The concept of the shadowing project is pretty simple. Find a leader in an industry/field that is interesting and spend at least three days with them observing their behaviors. Use those observations to write an academic report on them – give one to the person you shadowed, give another draft to the school for a grade.
Feedback from last year was mixed. Some people really liked the shadowing project while others thought it was a waste of time. Those in the second camp normally had one of two characteristics: they waited until the last minute or were the people who didn’t like anything that didn’t involve Excel. I automatically discount the second group even if some of them are my closest friends.
Knowing that the key to enjoying this project, and completing it without an all-nighter the day before classes start this autumn, was getting someone quickly that was one of my key objectives. Frankly, I got someone before it even became an objective.
Last autumn, I helped with the GSVC symposium, in which the key note speaker was Penny Newman. She is the CEO of a coffee company called CafeDirect. CafeDirect is different because they believe, in fact champion fairtrade, with suppliers. CafeDirect was set up by a few charities but very much operate like a for profit company. In fact, they are publicly held.
Penny and I met during the after event drinks reception. About five minutes into the conversation, I asked if I could shadow her and she agreed. Many, many months later we organised a time and it started. In total, I’ve spent three days with Penny and enjoyed every minute of the experience. It was truly eye opening. A lot of alumn’s have given feedback that the most important classes they had at school were the OB (organisational behavior) classes because that’s that one really faces as a challenge when they climb the ladder.
I’ve signed an NDA on all the things I heard and saw, which was fine. Who would I tell?
I’m surprised that the school is making this an elective rather than keeping it as required for graduation. Obviously there are good and bad people to shadow. Penny, in my opinion, was awesome. She even let me participate a couple times (breaks the shadowing rules, but hey better to ask forgiveness rather than permission – right?) during PR/Marketing conversations.
There’s an old saying concerning walking in another man’s shoes – nothing demonstrates that like having three days of experiencing that person’s world.