Monday, 7 December 2020

Five ways SELA has helped me with my degree

Sioned Davies, SELA Cohort 2019

As I start my second year as a SELA member, I can already see how SELA is helping me in multiple areas of my life, but especially in my General Engineering degree. So, here are five ways I have used the skills learnt from SELA workshops and our project that have helped me to do better in my degree.

Organising Meetings

A meeting without a clear plan is not a productive meeting. This was really important, especially around the start of our SELA project. Meetings for project groups on my course benefited greatly from my realisation of this. My first term design project never felt very well organised and as a result my team members and I were always confused about what needed to be done. The skills I learnt from helping to organise meetings and taking the minutes for SELA meant that I was able to ensure that the group meetings for my second term projects were more productive, more efficient, and as a result, a lot shorter. A five minute, productive meeting was really useful for a group of already busy people.

Project Management

While on our degrees we have been taught techniques for project management multiple times but never before had to put it into practice. SELA opened my eyes to how useful it was to have a project leader managing the team and in my second term projects that is exactly what I did. Creating Gantt Charts and ensuring everyone is aware of their individual milestones and team milestones made a real difference to how well the teams worked. SELA did teach me things that I had not thought of before, ensuring that the whole team was motivated towards our common end goal which made a noticeable change in the group attitudes. Delegating so each member was in charge of a task also helped to keep them motivated and more involved. Finally, keeping regular communication and operating an open door policy meant team members felt comfortable telling me when they had problems with their tasks so I could help them and discussing the best way to tackle tasks if they did not think the way I initially laid out was best, allowing us to ensure everyone was working to their potential.


Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, this year it has been really important for me to look out for myself and others, and SELA has helped me to do this. SELA workshops have helped us to find methods of self care that work for us individually as well as how to recognise a burnout. Straight after the start of lockdown the move to working online was rather messy and therefore extremely stressful for most students, myself included. Using some of the methods I had been taught, I was able to help myself to calm down, stay healthy, stay focused and create new realistic goals. In understanding yourself better you tend to find that you understand others better, and this was the case for me. Staying calm meant that I was able to be a better leader for my project groups, ensuring that no one felt overwhelmed, checking in regularly to ensure all team members were happy with the tasks they had been set and ensuring that new flexible goals were realistic given the circumstances. This helped to ensure that despite the difficult situation my team projects still went well.

Working in Interdisciplinary Teams

SELA has given me the opportunity to work in a large interdisciplinary team, something I hadn’t experienced in my degree. This gave me an interesting insight into how best to organise a team with various knowledge and specialities. This was definitely useful in both my second term projects. Our design project was to create a water-borne rubbish collection robot which involved lots of different parts. To do this we had to work together to decide who would be best working on which parts. Dividing it up in these methods ensured people were working on the parts they were most enthusiastic about and were therefore more motivated. Our chemical engineering project was different due to the team being a mixture of general and chemical engineers. In this case working in pairs on specific parts worked best as it allowed us to learn from each other. Coming up with the best method to organise each individual team was difficult but the project management skills SELA has taught me made it significantly easier.

Effective Listening 

One of the tasks I have been doing for Cohort 2019’s Project 2050 is organising meetings and taking the minutes. These notes need to be concise so that I can clearly explain to members that were not present what happened at the meeting. This has helped me over the past year to improve the way I take lecture notes so that I find it easier to recall important details. Over the past year I have been an Academic Rep, communicating the concerns and opinions of fellow students on my course, in my year to academic staff. Better understanding the various types of effective listening has significantly helped me to improve in this role. Listening with empathy and reading non-verbal clues has allowed me to communicate better with my fellow students about their concerns of situations relating to our degree. Within the student-staff meetings themselves I have been able to practice my evaluative listening while understanding the bigger picture which has given me more confidence to give constructive input at these meetings.

Overall, looking back at my first year in SELA I feel that the programme has contributed significantly to my personal and professional development. Given that the second year of SELA promises to develop these positive qualities even further, I am really looking forward to it.

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