that’s just me adding sound effects.>

2. I can be good at time management.

One of the perks of teamwork is that it forces you to be accountable to your teammates. Nonetheless, discipline still ultimately comes from within. It may have worked in undergrad, but I told myself that procrastination is no longer acceptable as a graduate student. Amazingly (to me), juggling different team projects with individual assignments vastly improved my time management skills. Since the beginning of the program, I’ve done a fairly good job at keeping up with lectures, which means more time to reflect on the things I’ve learnt and less overall stress around exam time.

3. The day may come when I look forward to making presentations.

<What I’ve always said about presentations, “Singing in front of hundreds of people? No problemo! Just don’t ask me to talk. :D”>

In the Philippines during my childhood and teen years, I performed in many social events and in several singing and drama competitions. I love it and I look forward to it, but the key thing is that I’ve done it so many times that it’s become natural. When I think back to my earlier years, it actually took a lot of time and encouragement from my mom and teachers to get me on the stage. My mom had to take time off from her busy work schedule to accompany me to every practice session because I was too shy.

I’ve never particularly liked talking in front of many people, even just in the classroom and especially when it’s not rehearsed because I sometimes lose my English (which isn’t my first language). But now that I’ve a few presentations under my belt (which I forced myself to do even if it was optional), I can say that presenting is really the same as singing in front of an audience. The first time was the most difficult, but it gets easier and easier. Just give myself time to practice enough, and practice in front of my team or another person. Plus, it’s hard not to even try with so many of my supportive classmates cheering me on during presentations.

I look forward to seeing you again in my next post! 🙂

Rachel Lim

A Day in the Life

Hello there!

For my very first blog post, I’ve outlined for you what a typical Monday or Wednesday is for me. We follow a slightly different schedule on Tuesday and Thursday—days on which we start at 8:00 a.m., take a 4-hour break from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., and end at the usual 4:00 p.m. I like the 8:00 a.m. starts. I surmise that I’d like them even better if I could remember to sleep earlier the night before.

I live in Richmond, in a not-so-convenient area in terms of public transport. Most of my classmates don’t live as far away as I do, so my before and after-school routine may not be representative of my classmates’ habits. Living so far away means continually refining my time management skills, rearranging activities to be done at certain times instead. On the other hand, the most notable challenges I’ve faced are the following, ranked according to what I perceive to be the most dreadful:

(1) The exhaustion that eventually gets to you and slows your brain down as the period (what you may know as a “school term”) progresses

(2) Time and energy I may not have for peer-socializing (which may be less problematic if I owned a car)

(3) Inconvenient weekend trips to school because there’s no direct bus from Richmond to UBC (then again, it ensures that I try my best to minimize the need for these trips)


7:30 a.m. Get up and prep for the busy day ahead

*Ok, I may have snoozed my alarm a few times…

8:15 a.m. Cross a school sports field —> shopping plaza —> road —> BUS STOP!! (~1 block)

*There’s another bus that stops much closer to my house, but it’s a turtle bus!

 8:28 a.m. Bus to Bridgeport Station

*You can get away with a shorter time buffer the earlier you have to leave (less traffic). Occasionally, I miss this bus and take an alternate route.

8:58 a.m. Transfer to the 480 bus —> read the free newspaper / review my notes / nap

*Seat, seat, seat… YES!! The 480 bus originates in Bridgeport Station. Ironically, your probability of grabbing a seat diminishes the closer you live to campus.

9:40 a.m. Arrive at the UBC Bus Loop and begin the long walk to the Sauder School of Business

*Sadly, I haven’t figured out how to get to Sauder from any other direction without getting lost. I found that the only other places you need to know to survive are the Student Union Building (SUB) and the UBC Bookstore.

9:50 a.m. Morning chat with fellow MM-ers

*I’ve never met a more wonderful, supportive bunch of people. It’s great to be part of this cohort!

10:00 a.m. Marketing Research class with Professor Joey Hoegg

*In our recent classes, we evaluated the UBC Course Evaluation Form and also created our own survey in groups. It’s easy to critique a survey, but man, creating one is complicated work!

12:00 p.m. Lunch + go through emails and update my calendar and to-do list —> team meeting / review my notes / work on an assignment

2:00 p.m. Managerial Aspects of Accounting with Professor Bill Dorfmann

*I admit, the first few lectures weren’t the most stimulating (which we were amply warned about… You can consider yourself cautioned when you hear the words “ad nauseam”). But we’ve finally gotten to the more interesting bits, like how to make add/drop (a business segment) and make/buy decisions.

4:00 p.m. 2 possibilities:

(A) GO HOME!! —> prep dinner and tomorrow’s lunch —> do work

(B) Team meeting —> maybe take out dinner from our neighbour, Triple-O’s (White Spot), if I’m still at Sauder at 6:00 p.m.

*The best outcome, of course, is being able to leave as soon as class ends because the commute at this time isn’t as painful. Leaving UBC past 9.30 p.m. may extend my commute to up to 2 hours.


Until next time!

Rachel Lim

Spam prevention powered by Akismet