I first learned about “The Finance of Retirement & Pensions” offered by the Stanford Graduate School of Business in a New York Times article. Since I am nearing retirement, I decided to explore the course. This undertaking turned into quite an adventure. First, the class was difficult but the instructor was very good. There were assignments and an individual project that took many hours of effort to complete. I found the peer evaluations interesting and motivating. Some reviewers even went out of their way to praise certain aspects of my project – pretty cool, really. But then the ominous Team Project was next on the agenda. This is where I was certain the wheels would fly off the car.
The idea behind the Team Project was to sign up with others on the web who I had never met before. All I could think was: what a recipe for disaster! I was relieved when I found a team leader who invited me to join his group. With little more than a week before the assignment due date, we met for the first time over the phone. Though the meeting was slow going at first, after one hour – to my complete astonishment – we had broken the very complicated and intricate team project into manageable pieces. Even more amazingly, people on my team volunteered to cover different parts.
One person focused on Excel data entry. Another person and a partner took the lead on composing replies to word questions and getting our submission ready. Yet another person and partner took the lead on data. Lastly, someone took the lead for the presentation of results. We met one more time nearing the deadline and, again miraculously, everyone came through and produced all the results they signed up for (and at times even more)! The project was coming together.
At our third and final meeting, the person who signed up to do the presentation walked through the results and conclusions, and we improved and embellished the presentation as we went. The project was submitted on time the next day. Honestly, it was a HUGE relief to have the Team Project completed. And then peer evaluations started flowing in saying how well others thought we did on our team project.
So, who made up our team? A retired state administrator, a recently unemployed President of a Non-Profit, a student who lost her immigration status and left for home (Vietnam) the day we submitted our Team Project, a professor at the University of MN and a project manager at IBM. What an eclectic group of people to get together and to have successfully completed such a complicated Team Project in just a few days. We still to this day have never met each other face to face, although I think we all would like to do so someday ….
Along with hand-washing, disinfecting, and social distancing, Zoom has become part of life for many during the pandemic. However, the initial thrill of seeing distant colleagues on video conferences has given way to fatigue, anxiety, and distraction as we struggle to stay engaged.