The new and exciting Jersey Cares Project Coordinator Fellowship exposes our young people to workforce trainings, internships & employment opportunities. Case in point: a recent Workforce Development Training session at Prudential Financial, Inc. in the heart of downtown Newark, where students from Rutgers, NJIT and ECC learned about Project Management and Leadership Competencies. Nervous students uncertain of what to expect walked into an unfamiliar world the second they entered the building: professionals at the front security desk announcing their arrivals, other students patiently waiting for elevators that would bring them up to meetings, while some proceeded through the lobby for routine security checks to await their host. Our young people witnessed Prudential corporate culture, a culture of business, efficiency, and expediency even before entering a room – exposure indeed.
Work Breakdown Structure. Planning Phase. Timeline. Risk Analysis. Deliverables. Change request. They are all phrases innate to project management and simple on paper, yet weighty in nature and execution. They were explained best, however, by Prudential facilitators Jessica Battle, Director of Process Management and Stacey Green, Project Manager, through the announced task and case scenario: “Let’s paint a room!” A simple task, but is it really? Students broke into groups to discuss: What exactly does the client want? What about supplies? How many people will be needed to do the job? Do we want friends or professionals? Does yellow paint cost more than blue? When did the plan change? How?
The session, “was helpful to my understanding of getting stuff done,” noted one Rutgers student, Naa Adei Kotey. “With the room, my thought was to just get up and paint, but you need to think about the details involved. It made me think about myself and how I approach things.” Of course, project management was not taught to its fullest in a couple of hours. Highlighting its key elements in a relatable way was a poignant start, as was acknowledging that students work on projects all the time, however unaware.
The training continued with Leadership Competencies led by Prudential’s Francine Chew, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. There was a candid discussion that moved from having a strong moral compass to the importance of being aligned with a company’s vision and mission statements to help students set themselves up for success. “I know a lot of people who work in an industry just to make money,” said Rutgers student, Christian Illescas. “Money is necessary, but I like to give back and I like that she highlighted the importance of looking at companies to understand how they do that.”
“What’s your genius gift?” Francine Chew later asked. “That something that comes effortlessly where there are tons of people who can’t do that thing, whatever it is, nearly as well.” She stressed that as an effective leader, you have to hone in on yourself and work deliberately to understand not only your ebbs and flows of productivity, but what you’re really good at — and then intentionally use that information to help elevate yourself to the next level. “This opportunity is making me review what matters and managing for example, a business plan. It’s forcing me to think more about what I want to do — what would make me happy,” remarked ECC student, Jailene Galvanes. “This experience is definitely different than going to class!”
Self-examination. Painting rooms. Professional training. Intentionality. Project ambiguity. Expertise. Genius gifts. Project college graduation. Professional feedback. Prudential workforce development training. Exposure indeed.