Upon first hearing that our IGL was going to be virtual, there were very mixed feelings about the value we thought we could extract from this experience. Granted, a global pandemic was not exactly something anyone had experience in dealing with but a lot of us came into this program for the opportunity to travel and work in different countries across the world. On one hand, I felt let down that I was not going to be hopping on a flight to Peru and hiking Machu Picchu on the weekend – I mean, I wasn’t even going to be using all the beginner Spanish I spent the past 2 months learning! On the other, this was a situation that was much bigger than me and impacting many others in more serious ways.
Looking back, COVID-19 served as one of the biggest learning experiences for me at Ivey. Not only did it teach me resilience, it taught me to manage my expectations, and navigate continuous ambiguity.
I have 3 takeaways from this experience. The first being digital communication. I found myself learning to be more comfortable hopping on calls and communicating with my team and client on a regular basis despite being across 3 different time zones. This aspect of communication is something that I found myself glossing over but in a digital and post-digital age, this has become the bare minimum. We always knew that technology was an extension of ourselves, but we weren’t prepared to (and didn’t have to be) rely on this extension in place of our real selves.
The second takeaway is being comfortable in situations where you don’t have all or any of the answers. Not having historical data and expectations was frustrating at times because no one had any idea what to expect. I realize now that having information is a privilege and in many aspects of work and life, you can’t expect to know what is up ahead. Instead, taking the time to research and prepare yourself is sometimes the best course of action. Even then, we must accept that things can change or not go as we excepted. Being comfortable and adaptable in these situations are skills that I value more through this experience.
Lastly, IGL taught me how to reflect on my experiences. WFH culture has its perks and its downfalls – one of them being that I had to invest in an entirely new computer from all the programs I was running, and my eyes were dry constantly from working at my laptop. Bonding with team members and clients was difficult to do as well because instead of having an in-person conversation, every way of communication is done through video chat or social media. Recognizing these points allowed me to learn that I value work culture and team bonding a lot more than I thought I did. However, at the end of the day, we delivered a fantastic presentation worthy of our client’s satisfaction.
In all, IGL was really what you made of it. Going into this virtual format with an open mind helped me navigate some of the hardships that I came across and in hindsight, I learned a lot more about myself than I thought I would. Looking ahead, COVID-19 can serve as a catalyst for many firms’ digital transformation timeline. What that means for individuals like me is that we must prepare for this by equipping ourselves with the necessary skills and mindset in order to succeed in this new environment.