Community, Engagement, and, Experiential learning.
When I signed up, I was set to be in Cape Town for the summer. I had heard incredible things about iXperience and was excited to be in my favorite city again. Of course, at some point this year, those plans had to change – bringing a remote experience.
Going into the remote version of iXperience, I had three key concerns. These are encompassing of what I personally define as a great summer experience: community, engagement, and experiential learning. I must say, these concerns were quickly put to rest after the program kicked off. The iXperience team made an effort to deliver on all three fronts. Here is a small taste of what I experienced, and why I am so satisfied with my summer.
Community – this starts with meeting new people and spans to being stimulated by human interaction outside of the classroom. In a remote setting, there was a virtual experience. A community platform for everyone to chat with daily check-ins by the team. This platform also facilitated some of the interest groups in the program. I was in a Netflix group, and a startups group, and loved hearing other participants’ past ventures and their current Netflix binge. What really made the community aspect for me, however, was the Global Harmony Project – the perfect way to bond young people from across the globe. We had weekly meetings to discuss various topics on philosophy, politics, identity, and ways for the world to become more united. Though this seems to have nothing to do with Product Management, it taught me so much about other perspectives, and as someone who loves friendly debates, I was in my element.
Engagement – how can you really gain the skills you need to succeed in the industry from your laptop? This question that kept ringing in my head was quickly answered by a number of observations in my class sessions. First, my teacher was very experienced in the industry, and also at teaching. He could explain the most complex product development techniques through a simple story from his past. To ensure no one was doing that thing we do on Zoom where you check out and feed your cat, or scroll through Instagram, having your video turned on at all times was mandatory. This seems insignificant but made it so much easier for the teachers and students to get to know each other better. By doing this, the classes became more of a conversation between the 25 people on the call, with students asking insightful questions and offering their thoughts on the current topic at all times.
Experiential learning – learning outside the classroom, in a more relaxed setting, not necessarily course-specific. People always say 50% of your learning in university comes from being in clubs, attending events, and making friends. The same is overwhelmingly true with this program. The highlight for me was an intimate talk with Andisa Liba, the HR Head for Africa of Cisco. She gave us advice on how to establish a personal brand, and how to leverage your mentors and advisors to get your career to the place you’ve always wanted me to be at. Around three times a week, there would be discussions like these with incredible people from different industries either talking about their experience or giving insights into certain industries.
After this summer, it was clear that immense thought had been put into delivering the program in the remote format, and a great job had been done of it! Whether I work remotely in the future or not, I have been equipped with the skills to learn, engage, and network – all through the use of digital tools. I will always remember this unique experience and am endlessly grateful for it.