16 November 2016

What I learned outside the classroom

Dennis Qiu (left) with Associate Dean Rae Cooper (Centre)
at the recent Raising the Bar event.
We asked Dennis Qiu, fourth year Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies) student who is majoring in marketing and biology, to tell us about his recent experience in our local Industry Placement Program with the University of Sydney.

Why did you decide to participate in the Industry Placement Program (IPP)?

I wanted to gain real-life experience in marketing at an Australian workplace. My friends who had done IPP previously spoke very highly of this opportunity.

What was your role, and what kind of projects did you work on?
My host organisation was the University of Sydney. I was a team member of Marketing and Communications in the Division of Alumni and Development (MCDAD). As an intern with no previous experience, I had the opportunity to help out with various tasks and to explore my skills and interests. There were two major projects where I spent most of my time: the annual University fundraising campaign “Pave the Way”, and an alumni celebration to be held at the launch of the new centre in Suzhou, China, officially opening in November.

What did you learn from the experience?
During the IPP I learned about things from everyday tasks such as email etiquette, to assisting with strategic projects that have significant impact for the University and wider community.

One valuable lesson I took away was the balance between being proactive and reactive. As a novice in the office, I benefited immensely from taking instructions and advice from senior colleagues. Completing assigned tasks with quality and efficiency was essential to my role in the organisation.

Beyond that, I also had the opportunity to bring my skills and knowledge to the team, and help initiate new ideas. For example, I volunteered to integrate WeChat communications into the Pave the Way campaign, which wasn’t part of the original plans. I was able to apply my Chinese social media skills and cross-cultural knowledge and help the team achieve much wider support from Chinese donors compared to the previous year’s results.

Concurrent with the completion of my degree, the IPP also prompted me to reflect on my four years’ university journey. For instance, it confirmed the belief that doing something that you are passionate about can bring you more than just intrinsic happiness. It also allowed me to apply the Chinese social media skills and cross-cultural knowledge that I developed when I was involved in a student society called the Australia-China Youth Association.

What is the most important thing you’ve taken away from your experience in the IPP?
If I had to pick the best thing out of my IPP experience, it would be the supportive colleagues. Kate, George, Ash, Anna and Jess, each of them from MCDAD mentored me and helped me enormously with my career development. “山高水长 (High as a mountain and long as a river)” is a Chinese idiom that means the influence or affection is profound and long-lasting. I think it is the perfect phrase to sum it all up. Their values and the working environment was an inspiration.

Why should other students consider doing the IPP?

IPP is an excellent opportunity for students to acquire professional skills and build connections. But I guess other IPP alumni might have learned something unique or had a different experience with the program. So hey future IPP students, find your own stories! 

I feel very lucky to have interned with MCDAD. They are all fun and energetic people. Although I felt like an awkward student at the beginning of the internship, we were a happy team by the end. And a happy team goes a long way!

By Dennis Qiu, current Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies) student at the University of Sydney Business School.

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