A “Smart” MDP Project

Since the end of September when we kicked off our MDP projects it has been an exciting time.  Though over the summer I had been leading our team of interns and a group of students who were working on the Buffalo Connect project, this opportunity was different because it was working with the program that had given me my start at M&T.  My boss and I were co-sponsoring the project, but I was fortunate that she was letting me take on the responsibility of overall managing the project from the sponsor side.leading-team

I had learned so much from my project sponsors within M&T Securities during the program that I wanted to make sure that I could share my experience including lessons learned, best practices, things I wish I changed, etc.  I also wanted to make sure they felt empowered to make project decisions just like my sponsors had empowered me and my group.  With the MDP project on the sponsor side you have to walk the line of being over involved and not being involved at all (both of which happen, though I wish they didn’t).  What was great about this project was it was a great way to think about the bank overall as a customer and helping the community (one of our core values).

I knew this would be my first real opportunity to test out how I could walk the line of being a mentor, peer and also a “manager”.  Since I am only a year out from the program, it is definitely important to make sure that I don’t come across as a peer when you have to make tough decisions.  But I also wanted them to be able to ask questions regarding my experience and know that things they were experiencing during the project, I had probably felt them too – after all in the grand scheme of things, outside of this project, I was their peer.

Follow the leaderI am excited to see this group present in mid-February, but know we have a long way to go until that point. We have several practice sessions with unbiased audiences to get the team prepared for the “pressure” of the final presentation.  In my opinion, all the practice sessions over the next month will really make the team feel at ease on presentation day and any question they get – they should be prepared for.

What I have learned through both coaching and leading this project from a sponsor side is that I love being a mentor (at least I think that is how I am perceived).  It has affirmed that the role I want to play in life, whether it be formal manager or in-formal mentor to those around me, is just that – providing guidance to help others through life (fitting because my mom is a high school guidance counselor).  I want to inspire others with my passion for everything I do.  At Nichols, it is teaching my players that things won’t always go your way but how you overcome the adversity will ultimately make or break you.  It is also about reminding them that outside the bubble of high school and Buffalo, people don’t necessarily care who your parents are – but your work ethic and the way you lead your life is what matters to people.

At work, it is showing people that passion is so crucial in your career.  If you aren’t passionate about what you do it will feel like work.  When you put your all into everything you do – you will ultimately be happy and things will come to you.  Just like I said in the Interviewing Game – your first job shouldn’t necessarily be for the money you are going to make, it should make you happy and gives you experiences that you will carry with you throughout your career.  Money doesn’t buy happiness, although it does buy houses, clothes, and material things.  Finding something where you realize what you do matters to at least one person, now that is something.

The Interviewing Game

As I look back over the last few posts I have written, I realized I have been headlining these posts as games.  I want to be clear, recruiting and interviewing are not games to me but if you remember during my first post in this series, I compared these new role reversals to basketball and that to me is a game and a huge part of my past and present and future.

Now, as we have been actively recruiting for positions on my team it has been exciting because I have been involved in the interviewing piece both as a former MDP and one of the members of the team.  Our group works so closely together – it important to make the right hiring decision for the team whether it is for an intern, MDP, or any other position.

interviewingWhat I find exciting about interviewing MDPs in particular is that I was just in their shoes a few years ago so the process is still fresh.  I remember the challenges, the struggles, things that were going through my head, and the highs and lows which I think really helps in the interview process.  M&T tries to be really good with the onsite MDPs by having an alumni of the program take you out to lunch (this is not an interview).  This is the time that the candidate can ask the questions they want to know about the program.  If they are smart, they are also asking questions regarding things that can be used in later interviews.  During the program, I took several candidates out to lunch or coffee to give them this time.  Now, I am on the actual interview side which is even more fun in my opinion because I get to learn about the candidate in a more formal setting.  Any interview I give I like to see how comfortable people are with the Innovation Center, the space I choose, the questions I ask which aren’t always traditional, and overall what they know about the program.

I really like getting an interview put on my calendar, because I know that the candidate is going to walk into our Center and see something totally different than what they have been seeing all day.  I also like making sure my interviews are more conversational than formal interviews like what you would see in the movies.  We have a space in the Center that is perfect for this type of interview and I use it every time.

Whenever I am interviewing someone I like to learn about them, what they know about the company and the program.  There isn’t a lot of information out there on the MDP program, except for my blog and a few articles put out by the Buffalo News, a few postings on Glassdoor.  If you are going to interview for this program, I would at least do a google search about it or find an alumni to talk to from your college.  If you are reading this, you have already done that so congratulations.  I decided when I accepted my MDP offer that I would write about my experience through the program to help others who were considering joining the company know more.  interviewing checklist

The candidate who I am so excited to have start in our area of the bank for the 2016 class told me she had learned about the program through my blog, and that made me realize that what I am writing helps.  She isn’t the first one either, companies are learning now that organic blogs, if you can find a champion to write them, can go a long way.  I am not paid to write my experience, I am not paid to write good things, I purely write my opinion about my life in Buffalo, my experience in my first full time role (that I wasn’t also attending school during but I have also been transparent with the company that I would be writing this blog. The tone I use in my blog, is the same tone and word choice I would use if you asked me a question on the street.

Interviewing candidates is not about the number of people you talk to or the background that they come from. It is not about filling a quota or filling a spot just to have a body in it.  I look at interviewing as a challenge to find the best person who can meet/exceed my expectations and I have high ones because I know what I accomplished during the program.  That is why I am so excited about our candidate who is coming in – because I know she will be amazing!  When the candidate was weighing her decisions between offers, I told her I was happy to talk with her again and be honest, after all I was in her shoes 2 years ago.

individual-interviewIf you constantly put on the face of sunshine and rainbows, your company will get the reputation of being fake and people will leave extremely early especially people who are experiencing their first job.  We had an honest conversation about the pros and cons, the good and bad, the challenges and rewards. No job is going to be perfect and I think it is important to find the candidate who thinks the challenges are worth it and exciting to overcome, who feels the pros far outweigh the cons, and the good days will out weigh the rough ones – because at the end of the day you have to find a job that you are like and an experience that is exciting to you.  Not everyone invests that much time into a candidate but to me it is important, especially when you find one who is worth it.

My interview style plays right into my mentor, leadership and managerial style. I want anyone who is a part of my team to succeed but I want to make sure that we have the right people in place to make us successful.  It is just like my coaching philosophy, I would rather have 7 active and dedicated players, than seven girls who are engaged and 2 who are just distracting the rest of the team (but that is a whole different post that is coming very soon).

Stay tuned for my last post about leading an MDP Project team!

The Recruiting Game

recruitmentIt is funny as you go through life – you find yourself looking at the recruiting game from all different angles.  When you are getting recruited for college or to play for a sports team, when you are looking for your first job or you are a seasoned professional and you are getting head hunted by an executive recruiter – it is all the same game with slight tweaks.  I look at it like learning the game of basketball.  I started off in 5th/6th grade with my elementary school team, moved on to 7th grade basketball, JV in 8th grade, Varsity for all of High School, and then 4 years at RIT and college basketball. It is all the same game but you get better at it as you go along, this can apply to a employee or a recruiter depending on who you want to be in this scenario.

As a recruiter at career fairs for the newest professionals in the workforce it is a lot of explaining, sharing what M&T is like, what some of the day to day responsibilities look like for positions in the MDP program, talking to different managers about the candidates I saw at the career fair and working directly with HR to make sure we bring in the right candidates for the job.  It is not only about sharing the on-the-job responsibilities but also the cultural aspects: what Buffalo is like, what is like to be young moving to a new city, etc. You have to treat this candidate differently because typically they have never been through this process before and I am responsible for their first perception of the company.

This part is exciting because you are sharing your passion for your career and your job with the students and helping them determine if they would be a fit or not.  You may not always get the candidate but you know that hopefully they have made the best choice for them.  I think this is where my coaching experience comes into play because I want what is best for my players, just like I want new career professionals to enjoy their first job, to find what they are passionate about and not just go for a salary. I will talk more about sharing my experience and the getting to know the candidate in the next post in the series surrounding interviewing, stay tuned!

The Other Side of the Table

new rolesSince completing the MDP program, I have gotten to partake in several things that have put me on the other side of the table and I am sure as I go throughout my career there are a lot of things that will continue to turn the tables. It is exciting and I have come to realize that something that I once thought was so big when I was in the MDP’s shoes just last year – is something not so scary from the other side. I decided this blog would be a three part series surrounding my latest table flippings: Recruiting, Interviewing, and leading an MDP Project.

Since I completed the program in June, it has been an interesting ride and I am doing things I didn’t think I would be doing for at least a few more years, especially when it comes to interviewing and leading an MDP project; however, I think that is the beauty of M&T, the opportunities that are just around the corner will always surprise you.

Things I thought were so nerve racking when I was on the other side of the table seem so small now.  I guess it makes sense, I am now in the place where I hold the cards but honestly, I don’t feel that way because M&T has been so good to me.  I think about it when it comes to all three areas I want to talk about as I am trying to be a mentor, leader, and responsible M&T Employee for ultimately making our next generation (that is so weird to say since right now the people I am interviewing for MDP are only 2 years younger than I am).

So over, the next few weeks I will be posting a weekly post, starting from the beginning with recruiting, then interviewing, and finally leading up to my MDP project.  It is an exciting time in my career and I am excited to share it with you all.

Speed Mentoring at Work

speed-mentoringEvery day I learn something new about the company that I work for.  Last night, I had the honor and pleasure to attend the first Speed Mentoring Event put on by our Women in Networking (WIN) group.

The resource group is one of the largest in the bank but the event still felt intimate with over 30 mentors and 30 mentees.

I had never participated in an event like this so I was excited to get to go and experience it to see how it was planned and also to see if I could find a mentor match.  I think there is also a misconception that this resource group is just for females and that isn’t true.  There were male mentors and mentees as well and I really felt that they helps the objective of the group – women need to understand men’s work habits and men need to understand women and I think groups like this can help create a mutual understanding.  Resource groups are about finding a common interest in most cases and feeling supported in the workplace.  I am a member of both WIN and iGen (future blog to come about that group) but there are 8 other groups to join at the bank with more chapters in the individual hubs of M&T.

The event was laid out similar to a speed dating session, I am told, as I have never participated in one of those either.  The group was broken out into three sets separated based on departments, manager’s relationships, etc.  Once everyone had talked a bit the event kicked off and was off and running.  Having six minutes to try and get to know another person is challenging, let alone trying to have them get to know you as well.  I was fortunate to have someone who I had worked with on a project in the past as my first pairing so it helped to get the butterflies out.

The mentors were a wide-range of levels, departments, and had spent different amounts of their careers at the bank.  Some had been there as little as a few months but had extensive backgrounds prior to joining M&T, while others had spent their whole careers with the company.  Diversity of perspectives was the name of the game and finding a mentor who you could truly connect with and feel comfortable with was the prize and everyone had the opportunity to be a winner.

Now, I am someone who thoroughly enjoys networking and connecting with people and learning about what they do.  MDP taught me a lot about how important it is especially at M&T.  But finding a mentor in this way was not something I was familiar with, I am sure very few people are.  To me finding a mentor has always just come naturally through a connection from sports, college, etc.  But to be placed in a room with people, about half of who I knew or knew of before the event and the other half I had never heard of before the event, was an exciting new opportunity and I think that is what this company affords its employees to do.

M&T was built on relationships whether they are with our employees, our customers, or our shareholders.  I believe having mentors of different skill sets and in different points in their career is important.  I am looking forward to following up on a few of the connections I made through the speed networking session without the six minute time constraint to see if there is a potential mentor relationship there.

Mentoring Word Cloud

***The opinions expressed in this blog are purely my own and are not the opinions of M&T.***

MDP Graduation

It’sgraduation hard to think that just last week was MDP graduation.  It was the last time that all of us would be together as one group, as MDPs.  It seems funny that less than a year ago, the 40 of us in the green group and the other 40 in the gold group did not know each other.  At this time last year we were all thinking about enjoying the last few weeks of the summer before our real world journey began.

Graduation week was fun with happy hour events, a boat cruise, a capstone project, final thoughts, and a conversation with Mark Czarnecki, the President of M&T and the COO.  Now, I know what you must be thinking when I say graduation and no there were no cap and gown or diplomas; however we did receive our 1 year anniversary gifts and a class picture which we had taken the first week.

Most people aren’t as lucky as I was to be able to learn about a great company, make instant friends because of a common experience being in the program, and have a true hands on experience on the job that never once felt like an internship which often times programs can.  If I had to go back and do it over, I would do it again in a heart beat.  I am one of the lucky ones of my friends from college, who love what they do.  Who enjoy going to work every day and has found something I am passionate about.  So I encourage you to consider M&T’s MDP program or another development program if you feel that it is right for you.  Never take a job because someone else says its good or someone tells you to do it. Take a job because it scares you, take a job because it makes you nervous, often times those are the best experiences.  But hey, I have only been in the working world for a year so what do I know.M&T Plaza

With MDP now over and for those of you who have followed this blog over the course of my first year in the real world, you must be thinking what next? Well, I will work as a Business and Planning Analyst in the Innovation Center of Excellence.  It is an exciting time for banking and don’t worry my blogging doesn’t stop just because the program is over.  No way!  I am in the real world to stay and this is just the beginning of my journey in Corporate America. I have ambition and big dreams which I intend to make a reality.

Transformational Leadership

Be the change you want to seeFirst let me say as an MDP who has been through Transformational Leadership at the bank I highly recommend given the opportunity you take it.

Tranformational Leadership is not a course that can really be described it has to be experienced and if that is to vague or ambiguous for you, you may not want to take the course.  But if you need a little clue into what the course is all about, it is focused on looking in on situations from the balcony, experiencing situations yourself, getting to understand the perception of you from others and behaviors you can change.  It is about understanding how you work in groups and being able to take a step back and work for the common good of the team rather than just yourself.

In the real world life isn’t always going to go your way but often times if you give a little you may gain so much more.  We did an exercise that really helped to show this.  It was case study and without giving away to much, it really showed us how things work in the real world surrounding business.  There isn’t always going to be a happy medium and sometimes giving a little can benefit the overall goal and big picture more than if you had stuck with your idea.

At the end of the course we had done several exercises that talked about “the drift” and the concept of getting caught in the drift.  Before I go on, the concept of the drift to me is the idea that you are stuck in the day-to-day working to get something done and never taking a moment to look up.  Then one day you take that chance to look up and you realize you have no idea how you got where you are.  At M&T it was explained to us that it is easy to get caught in the drift.  But is the drift necessarily a bad thing? It was explained in the course that if you realize you are caught in the drift and are okay with it that is fine, the problem happens when you don’t even realize you are caught in the drift.

Some people refer to this as being stuck in cruise control and just coasting through life.  For me, being caught in the drift is not something I think anyone at this age should ever be.  I love my life but constantly being on the go and working on new things is something I value because it makes life interesting.  There is a reason that I work at M&T, coach and train for races.  I love keeping my mind active.

Do you feel like you are caught in the drift? Do you feel Be transformationallike you are so far in there is no way out? What is the answer to pulling yourself out of your current drift and will you just fall back in our into a new drift? These are fears that people have everyday, it is normal!  You just graduated school you are now getting ready to start this great adventure called LIFE and a big kid job that is scary and you may not feel like you are in a drift because everything is changing or are you? You went to school because you felt you had to, you got good grades because you felt you had to, you worked hard, you graduated, you got a job, these are all these you did because you had too (for most of you) is that a drift? Think about it, do you know how you got to where you are today and why?  If so, did you make those choices for you?

But even by the end of the class I was confused, was I caught in the drift and didn’t realize it, had I just moved myself out of the drift? I had to go and ask our SVP who was running the course for a little bit of feedback; as well as, advice.  Read about what he told me in my next post.  I will also cover how to not drift through life.

Are you Self Aware?

This past training session for MDP we spent two days going through Precision Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.  Some of us have also been going through Transformational Leadership every Friday of training but that is for another post.  The training sessions focused on hands on examples surrounding  leadership and understanding one style that the bank follows but also understanding your own personal self awareness and emotional intelligence.

So let’s talk about what the difference between all of these tools are and how you may apply them to your career:

steps to being a leaderPrecision Leadership

This form of leadership is supported very highly at the bank by our Chief Risk Officer, Rich Gold.  To me what I took away from the course was that you need to focus on giving objective feedback as a manager.  If you are constantly saying subjective things to a report or a peer who’s interpretation is right?

Let me give you an example.  If someone, age 22, fresh out of college says, I am going to be a little late to work today to their manager in an email, what does that actually mean?  How much is a little late?  The manager may think 5-10 minutes; however, that 22 year may think an hour is a little late to work.  Precision Leadership focuses on removing the subjectivity out of a statement and putting terms into more concrete understandings.

Not only does Precision Leadership work on removing the subjectivity from a statement but it also challenges the manager to put themselves into the other person’s shoes.  There is typically a positive feeling, emotion or reaction the person is feeling for doing something regardless of if we can see it or not.

Another example that was given during the course was, a manager does not understand why someone repeatedly turns work in late or comes in late to meetings.  They may see this as a negative but what are the positive feelings that employee is getting that is causing them to continuously be late to work?

below- the-surface-lies-emotional-intelligenceEmotional Intelligence

Did you know that your EI and IQ are like an iceberg? One lies above the surface and others can judge it but the majority falls below the surface and only you know its there until you show it.

It is really easy to think you know everything about yourself.  But when you think about it, the way you perceive yourself may be different from how others see you and what way do you want to appear to others?  I said above the majority of emotional intelligence lies below the surface where only you know its there but that does not stop others from judging it.

The Emotional Intelligence course was great because we had taken the self awareness “test” prior to the class so we received our actual results at the end of the course and were able to apply what we learned throughout the day regarding each category into how aware we really are.

Do you have emotional intelligenceTo me your self awareness should align with how others perceive you and if they aren’t which is more important.  When you consider this concept, you have to think about it honestly.  There is no right or wrong answer but in the real world (my personal opinion) is that how others perceive you is more important that your own self perception.  In the real world, especially starting out your young career, people are not going to want to help  you if they don’t like you or they see behaviors that they don’t appreciate.  No one is perfect but emotional intelligence and leadership can all be improved upon it just takes time and self-awareness.

Next up my experience with Transformation Leadership, you aren’t going to want to miss this.

Five Tips for a Successful MDP Presentation

MDP presentation

With presentations in the books, I have come up with a list of my five best tips for having a successful MDP presentation.  I was so proud of my team as we stood together and presented our findings and research from the past five months.  We talked with so many people who were apart of the M&T Securities (MTS) team and really wanted to make it a presentation that showed the research and showed the opinions of those who took their time to meet with us after all they are the experts, not our group.  We are very excited about the outcome and the outlook of our recommendations within the future of MTS.

But now that my group presentation experience is done as at M&T MDP – I want to leave some of the tips that helped myself and the rest of our group make it through MDP Presentation Week.

  1. Get multiple opinions on your final presentation.  Not everyone likes to see graphics or lots of texts.  Some people like to hear things in different ways so it is important to test out your presentation with people other than your sponsors.  My group presented to our sponsors multiple times, our MDP manager, former MDPs, and the end-user of our ideas.  You want to have people with different eyes look at it and give criticism – it is important to take it and when you are in the home stretch take the criticism and follow your gut.
  2. Understand how you are going to answer the questions as a team.  You don’t want to be the group that looks unorganized or looks down the line to figure out who is going to be answering the question.  As a team we had one point person who was designated to dictate where the question went.  We all had presented different sections of the project so that was clear on who would answer those specific questions but for the unknown questions our question lead would facilitate the question and direct it at someone.  There were groups who had multiple people answer the same question and not add much value which can really hurt the credibility of the group – it looks disjointed.   As a group we wanted to have confidence in the answers of the team members.  Not to say that is the only way to answer questions but to use that was what we thought worked the best.
  3. Watch your bank wide verbiage. It is easy to get caught up in your department’s bank verbiage such as the different computer programs the department uses or acronyms that are common.  You have to keep in mind you have spent the past five months on the project but your audience hasn’t so when you are introducing an unfamiliar topic (which could be your whole presentation) make sure you explain what you are talking about.  Trust me after watching seven other presentations in two days, you can easily get lost if you don’t have the context.  My peers who presented before my group (our group was the final presentation) did a great job at explaining confusing topics.
  4. MDP final presentationPractice what you want to say and how you want to say it. Understanding what you want to say before you get up in front of the crowd is important.  Practicing different ways of phrasing things in front of your own group can help narrow down how things sound when coming out.  Does your pitch spike when you read a quote, I didn’t know that about me until one of my peers pointed it out.  How about should you take a drink of water between topics because your voice gets dry (that was a cue for one of my teammates) or how fast are you talking and does it change depending on who your audience is (we had a few of those amongst my peers).  It doesn’t matter what your ticks are but understanding them and practicing what you want to say whether in your head or outside.  You will be encouraged to practice as much as you can but that does not work for everyone and that is okay.   You are given a day to practice as a group before the presentations start and my group ran through our presentation four times, in my opinion it made me worse after the 2nd time through.  I have never practiced that much for a presentation and it showed me I am not someone who practices out loud.  I am someone who practices at the gym in my head going through my slides. Figure out what works for you to practice and just go with it!
  5. Be confident! There is nothing that is going to help you more than your own confidence in the work you have done.  It is incredible that in five months you can learn so much about a department than you had no previous connection too.  The research that all the groups did was amazing and the confidence that everyone showed presenting it was even more amazing.  When you can stand up in front of your managers, your teammates managers, the senior managers, your peers and your sponsors and be confident it really makes for a great presentation.

M&T Securities

Top 10 Tips for Working on Team Projects in the Real World

team projectsTeam projects can be stressful.  They can be a lot of fun but there are a lot of challenges that you will have to overcome that you may not have thought of.  As MDPs at M&T, you know coming into the bank that you are going to be put on a project team that is going to be the main focus of your MDP experience.  The project feedback from your teammates, group sponsors, managers and the outcome of the project plays into your review.  Not to say that this is the only thing that will go into your review because there will always be more factors including your on-the-job work but the project does make a difference because you are working with managers from other areas of the bank and all senior managers are invited to the presentations.

So through my experience with my team and through the presentations I have come up with a list for both future MDPs and also professionals working in team projects.

  1. conference calls at workWorking in team projects in college is different than working in team projects at work.  In college it is easy to meet up at the library with your teammates and hash out a project but with workplace projects you are not always able to meet in person.  My group was spaced out between 3 buildings in Buffalo, one person was in Syracuse and the other was Baltimore.  We found ways to make it work by holding conference calls, having a group message going on and through solid email communication.  We had a team SharePoint site set up at the very beginning of the project to help keep our documents organized as well.
  2. Procrastination barely worked in college, it definitely doesn’t work in the real world!  MDP projects are completed from September to February.  Putting off your work can be detrimental to the projects.  Almost all of the MDP projects require a lot of research and you will not be able to analyze that research if you wait until December to even start.  Starting early and meeting regularly will help keep your team on track.
  3. Don’t expect the project deliverables to be laid out for you from your sponsors.  This is the real world, you are not going to be given all answers when you are presented with a problem.  My group’s project was focused around the client experience and our sponsors wanted us to form our own opinions on the process so they didn’t want to give us a lot of background which at the beginning was frustrating but we made it work in the end.  I really believe we delivered a very successful presentation for the department.
  4. Schedule your meetings at the beginning.  The thing that made my group successful and not have to deal with people skipping meetings or having a lot of conflicts come up was scheduling meetings at the beginning that worked for all parties involved.  We scheduled meetings at 830am for our group’s weekly call which was half an hour and we scheduled an hour at 8am with our sponsors on a bi-weekly basis.  This helped us get on our sponsors calendars and it also made sure we stuck to the commitment and hit our weekly deliverables.  The early morning times may not have been ideal but when you are working with groups that are both on the corporate track and in the branch network it is important to consider all parties.
  5. Understand things will come up.  As a group we made sure that we were always forth coming with things that were coming up with our calendars.  As a future MDP it is important to understand whatever role you are filling in the M&T footprint – if you are on the corporate or retail track, if you are in Buffalo, Baltimore or another location things are going to come up and you have to be able to communicate with your team and just be honest.  As one of our team leads I wanted to make sure that the two members we had on the retail track who were studying for their Series 6 knew we understood that their test was bigger than the project for that week and I really wanted them to be able to take the time to study without the pressure of the project.
  6. There is another step to working with people beyond college.  Any RIT grad or other real-world project based university grad will tell you they feel extremely comfortable working in projects.  I would be lying if I said to me it was completely different but there was one variable I wasn’t expecting.  After working in so many project teams, being a member of sports teams throughout my life and working in different work positions since I was 16, I thought I knew what it meant to work with people coming from diverse backgrounds.  But the difference with our MDP groups and school projects was the fact that we all came from different education backgrounds which meant different techniques, learning experiences, different courses and degrees.  At RIT everyone learns how to work in teams and work with real world clients but once we were assigned to our MDP groups it became very apparent different schools have different methodologies and some are more theory based, others are more research and others are more project based.  That was something I quickly had to learn and was an obstacle for me.  In the end I think it worked out but be aware that when you get put into work project situations everyone is going to bring something different to the table and that is the beauty of the MDP project, you get to learn from 4 or 5 other people.
  7. Create a project plan for your team’s benefit and also your sponsor’s benefit.  At the beginning of the project we created a team charter but to follow that up our group had a project plan that outlined when we were going to get things done including when we would start, aim to complete and what the actual finish date was; as well as, the status of the project.  This plan was kept on the SharePoint site so that the President of M&T Securities (MTS) could show his manager and reports what our group was working on.  It helped the group stay committed but also ensured our sponsors we were moving toward the end goal.
  8. Run your recommendations by your sponsors early and often.  My group started running our initial recommendations by our group sponsors in early December.  We had a large list of things we had started to put together as observations rather than recommendations to start the conversations.  This gave us the ability to gauge our sponsors responses on our initial impressions of the research we were doing.  We ran our recommendations by our sponsor’s HR business partner, many different levels at MTS, the people we were interviewing, former MDPs in MTS and of course our sponsors repeatedly. It is important to keep your sponsors updated as they know their business best and will be able to give you input regarding the status of select things that are being worked on currently.
  9. Learn to accept criticism and expect questions from all angles.  You will get a lot of positive feedback but you will also receive a lot of criticism.  What is important to remember it is all meant to make you a better professional.  Coming out of college our generation has a lot of stereotypes that we have to overcome which can be a challenge but it is possible to overcome them when you learn to accept criticism. We are not the trophy for everything generation but that is the next generation to hit the workforce which will be my generations problem as managers to overcome.  But being so young in our careers and really anytime throughout your professional track, taking feedback both positive and negative is important and taking it the right way can be just as important.  Everyone giving feedback has your group’s best interest at heart so it is important to accept it and really consider what that person is saying.
  10. Understand your teammates and their strengths. Identifying your teammates strengths early in the project cycle is important.  As an MDP you will spend two months with the larger group before your projects and teams get selected but that can be hard to learn about everyone in that group of 40 or 80 people.  Once your groups are determined the best thing our group did was talk about our past experiences, we looked at our DiSC assessments (something we did through MDP) and talked about roles.  It can be easy to get lost in the concept of the team leader but in reality it doesn’t mean as much as it does in say high school.  Being the team lead you have more responsibility but you don’t make all the decisions you help the group work as a team.  The most successful teams work in a collaborative environment rather than in silos.   I was very fortunate to have a team that worked extremely well together – not everyone will be that lucky but that is the real world and you have to roll with the punches especially with work projects.millenials