Why did you decide to take part in the contest for your own course?
There were a number of factors behind this decision. First of all, I decided to participate in the ITMO.Mentors program and this experience really came in handy during the contest. In the winter semester, I assisted Soft Skills lecturer Evgeniya Shestakova with the courses Public Speaking Skills, Storytelling, and Personal Efficiency and Time Management. When I saw how involved and excited students were at those classes, I knew I wanted to experience it again.
The second reason is that it’s a unique experience: where else would I be able to try my hand as a lecturer without specialized education?
Finally and, perhaps, most importantly for me, I remembered how many problems I had to face at the very start of my career; all of them could have actually been avoided. So I wanted to share my experience and help other students sidestep the same mistakes.
What was the reason why you chose to focus your course on this field?
I am a project manager and I also manage teams, so management makes the core of my course. Somehow everyone seems to think that it is easy to work with people but it takes certain skills. Moreover, if you don’t know some of the basics, you can face significant challenges in your work.
What is more, at my faculty we focus on managing high tech production, which is as close a field as it gets to management. People and processes have to be managed in any high tech company in oil, timber, or agriculture; and this is where you can benefit from management practices such as planning, feedback, delegation, and others.
What topics will the course cover?
Management practices stand for systematic daily management work of the executive. This term refers to many activities, which are different in different companies. In the course, I included those practices that I found useful in my own experience. For instance, everyone knows what feedback is but actually providing feedback is different for many. It is these basic practices that usually cause many mistakes. That is why my course is a combination of my experience and the information professionally and fully described in specialized textbooks.
There are only six practical classes, each devoted to a specific topic. We have already covered goal setting and management planning in the first class. Later, we will turn to delegating, organizing team meetings, and providing feedback. In the final class, we will talk about evaluating productivity and the key skills for a modern-day manager. These days, it’s not just good social skills and the ability to resist stress that define a good leader. At the class, students will have the chance to identify the most essential qualities and I will just suggest several options that I believe to be important. For instance, I value empathy, understanding business and your impact on the company’s processes, as well as managing expectations: evaluating your team’s capacities and external factors that affect them, and explaining to your team what they can feasibly achieve.
To put what we learn into practice, we make Gantt charts and roadmaps, as well as play business games, where students find themselves in different scenarios: being a manager, an employee, or a head of a family. As homework, students solve cases, complete set readings, and watch topical films.
I hope that at the end of the course my students will see that leaders have to remain human and realize that their employees are people with their own problems, needs, and ambitions. It is also important to think in business terms; when students start their jobs at companies (especially small businesses), they will have to see that every setback will be noticeable and will affect company processes, profits, client loyalty, and more. That’s why it is important to understand the capabilities of yourself and your team, and know how to set long-term goals.
What was the hardest part in developing your own course?
My main challenge was the deadline. I applied for the contest on January 5, the results were announced at the end of the month, and my course had to launch on April 11. I had two and a half months to work on my course and this was just enough time; I had to think through the theory and practical aspects of the course, get through a lot of materials, and choose the topics I will present to students. Moreover, I needed to prepare a detailed course syllabus. All of these tasks had to be put into my schedule, which proved challenging but possible.
Another challenge was to make the course accessible and interesting for students of different levels. Here, I had help from Evgeniya Shestakova, with whom we started collaborating at ITMO.Mentors and keep in touch to this day. She drew my attention to many methodological aspects that I would’ve otherwise missed. When we discussed the structure of the course and I talked about everything I wanted to include, we came across concepts that I thought were common knowledge – and actually they weren’t. In such cases, Evgeniya suggested I explain them for everyone; this way we simplified some tasks and added conditions that allowed students to find different solutions.
Do you have any recommendations for other students who wish to create and teach their own courses?
I would definitely encourage everyone to join such initiatives because they mean getting a unique experience. Moreover, I think that if you boost your skills, you can even apply for vacancies in the university’s faculty.
When developing a course, you have to first very clearly see why you need it and how it will help others. If you are only doing it for the sake of doing it, then what will other students get from it?
You should also pay very close attention to the course description; you should write it in a way that will make it easy to understand who the course is meant for and what your students will learn. I am speaking from experience: when I just met my new students, they told me they liked the way my course description sounded and that’s why they decided to sign up for it.