I remember when three of us first met with Carol and Greg in a local coffee house on University. We had a lot of questions that first meeting but after coming out all three of us had a combination of fear, dread and excitement on our faces. It was a double-edged sword; the cool thing was that this project was going to be big, the bad thing was that project was going to be big. If we succeeded then it would give a huge boost to our self-esteem, networking and future careers. Not only would the exact opposite be true if we fail but we could potentially mess up relations between Carol and the Navajo Nation; something that she had spent the last half decade on just getting to this point. To put this on college students, that were primarily freshmen at the time, made the task even more daunting. This invariably has given me the push to wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Don’t screw up!”. A few weeks later, we then did a site visit to Tolani Lake Enterprises, met with the people and made a technical memorandum of our initial findings. To everyone in the team, we had our problem statement nailed and all we had to do was start designing towards prototypes and finalizing the numbers. Labor intensive, but manageable enough.
Starting in the spring semester of 2016 I was asked to be the new team lead as the previous lead, Taylor Davis, had commitments with ROTC that he needed to dedicate more time to. I was surprised and humbled at the same time. Officially being a freshman, I didn’t feel at all up to the challenge in terms of the technical skills required. On top of this I was now in charge of motivating 12 individuals all in the same boat, as this was a very new project. Typically, a boss has disciplinary options open to them that they can take against their employees, but in my case if I start threatening people with F’s and bad reviews they would just drop out as this is an extra-curricular activity. This is where learning how to be a servant leader comes into play. Because this is an extra-curricular program, and 1 credit class, people usually want to be there; it is up to the project lead to get them to want to stay. Once again this is hard as I can’t increase their wages or benefits. Instead, I have had to learn how to connect to them on a personal level, understand what they are wanting out of this project and then try to tailor their responsibilities accordingly. This has made a huge difference, and the results show it.
But even when things were not so great, I was still the team lead. One case in point was our last design review for my first semester in the role. To say things went bad would be an understatement. We just simply were steamrolled by our reviewers, to the point where I didn’t really want to continue with EPICS. But after a week of licking our wounds we made some good progress. We finally had our problem statement nailed, for sure this time, and now the goal of prototyping was on its way. Since then we have constructed a few prototypes and are currently under way to testing their efficacy. Being the team lead hasn’t been easy, but through all the paper work and the roadblocks it has been worth it. The 2016 EPICS Generator Award for Outstanding Team Leader was just the icing on the cake.