I recently had the opportunity to speak to Vincent Zhang (Year 2 MechE) about his experiences with ILead’s Faculty-wide Summer Program: Engineer Your Future and his perspective on leadership.
Vincent’s journey with ILead began in the summer of 2016 when he registered for the Faculty-wide Summer Program. He was quick to tell me how this experience transformed his life. Vincent considers himself an introvert and was afraid to express his opinions in public. However, the Summer Program helped him realize that a lot of leaders are introverts: “ILead inspired me to chase leadership and made me more likely to encourage and push for change.”
Last semester he volunteered for leadership roles in teams. For example, he decided to step up and take initiative in his intramural tennis team. His newly found confidence was recognized and he was soon made the team captain. In this position he makes sure to understand the individual needs of every person. He recognized the importance of doing so when he took the MBTI test during the Summer Program and saw the 16 different personalities that people can have.
With regards to conflict resolution in teams, Vincent admitted that sometimes he would take over another individual’s unfinished work rather than approach the person about it. After the Summer Program, he realized communication is key to creating a better team atmosphere: “…all the students here are smart and if you give them the chance and place your trust in them, then everyone can do well.”
When I asked him how the Summer Program led him to make such huge changes in his life, he said it was the team activities that helped him come out of his shell. “One day they took us rope climbing. I remember looking at the course and being absolutely terrified. However, when I saw everybody going ahead with it, I was inspired to put my fear of heights behind me and I started climbing the difficult course. This helped me realized that I can do anything if I challenge myself.”
He also mentioned that the environment of the Summer Program enabled him to make a lot of friends. He recognized that he used to be passive about interactions and would never make the first move. The Summer Program taught and inspired him to start meaningful conversations with new people and these are now some of his most cherished friendships.
Vincent ended the interview by telling me that leadership to him meant expressing his own opinion and influencing others: “…it’s not about ordering others around, but about encouraging others to do better and express their own ideas and thoughts.