Orientation for first-year students is always a whirlwind of information. My BCIT orientation experience last year was a busy, bustling day with an overload of student energy. Hundreds of students in the School of Business were welcomed to the program in the Telus Theatre. My nerves had me sitting at the edge of my seat intently listening. We were told of the attendance expectations, academic performance, extra-curricular participation and heavy course-load. From all that was shared, the statement I found most poignant was the acronym for BCIT.
BCIT: Being Crammed into Teams.
Cool. Teamwork: spread the workload and make some friends. I think? I soon found out that being crammed into teams was not just a quippy little joke, rather, an academic reality that was going to rock my expectations of school and the industry. Working together is great for spreading the course load and fostering creativity and problem-solving. However, the biggest challenge that comes from it takes form when it’s time to balance everyone’s different personalities for a class project.
Having been in many group projects, I’ve considered the different roles people take on in teams. Here’s my simplified list:
The Keen Leader who is a hardworking, confident, teammate. They’re not afraid to speak their mind and blaze a path for completing tasks. With any luck, this person is organized and understands the project, so they can help the group succeed. Having one leader is the best-case scenario. When there are two or more leaders butting heads, it can be hard to get things done efficiently.
The Agreeable Task-Doer who wants to be led. They’re a good sport. Attending all meetings, offering ideas, and completing individual tasks. To me, the equation for a perfect team is multiple Agreeable Task-Doers + one Keen Leader.
You’ll not always be crammed into a dream team. There will likely be a challenging personality on your team. Sometimes they’re hard to spot, other times, not so much.
The Apathetic Loafer who doesn’t seem to care about the major task at hand. They are easy to spot. Sometimes they don’t want to be there, and they don’t show up for team meetings. Hopefully, they muster the effort to contribute something to the team but they tend to get through the class by riding on the coattails of the teams’ efforts.
Finally, there is the Productivity Illusionist. They are the most surprising. They are the team member who will have your have your blood boiling. This person appears to be engaged in projects from the get-go, demonstrating the chutzpah of a leader. They bring your hopes up and have them slowly avalanche down. Their methods depend on whining over how they are sooo busy and overwhelmed (really, who isn’t?). They never seem to get anything done, yet they come across as a contributor. This is what I find the most difficult to accept. You’ll have to keep an eye out for them.
I was curious to hear an instructor’s view on team roles. So, I went to Geoffrey Bird, Faculty of the School of Business + Media, and asked him if he’s noticed any typical roles people take in a team. He said, “The roles that students assume in a team depend on the personality of the individuals and the combination of the personality types in the team. As in industry, there will be leaders and there will be loafers and everyone in between.”
Geoffrey’s comment touching on industry acknowledges that teamwork at BCIT is simulated industry experience. What’s a better practice space than a post-secondary institution before going into the workforce? Bird continues, “Businesses operate in teams. Working in teams helps organizations grow and prosper. By practising team skills at BCIT, students develop the highly valued ability to work collaboratively with others so that when they are hired, they can quickly begin contributing to an organization’s success.”
I understand the value of teamwork but have also experienced the challenge. So, I asked him for advice on how to succeed in a team. He gave three points of advice that all students can benefit from:
- More than ever, especially during these challenging times, communicate. Update team members regularly and often.
- Embrace feedback and don’t take it personally.
- Do everything you can to maintain trust amongst team members. Get your work done on time. Submit quality work. Be a contributor to the process.
With COVID-19 impacting how we are being educated, changes are expected in the way teams work. Since we’re predominantly studying online, I asked Geoffrey if there would be changes regarding group work. Will we be experiencing less? He responded, “This may vary from one instructor to another. The industry hasn’t stopped working in teams during the pandemic. They just work in teams differently. Students should be prepared to adapt like the industry has had to do.”
When it comes down to it, everyone at BCIT—students, faculty, tutors, administration, janitorial staff—are all part of teams. Welcome to BCIT. You will be crammed into teams. Get ready for it, do your best, and enjoy the ride.