Struggle and Growth in COVID-19

Windy WangMy name is Windy (Kexin) Wang. I graduated from UW in December 2019, after studying marketing and finance at Foster. In the beginning of March, the professor of my undergraduate business consulting class and former Accenture consultant, Liz Tinkham, emailed her former students about participating in a project to build a for small business owners struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I immediately decided to join the team. I could identify with the hardship that small business owners were suffering from during the crisis, as my mom’s business was forced to close in China for two months already at that point in time. From March to June, I participated in the data collection team and led the external communications team on the Playbook project, communicating with small business owners, spreading our messages and coordinating with external parties. In June, I planned and hosted the soft launch virtual event with my team.

After our Playbook launched in June, I continued to work with the Consulting and Business Development Center (The Center) to develop a navigation tool that would help future users navigate the Playbook. The Playbook was information-dense with research, recommendations, references, files, and more. We wanted to create a tool within the website that would help future users, especially those without any context, to find the most relevant information and resources easily and quickly.

In the past five months, I have talked to different small business owners. I gained fresh perspectives from the unique characteristics of small businesses. Different from large firms I learned about in class or in my other internships, I realized that some small businesses were more susceptible to changes. For example, some business owners needed to deal with closed daycares and the impact of the pandemic at the same time. However, smaller businesses were more agile, and thus able to pivot quickly. Some companies were able to react promptly to create new revenue streams, partner with competitors, or create platforms to help their local business communities. Some businesses seized the moment and experienced tremendous growth by building an online presence.  Even though many small businesses were negatively impacted, I still saw a lot of positivity and creativity among business owners living through this hardship.

There is an old Chinese saying: “Heroes emerge in troubled times.”

During the six months, I grew professionally while working on the Playbook project and building a navigation tool for the website. On the soft skill side, I met with clients and communicated about feedback. On the technical skill side, I worked with Qualtrics to create a comprehensive survey. The part of the project I enjoyed the most was thinking of creative ways to effectively categorize the overwhelming amount of information by theme. This helped the user navigate to all the pages with the right information.

While working with The Center to help small business owners, I experienced some personal challenges as well, such as time differences and internet censorship. I flew back home to Beijing, China in July for family affairs. However, due to the pandemic, flights were significantly cut, and border controls were extremely strict. I had to take three flights and be in a mandated quarantine for 14 days before I was able to go home. Even after I got to Beijing, I traveled to four other cities before our project ended in August. I was very grateful that my teammates and co-workers at The Center met with me outside of our usual work time to accommodate my time difference. Even though I had to miss a few meetings while I was abroad, I always watched meeting recordings and asked for updates to stay involved. I developed my skills in working while traveling. As a future consultant, it is very essential to adapt to this kind of work pace and stay connected with the team.

Currently, I am studying information management with a specialization in Business Intelligence at the UW iSchool. I would like to pursue a career in management consulting, helping businesses solve problems by using my business knowledge, information skills, logical thinking, and creativity. I am also committed to helping small businesses in the Asian communities and those who might have language or cultural barriers.

Last but not least, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Consulting and Business Development Center. The Center gave me the opportunity to participate in this meaningful project and grow in the meantime. I also want to thank Karina Abramchuk and Khatsini Simani. These people made me feel included all the time even when I was abroad and had 15 hours of time difference. Again, thank you all. I hope we can work together again someday in the future!

 

Guest post by Windy (Kexin) Wang, BA 2019, Marketing and Finance focus.