success from collaborative learning

Unlocking the Leader Within Through Collaborative Learning

According to Gallup’s most recent report on the “State of the American Workplace,” only 21% of employees feel strongly that their managers motivate them to do outstanding work. In that same Gallup survey, Americans cited management and leadership as one of their top five reasons for leaving a job.   

The American workforce is changing. As millennials move into leadership roles and older generations enter retirement, it’s becoming more important for the next generation of employees to gain leadership and management skills — and quickly.  

Learning about leadership is a great first step, but finding opportunities to practice the skills essential for good leadership is critical to the growth and success of your career — this is why, at UB, our faculty are always looking for new and innovative ways to give students a chance to practice their soft skills and lead others.   

We recently published a story about hands-on learning opportunities at UB. Let’s explore how some of those opportunities led to growth in technical, leadership, and team management skills for one UB student.   

Meet Brandon Adams, MS in Data Analytics student 

Brandon Adams, MS Analytics student

Last summer, we shared the story of UB students gaining hands-on skills working with a local start-up, Foot Traffic Stats. Through this ongoing project, UB’s master’s in Data Analytics students work as the start-up’s dedicated analytics team each semester — providing valuable product feedback while helping the company develop a data analytics dashboard to make smart business decisions as they bring their technology to market. 

That story continued into the fall 2023 semester, with the next cohort of Analytics students continuing the project. Brandon Adams led a group of 12 students in his Data-Driven Marketing class as they navigated the technical side of this project.  

Unsurprisingly, Adams faced a common challenge for those leading diverse groups of people, but one that was new to him — interpersonal issues within his team. While Adams may not have predicted this obstacle, it was a challenge his faculty likely anticipated, and perhaps even hoped for. Learning to navigate the communication and collaboration struggles that arise during a major project is something people encounter in their day-to-day work lives. By gaining the knowledge and skills to navigate these issues as students, Adams and his team are getting real-world opportunities to address the challenges they’ll encounter in the workforce.  

Exposure to these types of issues early on in one’s career is vital to one’s ability to become resilient to — and even overcome – these challenges and become effective leaders. “At first, it was difficult gaining that synergy to work together,” said Adams. In addition to working through technical challenges the project presented, Brandon was faced with the challenge of motivating a group of students who were struggling to come together.   

As the team leader, it fell to him to find solutions to some of these interpersonal challenges. “As a leader, you learn that everything that goes poorly with the group is a reflection on you.” Brandon stepped up after noting some of the issues he was observing and discussing his concerns with his professor.   

“I took another step in myself,” said Brandon. He delegated tasks where needed and sought creative ways to motivate his team. “What I learned most from this leadership role was how to rally and motivate a group. To encourage others to be proud of what we were doing for ourselves and others can be difficult,” Brandon continued, “I was happy that I could put that spark in somebody else.” That was an important lesson for Brandon, preparing him for a future environment where he will work on data analytics teams made up of diverse personalities.   

Presenting to professionals 

In addition to leading his team throughout the semester, Brandon was tasked with leading the presentation his team made to the founders of Foot Traffic Stats and, at times, suggesting to the company areas where they could alter or fix their technology to make it more consumer friendly. “This was a great first-hand experience and a sneak peek into what I can expect in the business world,” he reflected. Brandon and his team practiced public speaking, communication, and working collaboratively — all on a project with real-world implications — providing their actionable insights to the company and UB.   

“I learned things about myself and others that I can take with me for the rest of my life,” said Brandon. “I can’t wait to share this experience with hiring managers when I go out and look for a position when I graduate. I’m excited to share my motivation, my mindset, and my ideas for moving businesses forward and the business of moving myself forward.”   

Brandon and his team plan to share their technical findings with you at the upcoming UBRISE event on April 5, 2024, where they’ll showcase their project, reporting on their recommendations and next steps for Foot Traffic Stats and for University of Bridgeport, which is serving as the use case for the foot traffic technology created by the company.   

To learn more about UBRISE and see all the research, innovation, scholarship, and entrepreneurship that UB’s faculty and students are involved in, visit here to register to attend this year’s event!