In my own words, project management is the ability to successfully lead a group of individuals toward a common goal. In this case, understanding and applying the soft skills I have learned throughout this internship, I led a group of volunteers to complete a garden installation for a deserving family in Raleigh. This required constant communication with my mentor, the family, and volunteers. In the beginning, I was nervous for the outcome. I had never had experience as a project manager, and was intimidated at the thought of letting the community down. As I developed my leadership, communication, fundraising, social media, collaboration, and marketing skills, I was able to gain the confidence I needed in order to successfully implement the garden installation.
What did I do?
I helped lead, communicate, collaborate, fundraise, and promote the project using social media, and inform my network of updates. The Victory Garden Network’s mission is to:
VG Net’s mission: To position students for post-college success through a rigorous mentorship program based on the practical application of critical skill sets, thereby empowering them with the confidence and assurance to transform knowledge into action and dreams into reality as future leaders of our global society.
These are the 6 main skills this internship helps develop throughout this internship:
How have I developed these critical soft skills? By focusing on building up my weaknesses, I have improved my:
Collaboration: I have successfully collaborated with my network to work together towards a community engagement project. There is no “I” in team, and this required meeting up with my mentor and collaborating. I used Google docs to plan out, the library to meet with my mentor, and face to face verbal communication to successfully team up.
Communication- Throughout this internship, I have been communicating in many ways to help raise awareness of the project. Wix, a professional website builder, allowed me to add my blog posts and tell my network about myself. Social media, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr, allowed me to share photos and new information for individuals seeking updates and a better understanding of the project. Next, I sent out a newsletter at the start of the internship to announce my position and find a family! As the project date grew closer, I emailed my network (family, friends, previous interns, and volunteers) with my reflection pieces. Each week, there was a different topic that showcased my development. The purpose of the reflection pieces were to gather my thoughts on paper and compare how much I had grown from the previous week.
Leadership: The success of the project depends on a strong, sound leader. I led all of the helpers on Saturday morning, April 8th, 2017. The volunteers who had questions came straight to me, and I helped them fix any problems or confusion they were having. This included questions such as strawberry placement, how much soil to place in the flower bed, how to water the herbs in the palette, and the layout of the cinder blocks in the large veggie bed. With my guidance, the issues were solved and the volunteers/sub leaders installed the home garden smoothly.
Fundraising: In order for this project to be successful, I created a fundraising strategy using GoFundMe and social media sites. I would give a background about the project and then, using a link to GoFundMe, ask my network to donate to the project. I was amazed at the generosity of the many individuals that truly believed in me. The donations ensured that we had enough funds to order the supplies and get everything we needed for the family. I also had to keep a strict budget in Excel- a task that I had little experience with! I have definitely kept a personal budget before as well as for class projects, but this was a whole new level to me. The budget included items such as cinder blocks, soil/compost, plants, flowers, seeds, herbs, and items for growing the hops, paint, wood, stain, and paintbrushes. This was rather difficult for me, considering my lack of experience, so my mentor Shamsa guided me in the right direction to ensure all of the money was accounted for and we were not overspending.
Presentation: As with every project, the information must be shared. With any larger project, the individual or group of individuals devise a plan of action to present, whether that be with a PowerPoint, poster, Prezi, reports, or verbally. The purpose of presenting is not to intimidate, stress, or inconvenience the presenter… while most college students have the presentation component in their coursework, many of them struggle to convey the information in front of a crowd. When I took public speaking last summer, I was terrified to stand up in front of my peers. Throughout this internship, I have gained confidence in my communication skills- and not just through papers or emails. The Victory Garden Network guidelines provide me with the change to give an on campus presentation, which is located at NC State University, and an off campus presentation, which can be anywhere. For the on campus presentation, I will be speaking to volunteers at the SOUL Garden, located on Centennial Campus. This will take place on Earth Day, April 22. For the off campus presentation, I am still finalizing areas, but am really interested in speaking to my hometown of Powhatan, Virginia. The rural area has many gardens, and I think it would be a great way to spread awareness of how managing a garden installation can help an individual grow in so many ways. I am very proud of what I have accomplished, and cannot wait to share the experience with my peers for years to come.
Thank you so much for reading my development reflection, and it has been a pleasure getting to speak with you over the course of my internship. Now that the weather is nice, I advise each and every one of you to get your hands in the dirt.
“Never underestimate the power of a planted seed.”