Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Oh La La

Have you ever heard someone say ‘Oh la la’? Do you ever wonder what it means? What do you think it means in French?  When I first heard it from my French teacher, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but when I heard it again it made me curious, so I Googled and found this definition:

The French phrase oh là là isn't so much an expression as an interjection. It can indicate surprise, disappointment, commiseration, distress, annoyance... any moderately strong reaction to something that was just said or done. Note that there is no connotation of sexiness or impropriety in French.* http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/ohlala.htm

So what does ‘oh la la’ have to do with this blog?  Well, think about it – we have moments in our lives when we react to situations, places, people and things differently, which means that our ‘oh la la’ moments could differ, as I think it’s relative to the individual.  And that all depends on your expectations, beliefs, values and experiences.

So let me tell you about some of my ‘oh la la’ moments in Paris so far. I must say that I can’t seem to get enough of Paris, as it is admittedly beautiful.  Seeing the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees for the second time gave me another chance to admire these landmarks and at the same time, been amazed by how their greatness have been preserved. Visiting other attractions for the first time like Musee D’Orsay, Basilique de Sacre Cœur, Opera Garnier, and Versailles reminded me how much more Paris and France has to offer.  No wonder Paris has been regarded as the most visited city in 2013, with around 15M international visitors recorded that year.  Of course, I have to mention how timely and lucky I am to be here because their yearly SALE (SOLDES as they call it here) is on – ‘Oh la la la la !!’.  So just imagine how many times I visited Galleries La Fayette, Le BHV Marais and other shops already.

But life is not always pleasant.  Inevitably, frustrating moments cannot be avoided also.  Similarly, I blurted the same expression ‘Oh la la’ but with a sad face.  Like when I saw my bunk bed (with a difficult-to-climb stair), the shower room (with no place to put your stuff in while showering), and working with a French keyboard (where some characters like is in a different location as to the one I would normally use, like A is on the top left instead of the middle left, which I am accustomed to).   Also found out when attended our first meeting at work that they speak full French – that was definitely an ‘Oh la la la la la la !!’ for me.  Of course, they speak English too but it definitely would have helped if I was conversant in French.

What did these moments signify for me? I realised that your beliefs, values, attitudes, past experiences or a combination of all these factors could affect your response to specific situations and incidents.  In addition, your expectations could also impact how you deal with situations.  For instance, if you expect that you can get along with all people or all people will like you, then you are certainly mistaken.  This program has repeatedly reminded me how people are different, that each one came from different backgrounds, with certain beliefs and values, with different sets of motivations, and those could affect their actions and reactions.  Reflecting on these differences helped me better appreciate, accept, and understand others.  Embracing these differences enabled me to learn to be more mindful of other culture. And through this, I was able to cope, adjust and continue to find effective ways of being in harmony with others.

I could have reacted differently to my ‘oh la la’ moments, but they are all temporary reactions. Long term, you reflect on those moments and you deal and learn from them. That’s my way of dealing with challenging and complicated circumstances.

How about you?  What was your most interesting ‘oh la la’ moments while you were in Paris?

Sheila Baugh

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

Thursday, 14 July 2016

How I Learnt To Appreciate Paris

The end of week three marks the halfway point in the programme, and a three-week countdown to the next time we return home again. I'm thrilled. Paris has opened my eyes in so many ways, but also granted me an appreciation for home and longing for comfort of being around family and friends.

As we kiss June goodbye and enter July, I started reflecting on the first half of the year and thinking about what I wanted for the second half. Despite the number of stumbles I faced, I'd had so many great experiences that I treasure and keep so close to heart. It's been interesting to see how we've each settled into the rhythm of Paris and can finally find our way around it comfortably... Well, for the most part.

Last week, we had a very lovely visit to the Australian embassy where we met the Ambassador. It was refreshing to hear him share candidly about his experiences in Paris, and some of the challenges he faced. It also made me miss Sydney that much more, as well as the everyday “Hello, how are you?” greeting that has now become second nature to me. 
Paris... is not easy. But nothing worth having ever comes easy. As the novelty wears off, the long days becoming weary and exhausting, and it's easy for us to lose sight of what we originally came for. I thought about some of the things I wanted to achieve from embarking on this trip - one of which was international working experience in the heart of Paris.

The best part about working at the OECD is probably the strong sense of importance you feel about the work you do. OECD is a huge organisation, so you definitely feel as though the stuff you are working on has a certain level of impact on society in the wider scope of things. Being in the Public Affairs and Communications directorate has been rather exciting - we're basically at the heart of the organisation in that we manage the communications in various directorates and the overall messaging is projected through what we create. If you thrive in large organisations and value a sense of purpose in your work towards creating a greater impact on the broader community, then this is the place for you.

I think many things - and many situations - boil down to the perspective you adopt. And many times, your experience is influenced by the perspective you take. When I experience a particularly challenging week, I like asking myself, so what can I do about it? Is there anything I can change? And sometimes it's as simple as saying a "Bonjour, ca va?" to an unfamiliar face at work, or coming home to your roommates and exchanging stories and laughing your guts out.

Some time back, I questioned the notion of perfection, and whether perfection is realistically attainable. But when you think about it, if your experience is flawless, then have you learnt anything from it really? No opportunity is perfect, and it's only an opportunity if you take advantage of it.

I'm happy with my choices. Are you?

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

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Embracing the Change…

I love to travel, who doesn’t? Visiting a new place always excites me. Just thinking about the places to see, the must do and must eat - thrills me.  Visiting a place for the second time however, gives me a different kind of enthusiasm, as this time I will have the opportunity to take a closer look at the place. I joined a European tour 6 years ago and Paris was one of the places we visited. I was a tourist then and mostly everything was arranged for us. This time is a different story as I will be working, studying and living like a Parisian.

Some are probably wondering why I applied for this internship.  I’m not surprised as even I asked myself the same question.  I have worked for quite a while now so to be an intern would probably sound bizarre to many, but I believe nothing is too old for anyone, and this is an opportunity that I just cannot forgo – as I will have a chance to live, work, and study for 6 weeks like a Parisian.  So I went ahead and applied, did the interview and assessment, and was elated when I learned that I passed.  And so the preparation started.  I booked my flights and listed what I needed to bring and do. We were given an orientation so we would have all the necessary information before the trip. I met the group for the first time during the orientation and found out how young they were. I realised that most of them are my sons’ age.  Not to worry, that didn’t bother me at all. I met some of them in Hong Kong on my flight to Paris, and took the train with them from the airport to Maisons Des Mines, our home for the next 6 weeks.

It was raining when we got off at Luxembourg station.  There we were dragging our luggage, finding our way to our temporary home.  It’s always interesting when you arrive at a place for the first time, there’s always that feeling of anxiousness, insecurity, and uncertainty, as you are not sure what awaits you.  Just like when I opened my room and found out that I will be sleeping in a bunk bed with stairs. I got used to it after 3 days, but at first I was so scared that I might fall.  There is always something unfamiliar and unexpected, but there’s nothing that you cannot be adjusted to.  The more you resist any changes, the more difficult it will be to overcome. As I always say to myself, bend it and let go.

As expected, first week was hectic and a bit stressful, as I had to learn as quickly as I can - about the place, the people, language, getting to work/school, the best route to take if I decide to walk, where to get food, a SIM, and laundry facilities.  At the same time, I had to meet my host organisation for the first time and attend classes as well.  One thing good about Paris is that it’s walking friendly, so with a local SIM and Google Maps you can literally find your way to any place.

We are now on our second week and things are getting easier as I get more familiar to the city and its people.  One thing I should say is that I think that it’s important to plan and be organised before the trip.  Find out as much information about the place, accommodation, transportation, SIM, what to bring etc. I know they are basic but it helps to cross them off your list when you are embarking on a new journey.  Particularly in my case because I don’t like surprises, at least if I can avoid them. I want to be able to focus on unforeseen surprises and challenges, rather than thinking of where to buy supplies or toiletries. Especially on my first week, I want to devote my energy and mind in getting to know the place, the people, my host organisation (Marmiton) and the university (SciencesPo).  Moreover, to understand what is expected of me during the internship/study.  One important thing to mention was how lucky we were to be in Europe at the time of the Brexit decision - perfect timing as we are learning about European/European Union politics at SciencesPo.

What I have learned so far is that it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, how much travel you have done in the past, and how much study/work experience you have had, there is always something new to discover and learn.  And this is one of the reasons why I joined the program. I know there will always be surprises and challenges, and whatever they are I’m ready to embrace them, as I know it will make me a better person in the end.  

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

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.