The first thing that I will be able to take away from this summer is the development of my interviewing and problem solving skills. Generating our final recommendations required extensive research and data collection to identify the points within the organization that needed improvement. In order to understand the current internal and external structures that would inform our proposal, the questions posed had to encourage our interviewees to elaborate on their perspectives and experiences relevant to our mission. I learned to not be afraid to ask clarifying questions and to prepare for interviews beforehand so that our conversations were productive. Furthermore, our interviews certainly highlighted disconnects between different teams, opposing points of views, and the barriers to implementing the most idealistic success model. We had to navigate such diverse opinions, which taught me that finding a middle ground is crucial in problem solving. While developing a proposal that appeals to everyone is no easy feat, it is evident that our final recommendations would not be as insightful and useful if it did not consider everybody’s role and experience at TechTown. I value the role of diversity in research and problem solving now more than ever before.
Secondly, with the mission of our project being centered on language access and cultural competency, I have learned more about what these notions entail and their importance. While a huge part to being culturally inclusive is overcoming the language barrier, I quickly learned that a complete and profound cultural competency model entails a lot more than just language. For instance, it is not enough to just speak the language, but to set up services and programming that cater to the needs of certain social or ethnic groups. In order to understand such needs, it is crucial to empathize with those you seek to serve and to understand the context and background from which they are coming from. This has made me become a better listener, and in doing so I have enabled clients to feel that they are being heard. Giving this power to minority groups is essential in promoting values of inclusion, equity, and diversity, and I look forward to seeing their representation in leadership roles expand in the future.
Lastly, I have certainly experienced a lot of personal growth this summer. My biggest struggle growing up has always been having the confidence to speak up and share my ideas. I often doubt the value of my input and stay inside of my shell. However, with the support and encouragement of my supervisors and colleagues, I was able to assert myself more often. Being a perfectionist, oftentimes I overthink what to say or write. Now, after having numerous valuable conversations that would not have been possible if I did challenge myself to speak up, I better appreciate the effort of just sharing what is on your mind. So much can be learned from engaging in deep conversations, and now I am the most confident I have ever been to continue exchanging ideas and information with those around me.
Ultimately, I have come out of this summer with more professional and personal development than I could have ever anticipated. I am so grateful to have been a part of this program and to have been inspired by those I spent time with. I look forward to keeping in touch in the future-- thank you for making this experience possible Katherine and Matt!!