I grew up in India. We used to play on narrow streets. Sports and extracurricular activities were hardly encouraged by parents. Doing nothing inside home was much appreciated behavior than playing outside. Somewhere in my heart I knew the value of sports & team-building in life and career.
Since 2007, I have been associated with PMI-SOC chapter. At the occasion of the 40th Anniversary Gala of the PMI-SOC Chapter, I received the Volunteer of the Year Award on November 19, 2015. To make the year more significant and memorable, the PMI-SOC team participated in the Dragon Boat Race in Toronto for the first time. I missed out on this opportunity due to my professional commitment.
This year again I got the notification of the Dragon Boat Race. Organized by the Toronto Chinese Business Association & Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival, the event entertains about 200 teams with over 5000 peddlers. I took up the challenge and registered for the event almost at the last moment.
What can you expect when 20 individuals, belonging to different organizations, come together for a cause? And this group had members like me who never attempted rowing in their life. We had only 3 practices scheduled before the actual event. In our first practice, we barely managed to row our boat in a straight line.
In our first 500m race on June 18, 2016, we secured the 5th and last place with 2:48 seconds timing. We did worse in the second race of the day; our timing was 2:58 seconds. On June 19th, we again achieved the last place in the 200m race.
Then unexpectedly one more 500m race popped up on the screen. We nailed it down. In our last race, we reached the finish line in 2:43.62 seconds and secured the bronze medal. The following quotation became the moment of truth for me.
Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results ~ Ifeanyi Onuoha
“It’s unreal. Winning a medal is well above my expectation,” Allan Jiang, Program Manager, expressed his excitement in the congratulatory email. We participated just for experience and fun. But when a diverse set of committed people came together, something amazing happened.
Team members are going to be working hard if they truly have a connection with the other people around them. Having a connection means: greater communication, empathy when problems arise and a greater ability to work as a team. Surprising but true, we were able to develop connection with each other in no time.
Each team member was committed 100 per cent for the event. On 19th June, Teresa Almeida stuck at the ferry terminal but she informed the program manager of her situation. The program manager had the responsibility of planning the alternative. Teresa warmed up during wait time and eventually joined when we were lining up to get into the boat.
Nadia Harner signed up as a volunteer for the event but agreed to be a participant to meet the requirement of being at least 10 female peddlers on the boat.
Lindsey Galvin, Team Captain, and Allan Jiang were natural leaders. Each member shown respect for all other team members. The general sense among the team members could be summarized as: “The energy and enthusiasm from this team was inspiring and it was an honor to be a part of the team.”
Motivation & Support System
The PMI-SOC volunteers supported the team during practices and actual events. Arranging snack, water, t-shirts, and photography was not easy. But volunteers executed their plan flawlessly. The Chapter President Bob Heggie attended practice sessions and main events along with his Husky dog, the official mascot of the team. Bob and volunteers cheered the team even when we were on the losing streak. The overwhelming support inspired the team to give their 100 per cent.
Krish Balagopal shared the following story:
There’s a story about an Indian village that was facing drought and so the headman gathered all the villagers to the meeting grounds in the center of the village to pray for rain. They all turned up, but only one boy brought along an umbrella! That, is FAITH my friends!
Actually just before the race, someone asked Krish’s son Alim, “Do you think we can win?”; To which he replied, “I don’t think so, I KNOW so”!
All team members were excited all the time – before, during and after the race.
“I did my groceries wearing my medal! I was so proud of it!!!” revealed Daniela Pereira.
Everyone is excited and now keenly looking forward to the next year’s event.
During the process, we have learnt the value of self-organizing team. This resonates with the agile manifesto: “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”
About Raj Kaushik
Trained as a physicist with a PhD in Science Museum Studies, Mr. Kaushik entered the field of IT in 2000. For the past 15 years, he has been involved in design, development, and post-delivery management of enterprise applications. He has written numerous research and technical papers, as well as popular science articles. He chairs the webinar committee at PMI-SOC, Canada.