Monday, 30 November 2015

How to turn your internship into a career

I’ve finished my internship, the university semester is over, and I’m on the road to Dubbo with a group of thirty something volunteers on the annual Law Society and Compass road trip to talk to high school students about higher education. With a clear head, and looking outside to the NSW countryside, I’m thinking about the value of this internship, and how it impacted those who have done it before me, and those who will benefit from it in the future.

Having such an immense experience like the Industry Placement Program (IPP), especially for someone who is new to the workplace, has had such a profound effect on understanding what career path to pursue. Looking back on the experience, there have been so many opportunities to grow and broaden my horizons before I settle on exactly what I want to do.

Thinking of doing the IPP or have already done one? It’s a given fact that some people have a better experience than others at their workplace, but everyone is going to make it to the end of their placement and the question on your mind might be, what do I make of this experience afterwards? In this second post, following my first submission to the Big Opportunity Blog, I look towards 5 aspects of how the IPP affects one’s outlook on potential business careers for the overwhelming majority who aren’t sure where to go.

Writing the journal entries as part of the assessments for the IPP was a great way of understanding how I worked best and what I had to improve. But what’s more important was writing down at the end of every day a couple of sentences, dot points or paragraphs about how the day had gone. Rather than a simple recount, it detailed steps to improve my professionalism and performance, and shows your supervisor that you can rise above. Whether it be an internal reflection or external reflection via the mode of feedback, I think many will find that it is extremely powerful.

Obsession. It isn’t necessarily associated with being desirable. However, when asking yourself if you could really drive a career in a certain industry, you’ve got to ask yourself the question. Am I obsessed with the role I am taking on, so much so, that I’m going to fight my way to the top? Are you going to give up less important things to focus on this? Utilise the power of obsession to reach your goals – set yourself the challenge of achieving something every day or every week and power through it. Everyday, I saw my colleagues dedicating more and more of themselves to their work and their colleagues, all because they were obsessed and they had a drive. Are you obsessed with what you’re doing?

Different industries, different roles and different companies provide you with the potential to grow at different rates. So which do you choose? I make the comparison between working for private companies and the government. There are many arguments that big multi-national companies can provide you with the training and the name to start you off on the right track, with the potential to grow sustainably over time. As you probably know, most people enter into multi-nationals for their training and name, and after 3-4 years move onto another company, most likely in the industry they specialise in. In comparison, government roles tend to have a high growth potential within the first 5-6 years, but then plateau out as you get to higher, managerial roles, as there are only so many senior positions available. Obviously, there are other options too – small start-ups vs. large multinationals, and the like. It goes without saying that the position you choose should be one that challenges you far beyond what you thought about your potential.

After the internship, after talking to colleagues at work and at uni, and after consulting mentors, I’ve found what’s most important is knowing that work culture in every firm is going to be different and diverse from what you have ever experienced before. And it’s going to take more than ten weeks to realise the in’s and out’s of what it takes to become accustomed to the culture. I remember that the last two weeks was when I really started to get the hang of things. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, or more probably because this was my first professional role. Everyone wants to hire people that they can work with. Being in a junior role, it’s always important to have a genuine smile on your face, to be enthusiastic and willing to do whatever is required of you.

Endless opportunities
The IPP experience has been an absolutely great one. I remember at the start of the semester the copious amount of people who told me, “do the internship, you need all the experience you can get”, whilst others were telling me, “go on that academic exchange to the University of California”, as I had the option to do either. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to find ourselves with the option to do one thing or the other at university – we can’t do it all. At the end of the day, I’m happy that I chose to do the IPP because I know in the long-run, this is something that has really developed me. But I think one really has to think long and hard about what opportunity to take up – what is right for you? I remember older colleagues questioning why I would go on exchange – what benefit would it provide for me. What I realised through the internship is that I have a long journey ahead to develop myself before I enter the working world, and that is something exchange can provide for me.

So to end this blog post, I have one, quite predictable thing to say. Do it! Do the IPP, whether that is during the summer holidays (a wise choice), or during semester. I did it during the semester, took on full study loading, thought I was going to die, then came out the end knowing that I was a better person for it. Whilst I never thought it was true before, I know now that there are so many opportunities out there, and you are the one who needs to have the drive to do it. People who achieve things don’t necessarily need to be the smartest or the most gifted, but they need to have drive, to put it all on the line even if they know there is a chance of failure.

Mark Jeyaraj
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 23 November 2015

Madsen Real Estate – Unfinished Business

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." Henry Ford

New York City in November is stunning. 15-20 degrees, unreserved sunshine and a city desperately trying to capture the last embers of warmth before Winter hits. Places like Central Park, the mesmerising view from the Top of the Rock and other NYC destinations have an extra slice of magic to them.

Pictured from left to right: Kevin Oh, Thuy Thai, Howell Sze, James Pyo
So why were we there?
Well, our team Madsen Real Estate was representing the University of Sydney in the Cornell International Real Estate Case (CIREC) competition. The 7th annual CIREC competition ran from 5 to 10 November in New York City, with participants from 19 leading universities across the globe including Cornell University, Brown University, New York University, University of British Columbia and Cambridge University. So naturally, we arrived a few days earlier to soak in the sights and “acclimatise” through getting to know the night life and the locals…of course.

Our experience? 
It undoubtedly lies within the sheer vibrancy and culture of the city. People briskly brush past you, always with a purpose and yet this is contrasted with the abundance of talent that flocks towards the city, hoping to secure your attention for a night as their own fleeting careers grow. We had a chance to watch local comedians, catch Wicked at the famous Gershwin Theatre, attend the final World Series Game (Go Mets!) and also demolish bowls of ramen at the world famous Ippudo. But as they say, all good things must come to an end.

World Series Baseball Game 5…GO METS!

What about the competition itself? 

The case centred around a portfolio of three properties in separate districts within the United States, including Oklahoma City, North Carolina and the LAX area of El Segundo. The properties themselves had unique features to them, including significant lease ups, rebranding projects and also a problematic tenant – being a 80,000 sq ft strip club of which we needed to advise our private equity clients as to what to do with them. Over the next five days, we wouldn’t sleep much, we would single-handedly support Koreatown’s instant noodle business and also had to sneak down for a slice of delicious New York pizza whenever we could.

Being the second year the University of Sydney has ever participated in this competition and standing shoulder to shoulder with Cambridge, NYU and British Columbia, it was difficult to remain calm on the day. We did not sleep much the night before, but we knew we had a chance to help expand the opinions of others and put the University on the map of global real estate competitions.

The heats

The heats could not have gone any better. The judges were delighted with our 100 page+ pitchbook and we managed to finish almost exactly on the 15 minutes we were allowed to present. It was thrilling to beat out the seeded team from the year before and suddenly we were filled with hope, more than just our usual bravado.

Our box of pitchbooks + a very happy Kevin

The final

A panel of 16 people who are effectively the “Who’s who” of New York Real Estate is imposing. It gets worse when they start asking questions. But it truly escalates when they’re fighting over each other to ask the hardest question they can and watch us squirm. And whilst we squirmed (only a little), I know we’re all a little stronger knowing we made it through an inquisition for the ages.

And whilst we didn’t bring home the bacon, we received a handy global 2nd place to make up for the disappointment. Two months ago, no one on our team knew how to value a building, our only experience in leasing was our own private negotiations for a cheap apartment to stay within and yet I know at the end of the day, what we did, was the best we had and I cannot thank my team enough for all the effort throughout the five days.

Post announcement that we had come 2nd in the world! We’ll get you next year Cornell!


So our parting advice?
It’s rare to have a team where everyone is on equal grounds, everyone speaks up about their thoughts and everyone not only can make fun of themselves but feel comfortable enough to laugh at each other. And a long time from now, we probably will not remember the experience, the result or the intricate details. But one thing we know is that the three others who shared some of the most difficult and proudest moments of our lives together – that is something none of us will ever forget.

Howell Sze

Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Hult Prize at the University of Sydney

In partnership with former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, the Hult Prize Foundation has created the world’s largest student movement & crowdsourcing platform dedicated to solving the most pressing social challenges on the planet.

The Hult Prize Foundation is a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs emerging from the world’s universities. The Hult Prize competition aims to create and launch the most compelling social business ideas - start-up enterprises that tackle grave issues faced by billions of people.

The 2016 Hult Prize "President's Challenge" is Crowded Urban Spaces and will focus on economic inclusion, more specifically, doubling the incomes of the residents who live in some of the toughest conditions in the world through improved mobility and increased connectivity to people, products, services and capital by 2022. This challenge was selected by former President Bill Clinton and announced at this year's Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York.

This year, the annual challenge is headed to the University of Sydney. You can be a part of this movement by registering yourself today in teams of 3-4 at:

Each team’s idea is assessed on the following criteria – alignment to target market, impact centered, feasibility, disruption and scalability.

Winners will receive an all expenses paid trip to compete at the regional competition in Shanghai, as well as mentorship to assist in the further development of their project. 

The regional winners are given the incredible opportunity to participate in a 8-week incubator program, working with global business leaders and social innovators at the Hult International Business School, meet Mohammad Yunus and former President Bill Clinton.

The grand finals are held at the annual Clinton Global Initiative Meeting in New York and the winning team is awarded 1m USD in seed funding.

If you don’t want to miss out on this exciting opportunity, you can register here: or reach out to our Team Coordinator - Elizabeth Lim at

Challenge details:

Date: 7 December 2015
Time: 5:00pm - 9:00 pm
Location: University of Sydney

Express your interest by 23 November 2015 at:
For more information visit:

Kritika Joon
Current student in the Master of Management program at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 2 November 2015

Thoughts on NOW’s Equal Pay Day Event

In my second year of university, I have had the pleasure of being involved in The Network of Women (NOW), a stimulating and invigorating student run society. NOW just celebrated its first birthday, and after a very successful year with over 400 members, NOW also recently won the University of Sydney Union’s ‘Best New Club’ award.

On the 16th of September at Sydney University’s CBD Campus, NOW co-hosted an event with the Work and Organisational Studies Society (WOSOC) with over 50 attendees. The event surrounded Equal Pay Day and was titled, ‘we cannot rewrite the past, but we can rewrite the future’ encapsulating that in order to improve equal pay, we must not dwell on the past, but instead work towards a better future.

In Australia, Equal Pay Day marks the additional days that on average, women would be required to work to earn the same as men. It is calculated once a year in August, using may as the reference period. Equal Pay Day thus changes every year, with it falling on the 4th September in 2015, indicating an extra 65 days. The gap is unfortunately increasing, with NSW alone adding 2.8 days in just one year.

The event was led by Marian Baird and included a panel of esteemed business men and women including Sydney University’s Vice Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence; Managing Director and Founder of Xplore for Success, Ms Diana Ryall AM; Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Telstra, Mr Troy Roderick; UN Women MBA Scholarship Recipient (USYD), Dr Kim Johnstone and Research Executive Manager at WGEA, Dr Carla Harris. Further special guests included two year 6 students from Darlington Primary School, Matilda and Alex, who shared their thoughts on the gender pay gap, stating they would never think men and women should be paid differently when completing the same job. Although they are just beginning their quest in order to find the right career path, it does bring up the question – where does this intention change? 

The panel led an engaging discussion around the theme of gender targets, workplace relations and gender equality within a number of differing workplaces. The discourse prompted me to further reflect on the existence of gender pay gaps and gender ratios in my own family’s architecture business, where there is a noticeable difference in males pursuing higher paid positions than females. What I found very interesting was that the panel discussed the issue that more women than men pursue higher tertiary education degrees such as honours and PHDs, however when they enter the workplace this does not align with job offers and further career advancements.

Furthermore, the hotly debated issue of gender targets was discussed with the panel agreeing that without organisations sticking to the targets, further gender workplace arrangements such as more part time roles (for both parents) will never be implemented. It was also great to see that the University of Sydney itself is looking into their own gender pay differences and employment opportunities, with Dr Michael Spence specifically stating he would love to see a 50/50 female to male employment across the university.

Overall, my involvement with NOW has left me feeling empowered and enlightened on the realities of equal pay in the workplace. Bringing this conversation to both the university level, as well as the workplace level is important as the issue spans every market, and students must be informed of the issue in order to further implement changes in their careers. NOW itself also provides a platform through which passionate, motivated peers with similar desires to initiate change can connect. It has truly been a fantastic year being on the executive of NOW as the Media and IT Director, and every event has only benefitted myself as I embark on my own journey into the workforce.

More information on the gender pay gap:
NOW’s Facebook page for further information about events, interesting articles and how to join:

Rochelle Sharpe
Media/IT Director of The Network of Women

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Creating a Purposeful Bucket List

Making a bucket list is simple enough: write down the things that you’ve always wanted to do but never got around to doing. But the important thing is to put down everything that comes to your mind, without analyzing the practicality of it. 

Having an ongoing bucket list is a great way to make sure you live a life, as they say, with "no regrets". It gives you the motivation to go and do those the seemingly impossible and overcome doubts about yourself. But most importantly, a bucket list challenges you; it gives you goals to work towards throughout your life.

Bucket lists have become a popular concept and the widespread theme is travelling – going on extreme adventures, visiting exotic locations or going on wild cooking tours.  These adventures are all on people’s bucket lists for an excellent reason — to see the world and enjoy life. But there are a select few who choose to travel with a greater purpose.

An AIESEC experience is definitely something that challenges you and it would add value to your bucket list, as it has for many of us. It covers the criteria of adventure, self-awareness and personal development, whilst allowing you to make an impact on a community. It develops the leadership skills every business graduate should have.

Daniel Chong, a student at the University of Sydney, embarked to Taiwan to volunteer for an education project at a junior high school last summer. He believed the challenge would be for him to stick to his lesson plans and deliver the class content properly. However, it turned out the real challenge was getting through to the students.

“There was a lot of silence in my classes when I posed my students with questions, even if it was a simple “Good morning class, how are we feeling today?”. He realized that he had to change the way he taught to make the classroom more activity-oriented to engage with the students.

In Daniel’s words, his experience empowered him; “It made me lose my doubts and I realised that I want to continue to lose them as I go on”.

And that is what AIESEC experiences allow each and every participant to achieve. It presents you with the opportunity to challenge yourself and see what you can accomplish; AIESEC believes in leadership through exchange. By experiencing both workplace culture and everyday life in a different country, AIESEC’s Global Citizen program is designed to focus on self-development and contributing positively to society.


To find out more about our programs, visit:

Join us now to challenge yourself and get your bucket list started!

AIESEC is the world’s largest international youth run organisation with partners in 126 countries. The organisation aims to deliver leadership experiences through exchange in order to achieve their vision of 'peace and fulfilment of humankind's potential'.

Teni Pham
Member of AIESEC Sydney and current student at the University of Sydney

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Cultural competence is everyone’s business

Companies worldwide, such as Hewlett-Packard, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and IBM, are recognising that cultural competence is becoming more essential than ever before. Cultural competence is about valuing diversity and the richness and creativity it brings to society. It is the ability to work collaboratively with different people in any workplace situation, locally or internationally.

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare’s previous Vice President of Diversity, Barbara Stem, says, “Cultural competence should be a part of everyone’s strategy. We need to be good at working with people of all walks of life”.

Today's world is increasing becoming interconnected, especially in terms of international business and cross cultural colloboration. Cultural competence is complex and it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual learning process that begins with recognising that it is important.

"The graduates of tomorrow will be culturally competent, excelling in an increasingly diverse and global community. Whether in Aboriginal communities in Australia or in the north of Chile building telescopes, graduates will need to be able to live and work in places where other cultures are the norm." – Professor Shane Houston, the University of Sydney's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services).

This year’s Sydney Teaching Colloquium, on the 4th of November, will see students and academics of the University of Sydney discuss cultural competence, and how it can be further embedded in our curriculum.

Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, will be sharing his insights on multiculturalism, which have been influential in shaping debates across Australia and Britain.
There will also be an industry panel with representatives from companies like Microsoft, Commonweath Bank and PriceWaterhouseCoopers speaking about what they look for in their graduates and why cultural competence is an important aspect in employability.

Register now for the Sydney Teaching Colloquium, before the 26th of October, to join the conversation and learn more about cultural competence:

Tracy Trieu
Sydney Teaching Colloquium 2015 Student Ambassador and Current student of the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Importance of Embedding Industry Experience into Assessments

I’m a 4th year student at the University of Sydney, studying Commerce/Arts. At the beginning of this year, as I was finishing my last couple of Marketing units, I felt sense of fear come over me. The fear that I had been studying a subject area for two years and I didn't have enough practical experience. What would I talk about in job interviews? And what skills do I actually need to be a good marketer?

The opportunity to gain additional practical experience presented itself in the form of MKTG3120-‘Building and Managing Brands’. From the get-go, Jeaney Yip, the course coordinator and lecturer, was brilliant and her passion for understanding how brands work really did make for an engaging and interesting course. The best part of this course was the option to complete a ‘live brief’ style case competition and submit the report as part of the course assessment.

Our group decided to do the Vo5 (Unilever) case, which essentially involved writing a marketing plan in response to the case study given to us by Unilever. Vo5 is a very successful hair care and styling brand from the UK. However, in the Australian market it was struggling to increase its presence. We were given a very limited budget to come up with a campaign that would help increase brand awareness in Australia. This was a fantastic insight into the type of briefs you might be given in a real marketing role.

One of the most interesting parts of the project was the opportunity to actually pitch our ideas to the Vo5 brand manager at Unilever. The feedback we received from her was very constructive and gave us real insight into what people in the industry look for in pitches like this. The brand manager was really positive and said many of the groups presented ideas that she will actually consider implementing for the brand.

Our group won the competition and our prize was an “immersion day” at Unilever.  We went to their swanky offices in the city and had a full day with various talks and a really nice lunch to meet recent grad-program employees, brand mangers and HR managers. We learnt so much about the company and what brand managers of various levels actually do on a day-to-day basis.

The entire project really sparked my interest in the company so I decided to apply for their summer internship program. The amount of research we had done was invaluable preparation for the entire application process and I was able to use my experience of the immersion day throughout the interviews. It was all because of this fantastic opportunity in MKTG3120 that I ended up getting a position on the Unilever internship this summer. I’m really excited to learn more about the FMCG industry and Unilever, particularly throughout the program.

This experience really shows how important it is to embed industry exposure in subjects, in order to give students valuable industry experience in the process of completing their degree.

Oliver Penn
Current Student of the University of Sydney Business School