Thursday, 30 June 2016

Finding My Way Around Paris

A violent bang of the train doors, as they swing open with the flick of a handle upwards. The chatter of hushed French voices in the train carriage – a language I’ve begun to be able to decipher. A woman playing Candy Crush on her phone, leaving me with a realisation that some things are quite universal. It’s Friday today. And hello, from Paris.

Prior to my departure, everyone was asking if I was excited, if I’d learnt any French, if I had packed… To be frank, I was beyond nervous about how the trip was going to turn out. As someone who thrives on certainty, I hated not knowing precisely where I was going to be, and even Google maps couldn’t save my anxiety. I ended up with several sleepless nights.

People will tell you so many things about what Paris is potentially going to be like. They’d tell you to visit all these cafes and museums, eat all these crepes and macarons, go take a boat ride on River Seine, be careful with your belongings, and most of all – always be safe. But nothing really prepares you for what to expect when you first set foot in Paris.

The first few days of the program were the toughest to get through – getting settled into a completely unfamiliar environment, and having to act as though I was so familiar with France was extremely tiring. No amount of independent living in Sydney for years could teach you how to get around on the trains, and no amount of planning could prepare you for the overwhelming sense of helplessness you face upon landing that would make you question why you came to begin with.

But when you hit rock bottom, the only thing you can do is swim upwards.
The long, arduous days challenged me to appreciate time even more greatly. In between exploring little alleyways for hidden creperias and tapping away at my phone in reply to messages from friends and family some 8 hours behind… I learnt to appreciate.

As a little girl, I’d dreamt about Paris – fantasised, even, about the day I’d see the Eiffel Tower in person. On the metro today, we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower on the way to work on a clear sunny morning and it felt so surreal. It hit me that I was actually in Paris. For a moment, it made all the anxiety I’d felt over the past few days worth it.

Going on this program, you really have to ask yourself why you’re doing this, and know what you’re signing up for. I was met with wide eyes when I told my colleagues I was studying every night after work – they simply couldn’t believe it. When all my friends in Sydney tell me repeatedly, “Enjoy yourself! Eat more!” and my favourite one – “Enjoy your holiday!” I repeatedly try to convince myself that it’s a holiday, but is it really?

And yet, I know how much of a rewarding experience this is, and can be. With all these challenges in mind, it’s always good to remember – what doesn’t kill you will always make you stronger. 

Felicia Poh
Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

Friday, 24 June 2016

Au Revoir Australie – Bonjour Paris !

For the next six weeks of my life, I will be working, studying and living in the city of love – Paris, France.  I am incredibly grateful to have received this extraordinary opportunity while simultaneously petrified of the unknown. What will working in a French organisation be like? How will the strong, vertical hierarchy compare to an Australian workplace? Will anyone understand me over my thick Aussie accent!?  All of these thoughts circle around my mind, but it’s too late to turn back now – I’m on the plane to Paris!

So let me explain a little, about two months ago, I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Paris Industry Placement Program – a University of Sydney Business School initiative established to enrich the student experience through an immersive international program. The IPP takes place over the Australian winter for six weeks, and all students will be working in a French or multi-national organisation whilst also attending one of France’s preeminent universities, Sciences Po. As a commerce student, I was drawn to the IPP due to the practical insights in international business that I would be able to attain, as well as the personal development that would inevitably result due to the fact I would be working in a completely foreign country (and so out of my comfort zone!).  As an international business major, the opportunity to be exposed to an entirely different culture would be an invaluable experience for my cross-cultural understanding and ultimately enhance my profile for future employment in an industry specific position.

The Journey to the Acceptance Letter
Reading “I am delighted to advise…” while standing in line for a coffee at the ABS cafe was one of the most electrifying moments of my life – but getting to that point wasn’t without its hurdles.
Written applications, online interviews and competitive assessment centers – that is all ahead of you if you wish to partake in a future IPP program.  But don’t let them deter you, in fact, take it as an opportunity to practice for graduate programs as the process is very similar to that conducted by the IPP.

The written component of the application is pretty straight-forward, but some advice for when you’re sending in your resume: tailor your resume to your dream position. For example; if you would like to work in consulting, ensure you emphasize your desire to attain such a position, same goes for finance students wanting to work in risk, or marketing consultants who wish to work in fashion. By articulating your ambitions, you are more likely to be matched with a suitable organization.

Online Interview
Advice for the online interviews – be yourself. I remember I was feeling shaky and nervous for the online interview, having never replied to a computer when asked to speak about my career aspirations before. But you can imagine how many interviews the assessors have to watch, so by injecting some personality into your answers, you’re more likely to stand out from the crowd. Oh and study up on some interesting aspects of Paris (or whichever country you will be applying for) as it really shows you have a genuine interest in your country of choice.

Assessment Center
The assessment centers are intimidating, no doubt, but realise that everyone is in the exact same boat. Try to develop rapport early with your peers as it helps ease the nerves and helps when you’re developing answers to case studies in a team environment. Also, be mindful and open to everyone’s ideas, and always remain positive and constructive, you want to show how adaptable you are in diverse environments. Focusing on your strong suits and let others show off theirs, in the end you’re working as a team so make sure you help each other.

 “Every struggle is a blessing in disguise”

One of my favorite quotes and one that I believe will be particularly valuable on the journey ahead. No doubt I will encounter tasks that challenge me, I will be exhausted from work, class and the language barrier, but regardless, challenges shape us into better individuals. So this is the mindset that I will take with me, no matter how difficult the road may get, I will remain positive and work hard. If you’re reading this and you would like to apply, definitely take a similar approach, no doubt it would only push you further. Remember, if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough!

Until next time!

Anna Bezuglova 
Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

20 hours in Auckland: The Beta Alpha Psi 2016 Oceania Regional Conference

What do you do when you only have 20 hours to spend in Auckland? Catch a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Stay up till 3am finishing off a presentation. Try and grab breakfast the next morning at Carl’s Jr to realise it’s closed, and going to Starbucks instead. Attend a conference. Deliver that presentation you stayed up till 3am finishing off. Catch a taxi back to the airport.

This was my whirlwind experience of Auckland, my first taste of what the life of a businessman might actually entail. But why was I spending 20 hours there in the first place? 
Well…a little society called Beta Alpha Psi. 
Well…it’s not really a small society.

Let’s start from the beginning. Beta Alpha Psi is an honorary organisation for students and professionals in the accounting, finance and business information field, providing a forum for collaboration, teaching and professional and personal development. Our society is but one chapter of an international network of other chapters across the US, Australia and New Zealand.

What I was actually attending was the 2016 Oceania Regional Meeting at the University of Auckland, alongside two other executives from The University of Sydney chapter, Lambda Omega, and members across Australia and New Zealand. Throughout the conference, we were all encouraged to ‘Unleash our Potential’ with panels and workshops from industry leaders like CPA, CA (NZ), KPMG, MYOB and BAP Faculty Advisors. These covered everything from business negotiation skills, to industry stories, to even a consulting challenge, all of which bolstered our repertoire of experience and which all of us are definitely keen to apply back in Sydney.

Now, that presentation I was staying up till 3am the night before finishing off? That was an entry into the Deloitte Best Practices Competition that Beta Alpha Psi runs annually where different chapters compete to present their projects and innovative ideas on specific topics. This year, the topic centred on ‘Alignment of Officer Duties’ and the opportunity to share some of the really exciting developments we’ve made in streamlining our society, definitely made up for the lost hours of sleep. What’s better, we managed to progress through to the next round which will involve presenting in Baltimore later this year.

To round things up we even partook in a service event: knitting (or in my case, trying and failing to knit) woollen squares for custom blankets to be distributed to charities across Auckland. It was there that I shared stories, experiences and aspirations with fellow members from Auckland, Wellington and Sydney, a bonding process which transcended any of my expectations of what the conference would be.

Sitting on the plane back to Sydney half asleep and completely drained of my energy I couldn’t stop mulling over the incredible people I’d met, fascinating panels I’d listened to and challenging activities I’d engaged with in just the space of a day. Looking ahead, we’ll be attending the National Conference in Baltimore later this year and beyond that (and somehow slightly more disconcertingly), hosting the 2017 Regional Conference. But for now, nerves aside, I’m just excited to share my experience with the rest of our Chapter and see where and how we can grow. 

Edward Chang
Current student at The University of Sydney Business School and Membership Officer of The Business school society, Beta Alpha Psi 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

My Experience at Wellington Management

To many Commerce students, fund management is an elusive industry which often gets overlooked by the more mainstream roles such as investment banking, sales and trading, and management consulting. Over the past 6 months, I have had the privilege of working in a leading global asset management firm and it has been amazing!

Making the decision to defer university for 6 months is not an easy one. However the technical and practical skills I’m developing have complimented my university experience. My understanding of portfolio management has grown exponentially and I am proud to say that I finally know how to navigate my way around Bloomberg.  Every day at Wellington is a new experience and I know that I will utilise these skills further on in my career. 

What does the role entail?
I have the pleasure of working across two different teams whilst being an intern. I begin the first half of my day with the Investment Data and Derivative Services to ensure that securities, benchmarks and indices are priced correctly – this allows Wellington’s investment teams to have the most accurate and timely information to trade upon. In the afternoon, I work with the business development team in the Global Relationship Group. My role there varies significantly from day-to-day – for example, I could be preparing a regression analysis for our funds or researching emerging market stocks that our clients are invested in. I was also fortunate enough to attend a prospect meeting with a client to determine if we could provide solutions in their investment process.

What I love about Wellington?

  • Flat Hierarchy: Wellington has a great culture where you have the ability to catch up with senior management to get career advice or gain a better understanding of the firm.
  • Individual Development: Analysts and managers will invest their own time into mentoring and teaching you about the industry.
  • Early Morning Meetings (EMM): Wellington has a very collaborative environment that is best exemplified by the daily EMM where the firm’s portfolio managers, macro economists and analysts around the world share their news, stock advice and research. I remember vividly my first morning meeting, where the conversation ranged from the Greek debt situation to the crash in the China A-Shares market. Truly this is a unique experience and connects the offices across the world (Boston-London-Zurich-Frankfurt-Hong Kong-Beijing-Tokyo-Singapore-Sydney).
  • Exposure: At the Wellington’s Sydney office, you have the opportunity to meet with portfolio managers visiting from all around the world. Often, they run office knowledge sharing sessions where they provide updates of their stock ideas and investment approaches. 
  • Health and Well-being: Wellington places a huge focus on well-being with great initiatives like the APAC steps challenge. Employees are given pedometers to compete in global challenges for the highest step count – believe me, everyone gets competitive!
Although my time with Wellington Management is over a short 6 months, it has been an invaluable experience. It’s been a pleasure to work with so many bright people, and I’d recommend the experience to anyone!

Charmian Zhang
Final year Commerce student at the University of Sydney Business School, majoring in Finance.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Industry Placement Program - Australian National Committee for UN Women

At the beginning of this year I participated in the Business School’s Industry Placement Program. As part of this program, I had the opportunity to move down to Canberra for six weeks to intern with the Australian National Committee for UN Women.  The Australian National Committee for UN Women is a non-profit organisation that raises both awareness and funds for the work that UN Women undertakes in the Pacific region. During the time that I was on placement, the primary fundraising focus was on the elimination of violence against women in the Pacific region, an area where gender-based violence is prevalent.

I arrived at the Australian National Committee for UN Women at an exciting time. When I first began the placement, it was a mere two months before the biggest fundraising campaign of the year, International Women’s Day. As the weeks went by and the campaign day grew closer, the office became busier and I found that I had a broad variety of tasks to complete. No day was the same – I experienced everything from managing the marketing strategy for merchandise through to helping sell tickets for the upcoming events. It was a fantastic opportunity to be involved in the development of a nation-wide campaign, as well as gaining an understanding of the specifics of marketing in a non-profit environment. The program provided me with a chance to put the theory that I had learnt in the classroom into practice by working at the heart of a large campaign. 

I also had the chance to meet a variety of people from the non-profit industry throughout the six weeks that I was there. One of the highlights was talking to Ellie van Baaren, Regional Communications and Media Specialist at UN Women Pacific, who told us of the programs that were currently underway in the Pacific region. It was exciting to hear about the work being done on the Markets for Change program, which encourages women in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to become involved in local marketplace leadership and provides them with safe spaces to sell their produce. It was after hearing Ellie speak that I realised that the work I was assisting with was making an actual difference to the lives of women living in the Pacific region.

During the internship, I also had the opportunity to conduct a research project. This was an exciting chance to explore an area I was personally interested in within the organisation. I had the freedom to choose both the question and the research methods I was to use, which was something I hadn’t experienced before in my degree. I developed a set of recommendations which I provided to the organisation at the conclusion of my placement. It was fantastic to realise that I was making a genuine, lasting impact on the organisation through these recommendations.

The Industry Placement Program was a great opportunity to gain industry experience in an organisation and to explore the practical side of marketing in an office environment. It was often challenging, but always exciting, and over the six weeks I spent in Canberra, I developed both personally and professionally in ways I could never have imagined before I began the placement. The skills and the contacts that I gained will be invaluable in the future as I move into a professional career, and the experience I had working on the International Women’s Day campaign is one that I don’t think I will ever forget.  
Rebecca Smith
Current student in the Master of Commerce program at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Canberra

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Thoughts from a bus (actually a plane): Goodbye and Thank-you

The iridescent gaze of the afternoon DC sunlight gleefully dances off the plane’s wing, illuminating the cabin in a golden azure haze. There’s just something about travelling, that state between destinations where you’re almost suspended in time, poised to reflect on your journey as you watch the green swathes of Ohio and Colorado sweep by, the ultimate state of reflection. 

The hardest thing about leaving DC was definitely the people. All during the afternoon before our flight we’d made our rounds, a swan-song of sorts, to multiple apartments where US and Sydney kids alike played to their everyday cadence, whether that be recuperating after a Guetta rave the previous night or hastily remitting the last few pairs of socks or souvenirs into already overstuff luggage. This collective milieu of students has been my surrogate family for the past nine weeks. From the first night when they bombarded us with American enthusiasm over our funny accents, stories of the Aussie outback and consolations that we were below the legal drinking age, we’ve dined far and wide across DC and Virginia, ticked off all major attractions along the Mall one-by-one and had way too many post 2AM deep-and-meaningfuls in each other’s rooms. Together, we’ve challenged preconceived notions of American fast food, split an inordinate number of Uber and Lyft rides between us and shared morsels of culinary decadence stretching the limits of our cramped apartment kitchens.

Leaving the East-West Center we’ve left 4 packets of Tim-Tams which were voraciously devoured in the first two days, gained memories of round table lunchtime discussions about the origins of cupcakes to the ethics of taking airplane headphones and forged long-lasting friendships that will inevitably transcend the geographical borders that bound us. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive, optimistic and engaging workplace for my first internship and it’s these experiences, from the shared dislike of liquorice jellybeans to going out as a group to FedEx 20 huge parcels that will stay with me beyond the skills and knowledge I’ve attained here.

For me, the US capital had always seemed like an interstitial city, where people come in and go out, five days a week, every week for business. But the friends I’ve made here, the people I’ve met and the experiences we’ve shared are living proof of the opposite. I can still remember walking one afternoon down the Washington Mall where people were riding bikes, having picnics or playing frisbee and soccer in the balmy 190 Celsius sun. It was then there I began to understand what DC was. A city known for its national significance and political underpinnings but also one inhabited by locals undefined by the politics of Capitol Hill coalescing into one of the friendliest, most diverse communities I’ve met in the US. For me, DC will always be the city where I watched my first ice-hockey game, experienced snow for the first time and really got to the heart of the American psyche.
It’s for these reasons that while I’ve shed a few tears as we soar high above the clouds back towards Sydney, I look back at the entire trip with a decided fondness and gratitude. Thanks to all of you that have stayed with my blog and if you do ever get the opportunity to take part in the IPP, definitely do, it’s totally worth it.

Finally you get to see my face!

Edward Chang
Current student at the University of Sydney and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Washington DC

Monday, 22 February 2016

Thoughts from a bus: The halfway point

Hello readers! You’re not going to believe this, but I’m writing this second blog…whilst on another bus. No, it’s not a self-indulgent past time of mine nor is it a prime hotspot of writing juices to flow, but it just so happens that my trip up to Philadelphia for the long weekend gives me about 4-ish hours to share with you some of my experiences in the program over the past 6 weeks. And while they’ve passed by incredibly fast, each one of them has been completely, utterly, exhaustively amazing.

Interning at the East-West Center (that’s right, it’s US spelling) has been an amazing experience as a first internship. As a public diplomacy and educational outreach office on South-East Asian affairs my primary role has been contributing to projects through writing articles and contributing to Center publications. But as always, there’s so much more to a workplace than the job description. In my time here, I’ve broken out of my comfort zone travelling to the Pakistan embassy twice to collect an employee visa, I’ve taken the initiative to attend events all across DC and I’ve applied myself in new ways through our research project on the firm. Whilst there’s still three weeks left, I find myself perpetually drawn back every Monday with the promise of good office coffee, an incredibly friendly and positive work environment and sharing stories with the fellow interns. Punctuating all of this are the classic office shenanigans that persist everywhere. From watching the intern booths slowly fill up whilst we’ve been here (we interns now outnumber the staff) to comparing notes on word pronunciations with employees within the sanctity of lunchtime, to the never-ending expeditions to raid the jellybean dispenser, working in the office has been an absolute blast.

The classes here have also been breathtaking. Having the privilege to study under professors and industry leaders with such intimate experience in their fields from electoral politics to medical anthropology to research and presentation skills combined with their willingness to share their stories has been incredible. It’s this inherent passion that keeps drawing me back, inspiring me to work harder and quite possibly guiding my interests and hobbies back in Sydney.

If anything, the weekends here at DC have been the epitome of spontaneity, embodying the core of student life and only perpetuated by the ease of transportation provided by Uber and the metro system. My roommate once complained that our late nights and even later mornings meant we’d never complete more than one attraction a day, a sentiment that we’ve since disproven but which reflects the very essence of DC. There is just so much more to do here when you’re not spending 3-4 fleeting days as a tourist and each attraction from the monuments, museums and restaurants have so much to offer. Intimate moments like snowball fighting on the courtyard, travelling out to Virginia just for all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ and cupcake sampling on the trendy streets of Georgetown will stick with me forever. 

Christmas in January: Snowball fight in the courtyard

As we get towards the pointy end of the program I find myself simultaneously excited and nervous. With just three weeks left there’s still so much to do, so many assignments left untouched, so many attractions still undiscovered and so many more memories to be made. Staring out as the highway speeds by and we head up to try the famous Philadelphia Cheese Steak, I resolve myself to make the most of what’s left of DC and I’ll definitely be there to share those moments with you next blog. Until then, stay safe and enjoy the start of Sem 1!

Next up: Friends, tears and reflections

Edward Chang
Current student at the University of Sydney
and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Washington DC