While working with Toshiba, I also honed this skill working as a Special Project Coordinator, a position newly created then to handle humanitarian projects initiated by Thanpuying Niramol Suriyasat. As I mentioned before, these projects are mainly for charity’s purposes as Toshiba’s slogan goes “bringing good things to life” and so it extends its helping hands to others who are less fortunate. After a project was handed down to me, it’s my job to make it happen. With the help of my seniors and co-workers there, I gradually learned everything from scratch. But project coordination was truly a good skill to possess. It’s amazing how these projects always start with a piece of paper then expands to a number of huge folders as it was progressing. From my experience, three skills that are utterly useful are organization skills, interpersonal/communication skills and problem solving skills.
Organization skills is the key because you need to deal with a vast number of information, i.e., contact people, plans, deadlines and schedules, a list of staff and their responsibilities, weekly meetings, and the list goes on and on. I usually keep one folder for one topic (both in paper and in the computer). When dealing with this much information, you cannot rely on your memories. And since projects involve a lot of people, you want to make sure you keep everything organized, so when someone asks you something, you are ready to consult your resources and come up with a legit answer.
Interpersonal/communicative skill is also very essential. Always be friendly, polite, energetic and positive, but also be efficient and assertive when necessary. And never, never burn any bridges.
Then comes the problem-solving skill - the skill that comes in really handy when the deadlines are imminent. Always have a back-up plan, so even when an unexpected circumstance arises, you have a solution ready. But with some problems, having a plan B means absolutely nothing! I have rules of thumb when encountering problems, and here they are:
1. Don’t panic. Recollect yourself—the quicker, the better.
2. Approach the problem with the “I can fix this” attitude.
3. Always look at the problem as it is, based on reality, not based on how you want it to be. Quickly scour the back of your brain to see what is the backup plan that you have. If you can’t think of anything, quickly think of situations like this that had happened in the past. What did you do? If this doesn’t work either, then, get help from someone who can save you!
4. Once you come up with a solution, implement it ASAP. It may or may not work. If it doesn’t work, go back to number one and find another way to fix this.
5. When the project is over, reflect over this problem and think of the reason why this happened and find ways to prevent this from happening again. Learn and grow from your experience.
Besides working with Toshiba, I also handled small projects with the Thai-Japanese Association (one of many organizations to which my mentor belonged), with the Thai Cultural Center of New York (kids’ plays and activities) and with AmeriCorps. While teaching at Kasetsart, I also helped with coordinated academic projects and extra-curriculum activities, such as “the Cultural Festival” and our first English camp!
I actually was told that I am quite good at this. My first job, was a flight attendant and that is where I learned to utilize this skill. But the place where I really put this to work is at Hanky Panky, a fashion company in New York where I oversaw the returns processes. Return involves 3 parts, customer service (dealing with customers and issuing RA numbers), Receiving (Receiving merchandise and making sure the merchandise matched what they were supposed to be) and accounting (issuing credits). I handled the customer service part and accounting part of this job. And Ralph, the Receiving Manager (one of the best co-workers I’ve ever had) handled the receiving part at the warehouse. And boy, I learned a lot, from how to handle with angry customers, how to reconcile difficult accounts that return too many goods, etc.
It’s not easy, but same rules, be polite, but assertive. You always abide by the company’s rules, but of course, there are cases that you make exceptions. In general, you want to be on good terms with your customers (unless they are really, really bad). So you want to show them you will do as best as you can to help them, but in the meantime, they also have to respect the company’s rules and regulations as well as they can too.
At Hanky Panky, I was working in Finance for one year. Besides handling returns, I also called to retrieve money from delinquent customers both N30 and credit card accounts. In addition, I helped with other minor tasks, tallying up daily cash, keeping credit spreadsheets, organizing invoices, etc. I also learned to use an accounting software called Mas90. From my linguistic/educational background, this is totally a whole new world. But I really think it’s a good skill to have. Now with my freelance, I can manage my invoices and set up my own accounting system. Thanks to the experience working in Accounting at Hanky Panky! (And thanks to everyone there who taught me this invaluable skill!)