Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Thoughts from a bus: looking back on the trip so far

Ok I admit it, typing, let alone starting my first blog on a bus is not what I’d pictured for this trip. I’d always imagined spending hours in central park warmed by the speckled spotlights of sunlight or atop a lookout perilously perched in the sky, a physical metaphor for the self-reflective juices swirling around me right now. But no, instead I’m on a bus bound for DC, where I’m quietly excited to be spending the next two and a bit months as part of the Industry Placement Program.

To be honest though, this behaviour is perfectly quintessential of the past 10 days I’ve spent in the US. Over this amazing week and a bit I’ve hopped through Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, spent one night in an airport terminal, feasted on the plethora of fast food outlets and indulged myself in the immensely different culture here in the US. Yes, to me, if I had to describe the US in one word it would be visceral. A nation so full of overwhelming and enthralling icons everywhere you go. The place where I watched my first ever Broadway show, muscled in amongst hundreds to see the NYE ball drop, queued for hours in Disneyland, packed my suitcases sky-high with boxing day sale items and awed at the might of the Golden Gate bridge. These memories will stay with me forever and I have a feeling there are plenty more to come.

I don’t know if it’s just me but coming here to a country where the cities dwarf Sydney at their emptiest and tower above the streets in concrete majesty has drawn me to appreciate the little things accompanying the main attractions in our trips. Experiences like spotting squirrels in Central Park, listening to the unique stories of our many, many Uber drivers, finding out what ‘Xing’ (Cross-sing) means on Venice Beach, getting a photo with everyone’s favourite Wookie and trying out those refill soda fountains have shed a more personal light for me on what the US is like.

I'm not obsessed with squirrels...we just don't have many in Australia!
The people who have accompanied me on this trip have however been the glue that has kept me going through the countless hours of lost sleep, misread maps and overestimated food portions. From Chris, the man with a thousand connections (and snapchat stories) setting us up at the Peninsula New York and even getting us onto a Times Square Billboard to Bowrun tirelessly attempting to get his ‘scarf right’ while taking that perfect Profile Picture to Benedict, the wise cracking, incredibly skilled plane-sleeper and everyone else who have joined us on our adventures, I’d just like to say thank you for being such amazing people, friends and intrepid explorers with me.

All these morsels of insight have, over the past week and a bit, colluded into a collage of menagerie, one still swirling atop my pool of consciousness, and one which I’m still unable to process and perhaps won’t be able to for a while after this whirlwind of a holiday. But as things settle down and the bus heads closer to DC, I do admit finding myself being drawn back to the allure and lustre of the routine, an inexplicable feeling I can’t explain, only characterised by my ardent desire to expunge my suitcases of their contents and sort everything into wardrobes and proper cabinets, my inner neat-freak finally revealing itself after days of travelling in the same clothes.

Looking ahead, I do find my mind often wandering, pondering over what kind of experiences I’ll have at my placement, the types of teachers I’ll meet in class and the stories of my fellow students on campus. Thoughts aside, DC sounds absolutely amazing and I’m definitely looking forward to it!

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

Thursday, 28 January 2016

What Would 1.8 Billion Voices Sound Like?

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of overcoming a personal challenge in life. Nothing as liberating as clearing the tabs on your web browser after a grueling night of caffeine-induced assignment-typing. Or perhaps you finally scored that dream job at --insert company name here--. In more ways than others, we’re defined by our challenges and how we deal with them. Sometimes we stumble. Other times we triumph. But at some point we realise there are challenges out there we cannot deal with alone. Thankfully, you’re not alone.

Whether you’re stepping into university for the first time, stepping out for the last time, or anything in between; together you are the next generation of change-makers. You have a voice, and there’s never a better time to use it then now. Introducing YouthSpeak Forum Australia.

To be held at the University of Sydney Business School in the new Abercrombie Building on Friday 19 February, this one-day event will see students, thought-leaders and organisations come together to do something extraordinary. Inspiring talks, Engaging topics and Activating the power of a national network of young people. You will have a hands-on experience tackling some of Australia’s most pressing issues in the next five years by co-creating projects with leaders across all fields: Digital Disruption, Asia Capabilities, Sustainability, Fintech and Transition from Education to Employment.

As a student, it can sometimes seem like there aren't many opportunities to do something meaningful and make a tangible impact within your degree. Writing reports, submitting essays, and getting good at econometrics are not exactly flattering skills, to say the least. Employers are now looking for people with a passion, a passion to ‘do’. Why not take up the challenge? Pitch your project and it may have a real potential of being introduced into the Australian public, as early as this year.

Not to mention the incredible line-up of speakers: Alex Malley (CEO of CPA Australia and Author of ‘The Naked CEO’), Catherine McManus (Director of Smart Cities and recognised by Malcolm Turnbull as one of Australia’s most innovative entrepreneurs), and Ben Reeves (CEO of AAGE, Australian Association of Graduate Employers) just to name a few. These industry leaders are at the forefront of innovation and change in Australia, and you can join in on the action! 

So what would 1.8 billion voices sound like? The entire youth population? Probably something that would shake the world.

Spaces for this event are limited and attendees will be selected based on registration details. You can register now over at our website: and view the full list of speakers, program and event information. 

Register by Sunday 31 January to be eligible for EARLYBIRD tickets and save 30% (pay only $10AUD). General Admission Pass is $15AUD.

Deadlines for registrations close at 9.00pm, Sunday 14 February. 

Keep up to date on our facebook event page and invite your friends!

Tao Zhang
Current student at the University of Sydney

Friday, 15 January 2016

Los Angeles IPP: Life’s Calling

If you’re anything like me, the title of this blog post induced thoughts of career aspirations and the age old question of what do I want to be? However, you might have read this another way. You might have read: Life is calling. Hopefully, you will find that this post addresses both interpretations.
Having been to Los Angeles in the past with my family and spent a gap year travelling, I applied for this program with the characteristically pragmatic objective of narrowing down my future career options. Now, following a brief stint in Texas with a friend from Sydney and New Year’s Eve with fellow Industry Placement Program (IPP) students in San Francisco, it was time to start this journey. The journey towards my life’s calling. A little melodramatic, I know, but I am in Hollywood after all.

Things started innocuously enough. We, the LA IPP students, met for dinner at a local pizza place and bonded over our travel experiences so far in the states. It was the following day when things got interesting. After a campus tour of UCLA, which is remarkable by the way, we had our orientation dinner. This was of a much more formal nature with our new teachers and many of our soon to be employers. During the dinner we were asked to stand up and briefly introduce ourselves. The tone of these introductions was set when the first speaker stated what had led him to apply for the program.

To my surprise, as we moved from table to table, it became apparent that just about everyone had applied for the same reason: to figure out what they wanted to do. This is not to say that other aspects of the program were overlooked – studying at UCLA, cross-country road trips, and experiencing American culture – but it was clear what was front and centre (not center!) in everyone’s mind.
It was this realisation that caused me to wonder, is our unanimous concern for finding that perfect career simply a by-product of our demography. I think it is fair to say that our generation, Gen Y or Millennials as we have come to be known, feel that we are entitled to a career that we love. I apologise for generalising a bit here, but it seems to me that millennials yearn for a career that not only causes us to get out of bed in the morning, but do so bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
This is in stark contrast to as little as two generations ago, when concerns revolved largely around job stability, leading people to choose their careers early and stick to them. 

Perhaps we millennials are na├»ve to expect to work in jobs that we love or even like for that matter. However, I’m not quite convinced that this is the case. The very fact that a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings are spending the next two months working in Los Angeles goes to show the extent of the opportunities available.

This brings me back to my musings on the title of this blog post. With so many opportunities out there, it seems ridiculous to think that there’s just one right direction to head in. So maybe our unswerving focus on working out exactly what we want to do is unreasonable. Maybe there is some middle ground to be gained between how older generations viewed their career choices and how we have come to view them. If there is, I can’t help but think that the best way to find it is by embracing life as it comes. By all means, head in a particular direction, but do so with a willingness to jump at opportunities as they arise. 

With that said, I hope that over the next couple of months myself and my peers are able to stop agonising over finding our life’s calling, recognising that we’re only in LA a short while and life is calling.  

Jackson Dibble
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Los Angeles

Monday, 4 January 2016

Hello from the other side…

The time has arrived! After months of waiting and counting down the days, I am finally on a flight to Washington DC from San Francisco airport! I have been anticipating this moment ever since I got accepted into the Industry Placement Program. The day that I found out that I will be studying and interning in Washington DC is one that I will never forget.

It was after an accounting lecture when I received the email. I remember being caught off-guard as it arrived a day early. Even so, I didn’t waste a second to open the email. As soon as I saw the words ‘I am delighted…’  I was on the verge of tears and shaking with joy. It was definitely one of the best moments of 2015. I was overcome with happiness and in that moment, I knew that hard-work pays off.

Despite standing outside that lecture room frozen in awe for a good ten minutes, I don’t think the fact that I was going away for 2 months hit me until I started to pack for the trip. In fact, I had to adjust my luggage four different times to reduce the weight to 23kg. The very first weigh-in was 27kg! I eventually reduced the weight when I remembered that I can actually buy clothes overseas. Once I got it down to the appropriate size, it hit me that this trip is going to be filled with small and big challenges, nerves, excitement and lots of stories to tell.

I didn’t think that I could get more excited for this trip after receiving the initial email, but then I was told where I would be interning. I discovered that I was to be placed at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and jumped for joy. Prior to applying for the IPP, I attended a seminar that explained the process of the program and one student explained that their experience of working at IEDC was incredible. I am thrilled to be placed at the IEDC and I also hope that in some way I can make a difference for the organisation.

I am also looking forward to the units of study that I am studying. I am undertaking the units ‘International Policy’ and ‘Politics of Water Policy’ at the University of California, Washington Center (UCDC). I am keen to learn about subjects outside my degree and to test the waters (excuse the pun) of an interesting and different subject.

I am ecstatic to discover the challenges that this program will inevitably throw me. I’m already having an incredible time as I spent New Years in San Francisco with some fellow IPP students. Definitely a brilliant and spectacular start to a new year. To be in a different country for the celebration of a new year was such a surreal experience for me and something I will never forget.

I definitely threw myself in the deep end when applying for this program. I have never been overseas alone or away from home for an extended period of time. I will be leaving for two months to fend on my own!  One of my resolutions for 2015 was to take advantage of the opportunities provided to me, and I can certainly say that I achieved this. Now to bring on the next exciting experience, which is actually working and studying in Washington DC. Bring it on!

Rosalinda Raiti
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Washington DC

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