Last year had a big impact on me, mainly because one thing: ME310.
Most people do not know what it is, the most frequent question is: “ME310? What is that?”
ME310 is derived from Mechanical Engineering 310 from a Stanford University course, it is also the name that identifies the post graduation I attended in Porto that is also part of Sugar Network, a global network that brings together multidisciplinary students from different universities and challenges to solve real world product development challenges.
I will share my experience in this “full-time job” that made Porto Design Factory my second home for 9 months and increased my family.
The first few weeks were intense, full of exercises that led us to realize what kind of mindset we should keep in mind for the rest of the year that was about to start. It was definitely intensive weeks where the methodology we were working with was introduced: Design Thinking, a methodology that focuses on the user, their needs and desires. Was also given to us small challenges which in addition to work for having the right mindset, allowed us to do team building to better know the people who would live with us in the next months and at the same time also served for the teaching team to analyse each member of the class, in order to build the teams that would work on the challenges that the partner companies had proposed. The teams were a kind of a start up, where we had the responsibility of tackling the challenge, investigating, prototyping, collecting results and developing a solution to meet users’ needs.
This course has changed my perspective of looking at the world and myself. This course is project-based, cross cultural, interdisciplinary, passion-based, hands-on… completely the opposite of the traditional system to which we are used to. There is no pedestal for the teacher, there is no classroom with tables and chairs lined up and the teacher is not there every day with a projector dictating the subject. The environments are created by students, there are conversations between students and teachers on the couch, the teacher is not the holder of absolute knowledge and students are encouraged to question and discuss the opinions exchanged.
For me it was something that made me grow faster and faster, and the biggest difference is that I can look back and notice some of those differences. In these 9 months I have read and wrote much more than when I attended my degree, because the way we look for the knowledge to feed the project is through our curiosity and ambition.
Every day we challenge ourselves, because every day we are forced to leave our comfort zone, or because we are working in an area that we are not used to, or because we are not used to questioning what we are told, or because we have to do research to be able to understand the customer better than anyone else.
But the truth is that if the course was not as intense as it is, no one was so passionate about it, obviously that this passion is what makes us want to do more, and at the same time is what can leave us glazed for something that might not be the best option, so never “fall in love” for your work. Failure is a very used word in this methodology and we think we already know its meaning, but the truth is we only understand it after failing a few times and after overcoming our frustration. It is true that there is room to fail, but it has to be for the purpose of extracting useful information for the project and to learn something from it.
Something that helps us get into this mindset is that we do not talk about grades from the beginning until the end of the course. This makes us forget that grades exist and the truth is that make us work more, because we do not feel the pressure of the grade and we end up having fun and giving more of us. The fear of failing disappears.
I can say that I had the opportunity to work with people from Australia, it’s 11 hours time difference, which meant we had to adopt methods to never compromise the work, so while some were sleeping, others were working on the project. This experience allowed me to acquire new cross-cultural communication skills, either personally or via skype, which was not always easy because when you can not analyse body language and read between the lines what people say, you do not have all the usual information for good communication. This means that at times we had to be designers, project managers, psychologists or communication experts, which led us to develop and improve our soft skills more than any other course I’ve done.
Therefore, if you think that the educational system does not fit what you want, then try not only to change your attitude, but also to look for other ways to learn. Seek knowledge, be curious, show yourself open to new experiences and never give everything as guaranteed, always seek to raise questions to get answers you didn’t even know you needed.
Want to talk? I’m Joana and I’m always interested in meeting new people and hearing a new story.
Be nice, work hard, make friends and grab a beer or an ice cream.