June 29, 2020, by Jackie Thompson
A unique and valuable challenge
by Cerys Welch, liberal arts student
I applied for the Nottingham Consultancy Challenge (NCC) originally to earn credits towards the Nottingham Advantage Award. I expected tick-box exercises; lots of supervision; and minimal opportunities to be innovative and original. In reality, it felt like I was really working as a consultant and had control over what my team and I did.
The project brief
My project brief was to design a boot hoist/lift, for AutoChair, which would give independence to elderly or disabled people. AutoChair already manufactures and installs hoists for wheelchairs and people lifts for vehicles, but they were looking to expand their product range and generate new ideas.
Using our strengths
I was intimidated at first because I thought the brief would require science and engineering knowledge and I am a humanities student. However, when we met with our contact from the company, he explained that they were looking for conceptual designs which did not have to be perfectly fine-tuned. Also, a team member was a physics student and others had design experience, so we all played to our strengths and helped each other out.
Having complete control but with support
Each week, my group was given complete control over how we managed our time and when we decided to visit AutoChair premises. Every week we were expected to do independent group work, but some weeks we had a presentation workshop, drop-ins with University staff, and a reflection workshop.
I didn’t expect this structure to begin with so I think it’s important to stress that you and your group are largely left to your own devices. Staff are there if you need help but you need to manage your personal time well. Because of this, I developed my project management skills which I have not had the opportunity to do before. The Challenge is very unique for this. The other skills I developed alongside project management included presentation, digital, research, and problem-solving.
The impact of COVID-19
We recorded a remote presentation, using a digital programme I was new to, where we gave three product designs, an app design, and summarised our recommendations. Sadly, we have not had feedback as the company has been affected by the pandemic, but we have been contacted by them to say they hope to hold a question and answer session in the future.
Unfortunately, my group and I did not have the best working relationship. After the University moved online as a result of the pandemic, our communication broke down, which I believe to be because of a lack of motivation and clarity.
Two out of the five of us gave the final presentation and explained the situation. Looking back, I would stress the importance of establishing how your group are going to work from the get-go and ensure that everyone is committed.
You also have to ask yourself if you are fully committed because you will be working with actual businesses who will benefit greatly from a job well done.
Ultimately, I would recommend the Nottingham Consultancy Challenge to anyone who wants to find out more about the sector, improve project and group skills, or simply gain more experience and credits for the Nottingham Advantage Award. You get out what you put in so stay committed and motivated and you will definitely find it valuable.
Applications are now open for the Virtual Nottingham Consultancy Challenge: a new, evolved version of the Challenge for these extraordinary times. The closing date for applications is Sunday 5 July.
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