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Back to School: Lessons That Shaped Our Careers

With school back in session, we are reflecting on pivotal moments from our own educations. What we learn as children can shape how we see the world as adults and provide guidance in our careers. Read on to see some of the lessons which have stuck with us!

Kent Waugh – Making Math Come to Life:

My fifth-grade schoolteacher Ms. Webb taught us about probability sampling. As each student entered the classroom, we were given a ketchup cup and were presented with a large bowl full of red and black beans. The bowl contained an uneven amount of each colour. We filled each ketchup cup with beans about twenty times and determined the colour ratio. Ms. Webb then revealed the red to black bean ratio in the large bowl. To our surprise the ratio we received from our small representative sample was only one or two percent different from the grand total. I remember thinking how cool it was that you could use math in such a way. We weren’t just predicting something but tangibly drawing a conclusion with a precise level of accuracy. It was fascinating!

Even now, when I walk client-partners through something they are not familiar with, I try to be as pragmatic as possible in my approach. Tangible examples like the one Ms. Webb gave our class make the math principle, or in our case research insights, truly come to life.

Rupinder Baweja – Mindset is Everything:

I was born in the lower mainland and raised by parents who only communicated with me in Punjabi. My school was not prepared for ESL and treated my "lack of communication and understanding skills" as a disability. Those early years had an impact on my self-efficacy and diminished the amount of effort I was willing to put in.

After one particularly dismal math test, my 5th grade teacher announced that I would be staying in for lunch until I “got math”. Within two short lunch periods I learned how to work through math concepts one step at a time. Breaking things down changed how I saw every problem, so much so that I still remember that lightbulb moment today. I achieved the highest mark on our very next math test and began applying this methodology to every learning opportunity that followed.

At The W Group, my team and I utilize these strategies in how we approach projects and support our client-partners' needs. Mindset is everything. By helping client-partners break projects down by their intent, research objectives, and scope we can deliver on anything we set out to do!

Amanda Jacques – Chess for Critical Thinking:

I attended school in Ontario. In the fourth grade my teacher was having difficulty getting the class to concentrate so he brought in chess sets. His intention was to teach us about the power of critical thinking. After learning the fundamentals, we set up stations across the classroom and held a tournament. I did not win against my peers that day but went on in the next few years to become a provincial chess champion among both genders in my age group.

When we played chess, we had to learn how to analyze a situation and devise creative solutions. We were expected to strategize at least 3 steps ahead while staying focused on the important factors in the moment. It was common for players to put up a valuable piece as bait in order to clear a better path, so I quickly learned to eliminate distractions and gain perspective.

Problem-solving, self-awareness, intuition, and planning have been invaluable skills throughout my career, and they all began with a game of chess. At The W Group one of our core values is “Finding Yes”. We approach challenges with a solution seeking mindset. Playing chess has reinforced the belief that there is always at least one solution, you just have to be willing to find it.

Let us know in the comments below what memorable lessons you learned in school!