COMPETENCY M

“Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for group work, collaborations and professional level presentations.”

Successful collaboration and communication is necessary in every career field to accomplish any significant project or institutional goal. Very few tasks or responsibilities rely solely upon a single individual, regardless of industry or organizational hierarchy.

In the much-celebrated book Team of Rivals, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin outlines how Abraham Lincoln assembled a cabinet comprising of his most significant and powerful political rivals and adversaries. These were men who may have envied his role as President but offered the most cogent and astute political advice in a deeply troubled time. Figures like Secretary of State William Seward and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase had greater national credentials than the largely unknown Lincoln, and despite their mutual hostility ended up contributing to his success. This history lesson became headline fodder in 2008-09, as Barack Obama put together his own cabinet claiming Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” as inspiration. He nominated former Presidential candidate and more experienced Senator Joe Biden as his Vice President, and selected his one-time arch-rival Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. As someone who enjoys historical analogy, I was amused to see that comparison brought forth in the mainstream press. But there are good lessons to be found in Lincoln’s example outside the context of Presidential cabinets.

Professional Collaboration

While you don’t necessarily want all team-members to be “rivals” (camaraderie is important!), it is always vital to put together the strongest possible teams with the best range of skills to contribute to institutional goals. Prior to my professional shift to Information Science, I was an Operations Manager with The Nature Conservancy. During my tenure, we went against the traditional organizational hierarchy to create a multi-project “Joint Venture” that pulled together a divergent group of motivated project managers in far-flung locations in both California and Nevada (Mt. Shasta, Reno, Truckee, Amargosa River, amongst others). Each of these professionals had different areas of responsibility, expertise, ecological portfolios and priorities, but under the Joint Venture they coexisted on a shared budget and had to work together as if they shared an office.

Part of this challenge we dealt with the traditional way – voluminous quantities of emails and phone calls, and extended budget sessions where we hashed out what program got what priority. However, we mixed in personal revitalization with our professional responsibilities to create stronger unity. Retreats I coordinated at Sorensen’s, near the Carson Pass, and the following year at the McCloud River Preserve, provided this far-flung team an opportunity to meet in beautiful, inspirational surroundings. During these retreats a project manager whose key responsibilities lay in desert conservation might contribute invaluable suggestions on water-use to project managers working in the Sierra Mountains, or forestry experts could provide insights into working with the federal government in ways the agricultural conservationists might find useful. In this way we were able to corral the best minds in conservation and use their ideas across different boundaries, territories and eco-systems. We tore down the walls of parochial, silo-driven conservation work by creating a team larger than any one specific area, and this “Team of Rivals” was able to collaborate in a way that expanded our ambitions.

I consider my professional experience in cross-territory team-building, as described above, to be evidence of my ability to communicate in the facilitation of group work.

Presentations

One of the trickiest arenas in which to collaborate is on presentations. Every individual has their own voice and style, and yet these divergent perspectives must be brought together in a seamless fashion in order to make a presentation smooth and professional. I had an opportunity to work in a group in LIBR-210, Reference and Information Services, in which we created and presented a slideshow-based Library Instruction session. The presentation’s theoretical target audience was a group of freshman theater students at San José State University. We were orienting them to the resources available to SJSU undergraduates in their field (in actuality, the presentation was given to SLIS instructor Lily Luo and our LIBR-210 classmates). I present the associated PowerPoint slideshow as evidence of my ability to work well in a collaborative environment.

Note – I drafted this slideshow in collaboration with the following colleagues:

  • Adina Leitner, MLIS
  • Jessica Pryde, Master’s Degree Candidate
  • Tawnie Wilson, MLIS

I am also confident preparing and presenting subjects individually. I presented a slideshow companion piece to my research paper on the career opportunities for MLIS graduates in museums (submitted as evidence related to Competency B) during LIBR-200. I am attaching the slideshow that accompanied my presentation to demonstrate my personal ability to create a professional level presentation.

Exhibit M-1: Introduction to Library Resources for Theater Arts | Available upon request

Exhibit M-2: You Should Be in a Museum: Opportunities for the Information Professional | Available upon request

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