This class made me realise first hand exactly how accessible it is to manufacture or create products in China. I know now that if I have an idea, I have the tools and the knowledge to bring that idea to life. One thing I learned from Dee was to use the Chinese Alibaba website. I knew that there was an Alibaba in Chinese and assumed it was the same as Alibaba.com, that the site was designed to be used on English or the English version was a response to my IP address or browsing history. Dee introduced me to 1688.com, the actual Chinese Alibaba website. While this a platform to buy wholesale from factories, the actual app looks and functions exactly like Taobao. (God bless China)
I used my experiences on shopping on taobao and dealing with customer service representatives in China to message representatives from the factories and identify what services they could specifically provide for me. Due to taobao shopping, I expected these conversations to be fairly casual and with quick responses, however dealing with these factories, I was surprised at how easily it was to explain what I needed and wanted. I messaged them using the in-app Alibaba chatting client and called the or added their wechat as necessary. They were all fairly accommodating and even went out of their way to help me, seemingly available at any hour.
This was good for me because I found it difficult to set aside time for researching factories and manufacturers. Much of my interactions were brief, direct, and conducted while in a moving vehicle. I’m not sure how necessary this was for research, but with my limited Chinese skills, just reading the listing wasn’t enough to figure out what exactly the factory was selling. For this reason, I needed to talk with a representative.
I always look forward to group work because I think it’s really important to learn to work well with others and I appreciate opportunities to practice. From working on this project, I was left confused and insecure about my approach to teamwork. At the same time I think I learned some things about myself that I hope I can apply or look for in later experiences. I think that this project suffered from a problem that Christian discussed earlier in the semester: one partner losing interest.
It was difficult for me to determine exactly when I needed to give up on the idea of partnership and work on my own, while I realised at about halfway through the semester that I should treat this as a solo project, it wasn’t until after the Shenzhen trip that I fully accepted that I was the only one responsible for materializing the project. If I had been more self-aware, I should have known from around the time we were working on 3D models of our prototypes or perhaps earlier. We approached each assignment on a case by case basis, deciding how to divide the work when we received each assignment. While it seemed to me there was an implicit assumption Dee would contribute greatly towards sourcing each material, I found and purchased every item except for the scarves.
While this does not fit my ideal team project dynamic, I realised that I needed to be the one in a management role on the team. I needed identifying directions to pursue, clearly and meticulously assigning tasks to reach these goals, ensuring my instructions are clearly understood, and reminding/checking up on the status of these tasks. Not only was I responsible for holding myself accountable to make progress, but also for doing the same as my partner. This is also not my ideal management dynamic. I learned what I really needed from partner and what it takes to get a major project such as manufacturing a product to come to fruition.
My individual working style, I’ve realised I struggle to balance major projects and must work one until completion at a time and circumstances at the time (attempting to finish two capstone projects along with other school work) the mental load of managing every individual aspect in this project was very high and made it difficult for me to clearly identify what I needed to put my energy towards to complete the active filtering scarf. I need a partner who can help carry the project and I can depend on to hold themselves accountable and balance out the work.
Open communication was very important towards accomplishing this project. If something wasn’t explained well it wouldn’t get done. It also helped ease tension. I learned the importance of honest conversation and expectation setting. I hope to carry this knowledge and skills with me to whatever team and whichever roles I may find myself in the future.