9 October 2019

How Smart Cities are Reimagining Our Future: Hong Kong on the Edge

Over the July Winter Break, I was fortunate enough to travel to Hong Kong to undertake an Industry and Community Project Unit (ICPU) with industry partners HSBC and Accenture. This unique project offered the opportunity for students from every discipline to collaborate and learn from each other's distinct perspective. 

As Dr Corina Raduescu, the unit coordinator explained, the ICPUs "bring another level of engagement and learning because it takes place in a new environment and challenges students to immerse themselves in order to develop innovative solutions to complex problems businesses face today." 

Not only did we get to learn from one another, but we also had the opportunity to visit the offices of HSBC and Accenture and learn from and engage with industry experts.

Hong Kong skyline at night
The class was divided into diverse groups with students studying different disciplines and majors. 

My group, promptly named New World and Co, included Hogan Wang (Science/Medicine), Winnie Li (Engineering), Milan Narula (Economics) and myself (Commerce/Arts). We were tasked with finding opportunity areas and initiatives within the Smart Cities ecosystem which would be applicable in Hong Kong. As Craig Murray, Senior Manager at HSBC explains:
"Smart Cities is a nuanced topic that financial institutions, corporates and governments are actively researching. Having University of Sydney undergraduate students undertake assessments of various aspects of Smart Cities has provided a bedrock for further reviews into opportunities and risks."

Will this be our deus ex machina? 

The HSBC Main Building in Central represents 36 years of grandeur and pantomime, standing as the most expensive building in the world during its time of construction. Contrasting to Accenture’s headquarters located in One Island East, striking a symbol of innovation amongst Hong Kong’s skyline. 

I bring attention to these buildings not only because I admire their architecture and the extraordinary feats they represent, but how the theme of Smart Cities can manifest in all facets of life. 

Under the Internet of Things phenomena, these buildings and our homes will be caring for your needs. From the trivial tasks of ordering food when your fridge detects a shortage or homes being equipped with life-saving devices which monitor the health and wellbeing of the elderly, or on a larger scale, with commercial buildings collecting data points of energy consumption and optimising its usage through tracking technology.

Workshop at Accenture Headquarters
The connection between the physical and digital world will be key to unlocking efficiencies in cities and people. It may seem profound to exclaim that cyborgs are already walking amongst us, however, as referenced by Elon Musk in the 2019 Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, humans today are in-part "cyborgs". 

The birth of smartphones have provided us with unlimited access to the digital world and embedded themselves into our physical and psychological anatomy. The next step is to make the bond between the digital world and the physical world seamless and integrative. This is the underlying crux of what Smart Cities aim to improve upon.

"Everything begins with an idea" - Earl Nightingale

Each group started off researching a broad topic area under the Smart Cities umbrella. From there, teams refined the scope to initiatives, which in essence satisfied the desirability, viability and feasibility criteria (DVF). In the end, each team presented their initiatives to a panel of industry experts from HSBC.

Group One's idea aimed to address the problem of Hong Kong’s declining efficiency of its traffic networks. The solution is a three pillared-approach, comprised of a smart traffic lights system, a bus application using real-time data and replacing the current bus fleet with electric buses.

Group Two's problem statement was the major public health concern of cardiovascular disease (CVD) for the elderly population in Hong Kong. To address this, the team pitched a smart cardiac monitoring solution, which monitors the patient's vitals, analyses their situation, and alerts health professionals or emergency services.

High-level overview of the functionality for a smart cardiac monitoring solution 
Group Three investigated the issue of overconsumption and usage of electricity by Hong Kong's commercial infrastructure. The introduction of a smart electricity monitoring system will give businesses control over their energy expenditure, optimise this for cost reduction and open opportunities for customer engagement for example in hotels.

As Dr Raduescu explains, "one of the biggest challenges was to narrow down the project focus and deliver a realistic solution in a very short time." In addition to this, I found each team had their difficulties ranging from group incompatibilities, leveraging and accounting for every member's strength and weakness, as well as balancing the expectations from both university academics and corporate stakeholders. 

For some students, undertaking this ICPU was a very challenging experience. From conducting comprehensive research in new fields to receiving criticism and questions about the desirability, viability and feasibility of their ideas. As Dr Raduescu reiterates, "students undertaking a Global Intensive ICPU benefit from learning how to be agile and quickly adapt to different environments, a critical skill required in today's dynamic business world."

Panel consisting of Corina Raduescu (USYD), Moses Tse (Accenture), Craig Murray (HSBC), Andrea Tiwana (HSBC) and Mei Shen Yeoh (HSBC)

"You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you" - Nury Vittachi

I am extremely proud of everyone who participated in this project, as we know how much time and effort went into completing this unit. Craig Murray reaffirms this by commending "the students' ability to work remotely and independently while remaining focused on the core task was impressive."

I would like to thank HSBC's Craig Murray and Mei Shen Yeoh and Accenture's Moses Tse for their incredible hospitality, as well as everyone we meet along the way to make this a truly life-changing experience for all of us. As Milan Narula, one of the students on the project recalls his experience:
"From my daily indulgence in coconut buns to being jammed into the MTR during peak hour, studying in Hong Kong has been an unforgettable adventure. I encourage everyone to apply for the ICPU and go overseas because you will make life-long friends, learn so much about Asia’s dynamic business environment and discover your future career aspirations."
Hong Kong Smart Cities Project Cohort

Written by Andew Trinh
Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Arts student

2 September 2019

University of Sydney team does Australia proud at Beta Alpha Psi Annual Meeting

Dhivyen Aaron, Alex Ziqing Zhao, Minqiu Zhao, Jeff Brown, Rhys Jennings, Lily Zheng       

Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) is a US-based honours society for accounting, finance and information system students. It has 300+ chapters across the world and offers its members professional development, networking and community service opportunities. Founded in 1919, BAP celebrated its 100th anniversary at its Annual Meeting in August.

Six students from the University of Sydney Chapter travelled to Chicago, where BAP was originally founded, for the Annual Meeting where they met with other chapters, heard from insightful speakers and participated in the community service event, Chicago Food Drive.

Led by the 2019 Executive Team, Jeff Brown (President), Alex Zhao (Vice President), Lily Zheng (Competitions Director), Dhivyen Aaron (External Engagements Director), Sachin Samarawickrama (Membership Director) and Minqiu Zhao (Marketing Director) and Faculty Advisor Janine Coupe, the USYD Chapter was honoured to win three prestigious awards:

  • KPMG Gold Challenge Award (third consecutive year): USYD BAP was one of only ten chapters globally (out of 350+) to be awarded “gold” status for consistent commitment to go above and beyond in organising high-calibre, innovative events and sustainable investment in the success of the chapter and its community.
  • EY Inclusive Leadership Award: USYD BAP won 1st place for initiatives enabling individuals to gain insights into the significance of workforce diversity and empowering them to lead, think and act inclusively.
  • Grant Thornton Ethics Award (second consecutive year): USYD BAP was one of only 4 chapters to receive this award for initiatives encouraging a strong ethical foundation and empowering individuals to act on ethical principles.

Alex Ziqing Zhao, Rhys Jennings, Dhivyen Aaron, Jeff Brown, Minqiu Zhao, Lily Zheng

Another Highlight in Chicago: Project Run With It Competition

Project Run With It (PRWI) consulting competition furthers the community service component of Beta Alpha Psi. Ninety-six participants are split into teams and given 32 hours to complete a consulting project for a local not-for-profit organisation. 

Second-year Commerce/Law student Rhys Jennings (chosen to attend after winning best speaker at BAP’s Diversity & Inclusion event in March) was part of the winning team. He shares his experiences below.

If someone had told me six months ago that I would have the chance to travel to Chicago for a consulting competition, I would have told them that they were joking.

Fast forward to today and I’m incredibly grateful to BAP as well as the University of Sydney Business School for this opportunity.

Our client, the Volunteer Center, is a Chicago based not-for-profit that helps residents find volunteer opportunities at 160+ organisations. 

They were seeking innovative solutions to increase funding and grow membership which had recently stagnated. We were placed into teams of four, with students we had not met, and were given 36 hours to develop our proposal.

Our three recommendations included a donations-model overhaul that incorporated emerging technology, a company restructuring and a millennial marketing campaign.

We presented a slide deck to the Volunteer Centre, industry professionals and Beta Alpha Psi International.

I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity and proud of the work we did. I had the chance to apply what I have learnt in the classroom, from financial analysis to marketing fundamentals, in a high pressure, real-world context.

Speaking to our client afterwards, it was rewarding to hear that they will be implementing our recommendations, as they’ve done some great work for Chicago and have more to do.

One thing I was surprised by was how close my teammates and I grew in such a short time. They came from all corners of the US and seeing how they do things has broadened my thinking and reinforced the power of teamwork.

Another takeaway - never underestimate a jar of Vegemite in connecting with a team of Americans.

Project Run With It Consulting Competition Winners: Rhys Jennings (University of Sydney), Kira Wolak (Florida Atlantic University),
 Emma Kolar (Grand Valley State University), Drew Isennock (Loyola University Maryland)

To find out more about BAP or join us:


21 August 2019

Innovating for Business Opportunities Where Ideas Never Sleep

New York City is an assault on the senses – overwhelming, loud, a home to almost 9 million people. While some would describe this combination as big, bold and brash, it is a strangely welcoming city. 

At every corner there is a feeling of incredible opportunity and abundant evidence of a long history of entrepreneurship. Backed by the belief that failure drives important lessons, a desire to discover and innovate, and a strong venture capital funding network, it is little wonder that New York is one of the main cities outside Silicon Valley that is named consistently as one of the best start-up locations in the US. 

The main objective of the US Study Tour is to learn how to create opportunities in business with a commercial impact. Twenty Bachelor of Commerce (and combined degree) students were selected to participate in the two week program at NYU, Stern Business School’s start-up lab. 

Informed by design thinking principles, the unit offered students practical and theoretical insights into identifying opportunities, research skills to build an understanding of customer needs, pitching skills to sell an idea and cross-cultural skills via insights into business in the US. 
With a profound interest in start-ups, the opportunity to carry out the methodologies behind the development of a product was immersive. Upon listening to presentations by key figures within the start-up space and having the privilege to hold personal conversations with co-founders and investors, I gained invaluable insights that enriched my perspectives on potential career opportunities. - Daniel Tran 

Luke Williams, Founder of NYU Innovation Labs & CEO of Meta Idea Labs
The program broadened my horizons on what it means to be an entrepreneur and innovative. Hearing the thoughts of so many founders and individuals in this space made me realise you don’t have to wait around until you have an amazing idea. Some of the best advice I heard was to just jump in, because it is okay to fail. - Cameron Gonzalez 

Hosted by Professor Cynthia Franklin, the program at NYU Stern Business school incorporates a unique and outstanding line-up of academic insights, startup panellists who speak genuinely about their lived experience, investors who provide reflections on what they look for in start-ups and pitch experts who challenge students to think about how to 'spin' a story and engage an audience.  

Student Tom Serrone described the US Study Tour as a "first-class learning experience" that allowed him to "witness and interact with the start-up economy in New York whilst also thinking about design thinking and disruption."

This first-class learning experience also proved to be of practical value, with Marketing student Chelsey Jayadiwangsa believing her ability "to apply design thinking tools to reimagine problems and ideate customer-centric solutions" will be carried into her future professional endeavours. 

In addition to learning about innovation and entrepreneurship, students are exposed to career and personal brand building tips, networking events and activities and business insights through site visits to Boston Consulting Group (Digital Ventures) in Sydney and NY, the American National History Museum, cultural consultancy and trend spotters Sparks & Honey, and a network event hosted by the North American Alumni Association. 

"The alumni event was a great chance to mingle with former University of Sydney students and really get a feel for how this university stretches our opportunities," said student James Scott. "As someone who is eager to work in New York at some point in my career, it was very refreshing to see so many people making the leap and giving me a lot of confidence in making this big move myself within the future.”"

The opportunity to listen to the experiences of entrepreneurs and the exposure to the dynamics of New York City provided "invaluable knowledge, amazing memories, newfound confidence and excitement for the future," said third year Commerce Law student Rowena Young. 

"I ended up having incredibly genuine and fun conversations with people who imparted all sorts of wisdom. Living, eating and breathing with my group members was also a new experience that taught me patience and the power of collaboration. My only regret? The program was over before I could grab my third slice of artichoke pizza."

US Study Tour 2019

16 August 2019

Driving global change through real social impact

Grounded by a focus on making global change, the Vietnam RARE program provides students with the opportunity to tackle social challenges through a genuine two-way learning experience. Through a unique two week cross-cultural experience, students across different faculties are immersed into the challenges of social entrepreneurship - including the development of sustainable business models and impact assessments.

By working directly with social enterprises in Vietnam on real business problems, students can expect to work closely on different projects - ranging from business plans, feasibility studies, strategic plans, information memorandums, or analysis of a particular issue or opportunity relevant to the enterprise.
Students are offered a $3,000 scholarship from the New Colombo Mobility Program to support their travel and accommodation in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Read below to find out how the program in 2019 has helped students develop their problem-solving skills, strengthen their global leadership and realise their passion for driving social impact.

Daniel Tran 

Whilst the term “entrepreneurship” gets thrown around quite loosely, it is very rare to gain real tangible experience to practise it. The Vietnam RARE Program changes that by offering the chance to work on challenging business problems with real enterprises in Vietnam. I was fortunate to work directly with Imagtor and key stakeholders where creating a strategic plan offered me the freedom to pull the business apart, identify problems and recommend feasible solutions for the enterprise’s sustainability.

The social aspect to the program was invaluable. By working closely with people who have a physical disability and a social enterprise that was focused on sustaining their social mission, I reignited my passion for incorporating the human connection within business. The program provided me with clarity in finding my place in the world of global business by knowing that there are opportunities for me to leverage my skills to make real change.

Rita Andraos 

With a hands-on experience in a rapidly growing country like Vietnam, the Vietnam RARE Program was more valuable than a traditional internship. I was able to work with KOTO where I created a social impact report on their past twenty years of operation. Through field research and direct engagement with  stakeholders ranging from CEO, workers and business partners; I got the pleasure to witness how grateful these stakeholders were for my contribution. This was much more meaningful to me than grades or putting this program on my resume.

Dylan Arias 

The Vietnam RARE Program was completely different from everything I have done at university. I saw this opportunity as being unique and exclusive, as it is not often you get an opportunity to work on something meaningful with a social cause - both in and outside of university. The dynamic of working with students from different faculties was refreshing especially having been in the "Commerce bubble" for so long.

The intensive unit really challenged my ability to adapt quickly in new environments. Unlike other exchange and study tours, the program challenges you to hit the ground running early. I appreciated the demand for hard work as I felt responsible for the performance of the social enterprise I was working with.

5 July 2019

How Managing Communications in Organisations equipped me to thrive

Christopher Joseph Tsui
I recently completed the Managing Communications in Organisations unit as part of the People Management and Organisations specialisation within the Master of Commerce. As someone who has never been away from my home country for more than four months, I found there was nothing more exciting than sharing and hearing the perspectives of my fellow group members and how their experiences and cultural upbringing shaped their views on business concepts.

For the unit's final project, we had to produce a recommendation to improve the University of Sydney's value proposition in attracting prospective students. Having only started in Semester 1, 2019, this was an amazing opportunity for us to provide fresh insights stemming from our recent experiences throughout the application process.

What made the project so interesting was how the group's diversity was reflected in our different approaches to tasks throughout the application process, which ranged from information gathering to defining course structures and pathways support. While a few students relied exclusively upon the University website, others such as myself relied on educational expos and roadshows to narrow our options down through more personalised communication.

Ultimately, the group decided to improve communication channels through these personalised events, which we considered make-or-break opportunities for the University to capitalise on convincingly delivering its program availability and structures.

The content covered in the project, and throughout the unit, has provided me with references that I'll be able to apply upon entering any organisation. Whether the focus is on managing conflicts within teams, understanding the reason and purpose behind our non-verbal communication skills and what messages these may project, or even on thriving within a culturally rich multinational organisation, the takeaways of the unit will allow me to understand and adapt to the little nuances that make each organisation unique.

More importantly, my learnings will equip me with the skills to thrive in a business environment that is rapidly changing, with an understanding of advancements in technology and machine learning as well as continuous innovation and the effective management necessary to facilitate it.

Written by Christopher Joseph Reyes Tsui
Master of Commerce student

14 May 2019

University of Sydney team finishes second at Alpha Beta Psi Regional Meeting

Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) is a United States-based organisation which acknowledges outstanding academic achievement and promotes best practice in the study of accounting, finance, and information systems. It was founded in the United States in 1919 and celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

Lily Zheng, Sachin Samarawickrama, Minqiu Zhao, Alex Zhao, Janine Coupe, Jeff Brown and Dhivyen Aaron

Along with students from UTS, University of Melbourne, Monash, Deakin, University of Auckland and Waikato University, the University of Sydney team attended the Beta Alpha Psi Oceania Regional Meeting themed "Inspiring Future Leaders to Leave a Legacy of Excellence," hosted by Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Presenting in the Best Practice competition with the metaphor of planting a tree that gives shade to future generations, the USYD Chapter, represented by Jeff Brown and Sachin Samarawickrama, placed second in the category of "Branches" while Alex Zhao and Lily Zheng placed 3rd in the category "Roots." USYD finished as the 2nd ranked University amongst the Oceania chapters.

"I was extremely proud of the team," said Janine Coupe, USYD Faculty Advisor.

Dhivyen Aaron, Alex Zhao, Lily Zheng, Minqiu Zhao, Jeff Brown and Sachin Samarawickrama

With a keynote presentation from Andrew van Dinter, EY Global Mining and Metals Tax Leader, and professional development activities provided by Tiago Devesa and Matt Gaffney, the team gained deep insights that they plan to implement and share with the USYD community at events.

USYD Beta Alpha Psi also held a Design Thinking Workshop with IBM at the start of April. In late March, members took part in the Diversity & Inclusiveness Conference, sponsored by EY, with a panel of practitioners and academics sharing their experience.

To find out more, or sign up to become a student member, visit the USYD Beta Alpha Psi website.

Written by Minqiu Zhao

7 May 2019

Become job smart in Job Smart

Two years ago I was an international student, coming to Australia without any family or friends.
Now I’ve finished my internship in one of the world-class luxury groups and guaranteed an extensive work opportunity.

You may wonder how I could access those incredible opportunities. Job Smart is my answer.

What is Job Smart?

“Job Smart is a free program for international students at the Business School, enabling students to gain the skills and professional experience needed to get a great job after graduation.” 

The structure of Job Smart cannot be clearer. It is divided into three phases and students are supposed to take one phase in each semester. The best thing for students who are busy with their studies is that the program allows us to complete almost 80% of the tasks online. Those tasks, including a skill checklist, CV check and volunteering activities, provided great additions to my resume.

Why become Job Smart? 

By joining Job Smart, you can sharpen your:

  • Skills: communication, interpersonal, teamwork, presentation, resilience
  • Experience: volunteering, business project, Australian workplace experience
  • Local networks: networking events, workshops, online groups
  • Professional coaching sessions: resume/cover letter check, mock interview, assessment centre 

How to become Job Smart

I’ve been promoted to a Job Smart Program Ambassador in my last semester. This is a paid job but never advertised. I just felt so lucky, but later my manager unveiled the question and told me that it was all because of my attitudes – asking questions during the session, helping other students understand the program, attending every workshop and networking actively with stakeholders.

Her words impressed me that small things can become huge driver - and you never know what it may bring to you.

Learn more about the program at our Job Smart page.

Written by Daisy Fu
Career Leader and Job Smart Ambassador
Master of Commerce (2018)