A while back I composed a 12 part series about Global Bicycle Inc.: An Intern Adventure., SAP University Alliances universal training environment. In that series I focused on my experiences as an intern on that project: lessons and skills I learned and took away from that project. Since that time, I have been hired by Accenture, undergone training and assigned to a client.
I remember many a day sitting in class counting ceiling tiles (don’t deny it, you’ve done it also) and thinking, “this is so boring. Am I ever really going to use any of this after I finish this class??” The short answer is yes, it is much more useful that you think (whether by design or accident I leave for someone else to ponder).
Here are the skills that I have found that transfer well from the classroom to the job.
Writing: You have to be able to write. The emails are ever forthcoming and endless: to your superiors (and their superiors), to colleagues, to the client, and to end users. It might be tempting; however, it is generally considered bad form to begin an email to an end user, “you’re an idiot…” While an extreme example, it makes the point. You have to know what to ask, and more importantly how to ask.
Translation to college: All those papers you had to write throughout college that you thought served no purpose other than to make your life miserable? In reality they are all practice. Vocabulary, tone, sentence structure; they all convey your message, and all are equally important. The more clear and concise your message is, the more time you can spend resolving the issue and the less time you have to spend figuring out what the issue is. Face it, you can’t solve the issue if you don’t know what the issue is.
Speaking: I know it’s hard to believe; however, there will be times when you are required to get up away from your desk and go talk to people, or even answer the phone. While email is the major mode of communication, it is not the only one. As with writing, how you talk to individuals is just as important as what you say.
Translation to college: talking with professors and other students. If you ask a question in a brusque, short manner, the professor will answer it in the same way. It is the same way outside of class.
SAP Skills: I took almost every SAP class and MIS Grand Valley offered, and this was to my great benefit. Within weeks of coming onsite I was a producing member of the team. Good for the team, even better for me as I wasn’t relinquished to boring computer based training land. Most of the classes I took dealt with SAP configuration, business process redesign, SDLC, and business process. While most of these skills have not directly transferred (I’m not redesigning business process or doing configuration sadly) what they did give me was an exceptional base of knowledge on which to build. My SAP knowledge has doubled, if not tripled in the 6 short months I’ve been on site. And it has shown. The projects I have now are much greater in importance and complexity than when I arrived on site.
Translation to college: pay attention in class and take any class that you think could be relevant.
Teamwork: A general definition of teamwork is playing nice (aka working) with others. 75% of what I do on a daily basis requires me to interact with others. The nicer you can play the quicker and more you will get accomplished.
Translation to college: team projects. While I personally detested this in class, I did recognize the value they provided, and attempted to make the most of them. Generally speaking, teamwork in the workforce is better than in class as usually there are no free-loaders. It does happen on occasion though. Most importantly, you don’t want to be that person.
Documentation/Knowledge Transfer: When you first start your job, you will be given responsibilities, most likely they will come from someone else, who now gets more exciting things to do as they moved their boring tasks to you (the new person). They will sit down with you, show you what to do, maybe give you a job aide, and there you go; now it is your problem. You are now expected to produce equal or better quality material as the person who had the task before you. At some point, you would love to pass these tasks off to the next new person that comes along. How fast you can pass these tasks off is directly proportional to how good your job aides / documentation are, and how well you can make the new person understand the process. The better the job aide / documentation, the sooner it is off of your plate and on theirs.
Directly related to this, asking questions. As a new person, it is expected you will ask questions. I can go to colleagues, to my boss, to my bosses boss, and to my bosses bosses boss any time I have a question and they will gladly answer it. If, however, I should go to them multiple times and ask the exact same thing, I expect (rightly so) they would get a bit perturbed. So what do you do? You take a piece of paper and write it down. Then you whip up a quick word document, and bam, you have created documentation so the next time the issue arises you can just take care of it.
Translation to college: Think note taking and helping other students understand class material. Those skills directly relate to the work force.
This is by no means an all-encompassing list. Looking back; however, these are the skills that stood out from the crowd for me. Let’s face it, you’re paying a lot of money to get a fancy piece of paper to hang on the wall. Wouldn’t it be great if you got something other than just a fancy piece of paper?