Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Australia benefits as India’s looks to the East

By Professor Gail Pearson, Discipline of Business Law

This was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Australia in twenty-eight years. The mood in the galleries of the Australian Parliament as visitors waited for the proceedings to begin was ebullient. India has been Looking East since the early 1990s; now it is Acting East.  How far and in what way would Mr Modi signal that India would Act East with Australia? Would Mr Modi speak in Hindi or in English? The informal tipping suggested Hindi.  He is regarded as a great orator in Hindi, even among those who do not support his politics.

Mr Abbott spoke, Mr Shorten spoke.  Each emphasised the long ties between Australia and India, the battles fought together in the two World Wars, and with the UN; the close friendships between leaders of different political parties – both Indian and Australian; and of course, cricket.

Then it was Mr Modi’s turn. He was impressive – impassioned and clear in his message – in English. It was evident why he is referred to as a rock star of politics. India is looking to Australia as a key partner in the Indo Pacific. India wants the Free Trade agreement with Australia which, if all goes to plan, will be completed by the end of 2015. Australia has what India needs, particularly resources and educational expertise. There is great scope for investment between Australia and India.

What does this mean for the University of Sydney? The largest ever research delegation from the University of Sydney has just returned from India, visiting four major centres and encompassing  individuals from diverse areas of research – Arts and Social Sciences, Business, Engineering and IT, Health , Nursing and Medicine. Others, such as Agriculture and Human Geography, had visited earlier. This was the biggest and most successful delegation yet, with more Deans attesting to our growing research links with India. India wants to engage. It has 800 million people below the age of twenty-five. It is the country with the second largest rate of economic growth in the world. There are great opportunities for our students to go to India and for Indian students to come to Australia.

It is not every day that the leader of the world’s largest democracy visits the national Parliament of a democracy such as ours which pioneered enfranchising wider groups of individuals, including women. The great thing about democracy is that as parties and leaders come and go, optimum solutions should result from the contest of ideas and policy. As Mr Modi said, democracy offers the best option for the human spirit. In his address to the joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, Mr Modi said security is paramount – energy, resources, food. India sees Australia as a natural partner. Education is a national priority for India. New economic opportunities are central for Australia. From the Business School and from the whole of the university, we should continue to build and strengthen the infrastructure of our existing partnerships and look to new collaborations. This will help make the whole region prosperous.

Monday, 24 November 2014

From Barbells to Boardrooms: the parallels between Sport and Business

I walked out of the CEO’s office with a smile on my face. I’d been reprimanded for not performing a task the way I should have. I told my CEO I knew I had made an error and that it was completely my mistake. Not accustomed to how I’d graciously acknowledged my mistake, he continued to reprimand me in a very kind, constructive and positive manner, obviously not wanting to offend me. I had understood the point, and my error, and all I wanted was for him to give me my next task and challenge. What he didn’t realise was that workplace feedback pales in comparison to the feedback that I’d received throughout my sporting career as a Tasmanian, NSW and Australian hockey representative. It was nothing in comparison to the time my coach showed footage of a goal I missed in front of my NSW team members and Australian coaches, while providing brutal commentary. Or the feedback I received when I missed out on an Australian national selection by one team member. Because of my unique sporting experiences, I have the ability and resilience to take criticism in the workplace better than my colleagues. To me, a boss’s criticism is water off a duck’s back.

The Research
For my Honours (Commerce) research which I completed this year as part of my Commerce/Law degree, I explored the parallels between sport and business, and how an elite athlete can best transition from elite level sport to the corporate sector. I interviewed former medal winning Olympians, Captains of Australian teams and members of the Wallabies, all of who are now extremely successful in corporate organisations. My interviewees applied the traits and skills of a former elite athlete to their work environment and the practices within it. They demonstrated discipline, efficiency, work-ethic, strategic planning abilities, had fantastic time management skills, were constantly seeking new challenges and were always motivated to achieve.

Whether in a team or individual sport, athletes have to ensure everyone is dedicated to working towards achieving the same goal. In a high-performance culture, athletes have learnt to manage different personalities, partaking in what I call, “an unofficial management degree”.  They have accumulated distinct teamwork abilities and leadership skills that are directly transferrable to the workplace. These intrinsic sporting traits, skills, attributes and attitudes differentiate former athletes and have the potential to yield to a sustained competitive advantage as an employee.

The Application
In my workplace, I recently had to moderate a Senior Managers performance review. Although I lacked the twenty years of experience which both managers in the meeting had, I drew upon the leadership abilities I accumulated through my Tasmanian, NSW and U/21 Australian captaincy roles. Coaching the Senior Manager through a performance plan, creating short and long-term goals and outlining specific KPI’s, was analogous to the strategic planning I enacted with Coaches and team members. As the Captain of the NSW team at a National Championships, I once had to conduct a meeting between three fighting team members who refused to pass the ball to each other on the field. As you can imagine, the meeting in my workplace with a Senior Manager therefore was a breeze.

Nina Khoury
Student at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 20 November 2014

What it's like to work as a Junior Business Analyst at Westpac: Industry Placement Program

I did my Industry Placement Program at Westpac as a Business Analyst. I worked in the Rapid Digital Transformation Project which mainly focused on Business Lending. I consider myself lucky that I was able to work in a cross functional team comprising of the best talent from Westpac Bank, St. George Bank and McKinsey. I felt excited and nervous that I would be working and learning from the best. For example, my colleague Tom who was studying the same major as me but who was doing his course part time made me feel at ease amongst the team. Moreover Andy, the project manager, motivated me when he told me about how he didn't actually know how to operate a photocopying machine when he started working.

My work environment was interesting. The RDT team was isolated from the rest of the building which made me feel like I was part of something confidential. There were no walls to separate the various streams. It was designed this way to encourage knowledge sharing.

Unlike other IPP students, I did not get any formal induction training. My first day involved a 3 hour meeting where I tried my best to make sense of what was going on. This was a big achievement for me considering my short attention span. After the meeting, my manager clarified all the terms and jargon that I noted down which I didn't understand from the meeting .

My main focus going into the program was how I would make an impact in the workplace. In the very first week, I took the opportunity to give a thank you speech to the team for organising the weekly drinks event (after which everyone knew there was an intern in the team). I made full use of this opportunity to not only network on a professional and personal level with my co-workers and managers, but also to learn a diverse range of skills from other areas. For example,working as a Business Analyst meant that I worked closely with I.T Analysts which enabled me to get a good understanding of backend processes. I believe this was really beneficial for me.

Throughout the program, people would ask me how I was able to manage my time with uni. To be honest I was not impressed with my time management skills. I compromised some of my study time for work and social life; so I was disappointed with some of my exam marks. The most difficult task during placement however was doing a presentation on Agile project delivery methodology. It was a skill that was well sought after in the industry but one that I didn't have any prior knowledge of. Nevertheless, I knew I wanted to complete the project because it would push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me. My colleagues helped me to get a good theoretical understanding of the framework. My approach was to step back from the issue at hand and to look at it holistically in order to identify the areas of application and areas which could be improved. After the presentation I was considered one of the agile gurus in the workplace. I believe this skill will be beneficial for me when I enter the corporate world as a Business Analyst.

Towards the end of the placement, Westpac offered me the opportunity to continue with the team until the completion of the project. Upon completion of the project my Linkedin connections went from 0 to 150 and I have been continuing my communications with my co-workers and managers. In addition, my colleagues recommended that I apply for a role at McKinsey. It was a big sense of achievement to receive this kind of recogition from a big 4 bank and the world’s no. 1 consulting firm.

I’m surprised with how much I have grown both professionally and personally over the duration of the placement. I can still remember the night before the placement when I was asking my friends about what it was like to work in corporate. Now, I have experienced it myself and feel confident in my career goal: to become a well-known Business Analyst.

A casual Friday lunch with the team

Sakkaf Mohammed
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Friday, 14 November 2014

Why I love being a Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) Facilitator

Peer Assisted Studies Sessions (PASS) is a series of weekly one hour facilitator-led, student-driven learning sessions, available across most first-year business school units. PASS provides a complementary learning experience to lectures and tutorials, where students benefit from the diverse knowledge and experiences of their peers, with the focus being on collaborative groupwork to inspire deep learning.

I've been a facilitator for 3 years now in the undergraduate capstone units of Understanding Business and the Business Environment. I still love preparing and running my sessions every week and miss them during the summer break. Here's why:

It started from my experiences as a student
Following the lecture bashing blitz in my first week of university, I decided to give PASS a try. After my first session, I was instantly hooked and have attended sessions in every available unit ever since. My first session was run by Shirley Anne-Hu in Business Statistics, and it's a testament to her skill as a facilitator that I can still remember the activities we did on representing data through histograms and the measures of central tendency. Shirley was patient, welcoming and warm; and facilitated my group's learning every step of the way. It was such a natural experience that we didn't even realise that she never gave an outright answer, allowing us to get it right through consensus in a reversal of what we had been used to in high school.

The recruitment process was very thorough
When it was time for me to apply to become a PASS facilitator, I jumped at the chance! The recruitment process remains the most comprehensive I've ever been through (and will likely go through), and the results of this are plain to see in the quality of the program, which consistently nets a near 100% satisfaction rating from students, as well as awards from the PASS National Forum. Having submitted a 1,000 word application, we then had a panel interview, reference checking and 3 days of training before we received the good news. This was great as it showed us that our amazing coordinator Jessica Morr and her team were dedicated to finding the right people for the role, and then training them to be the best facilitators that they could be.

You join an incredible team
The PASS facilitators are made up of a great group of students who either come first in their units, are the presidents of campus clubs & societies, winners of international case competitions, students with work experience in leading banks, corporates and law firms, and/or are tireless volunteers who help out in their communities. Yet despite everything that they've accomplished, they still remain wonderfully down-to-earth and value all student contributions, and even end up learning as much as their students did at the end of their sessions.

The 'Ahah' moment from students
Yet the most rewarding part of being a facilitator is helping students fill in the missing gaps between their knowledge and a deep understanding of the course content and skills. I've had students who are new to university come into my sessions confused about course concepts. This is where the beauty of PASS as a voluntary and complementary addition to lectures and tutorials truly shines, and it's very rewarding to see students reach the answers in a collaborative effort and leave with new friends and an increased confidence in their own abilities.

Want to join?
If you'd like to be a student participant, PASS is available in most introductory undergraduate and postgraduate units of study. Go to PASS I want to register to see if your units are included. Most sessions are usually booked out in the first week of semester, so get in quick!

If you'd like to become a facilitator, applications open around the middle of semester 2 each year. Best of luck!

James Fan
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Looking forward: Digital Disruption and Management Consulting

20 years ago nobody was sending email, information was available almost exclusively from physical sources and business processes were designed almost exclusively in-house.

But advances in technology have drastically changed our behaviour both as consumers and in the workplace.

An ulterior effect of the information and networking age has been an increase in the flexibility of service offerings by professional services firms. Although the big four still hold most of the market, recently there has been a rise in niche firms, offering services more suited to smaller organisations.

These subjects were covered at a recent panel event hosted by the Master of Management Society at the University of Sydney Business School. The four distinguished guests shared their experience of how industries in Australia are being disrupted and included the following:
  • Matthew Gilmour - Founder of Ozforex , an international exchange company that was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange for $442 million
  • Emily Yue - Founder of Expert 360, a firm that connects businesses requiring professional services to top freelance professionals and consultants, most of whom have previously had careers at the top firms and agencies
  • Damien Tampling - Head of Digital Strategy, Transformation and Investment Practices at Deloitte
  • Christopher Kurwie - Senior Associate at Venture Consulting, a company specialising in working with digital, media and telecommunications companies

Panellists, left to right; Matthew Gilmour, Founder, Ozforex; Emily Yue, Co-Founder and COO, Expert 360; Damien Tampling, Partner, Deloitte; and Christopher Kurwie, Senior Associate, Venture Consulting; and host, Emma Cowan, current student in the Master of Management program

Naturally, with three consultants at the table and many aspiring consultants in the audience, there was a lot of discussion on the topic of the management consulting industry.

Damien, the panel’s representative of the Big Four, accepted that the level of disruption in the industry will possibly see the established players become smaller in the coming years, driven by a combination of factors.

From a technological perspective, the online channel used by Expert 360 (described as internet dating meets consulting services) has facilitated a much larger and more diverse market for professional services than what existed previously.

A lack of flexibility in the established firms is another reason for change in the industry. Emily Yue nominated this as the primary reason for Expert 360 being established, as it allows start-ups and smaller enterprises to hire specialist staff as needed, for specific lengths of time, eroding the advantage of larger corporations that can afford to have specialists employed full-time.

Furthermore, in seeking to value add and offer greater expertise to companies, many specialist consulting firms are focusing on specific industries and company sizes; Chris Kurwie’s employer, Venture Consulting, is an example of such a firm.

Discussion among the panel was not confined to the consulting profession; the guests also had the opportunity to share their insights on entrepreneurship and innovation in general. In reflecting on how Venture seeks to make companies more innovative, Chris noted that it tends to entail either the specialisation or diversification of services. Matthew Gilmour exemplified specialisation as a source of innovation, having founded a company that deals only in a specific area of financial services. In his view, the opportunity to innovate tends to be grounded in “fat margins and red tape”: where this can be found, there will often be an opportunity to innovate.

Equally important was his view, upheld by the panel, that most successful entrepreneurs will acquire knowledge and experience in their chosen field prior to creating their own enterprises. Matt’s prior experience in working in foreign exchange for large institutions as well as Emily Yue’s stint as a consultant for Bain & Co. justifies the importance of this prerequisite for being an entrepreneur. In light of this, Matt suggested the stories of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg creating billion-dollar enterprises straight out of college should be seen as the (very rare) exception, rather than the rule. If you intend to be an entrepreneur, perhaps it will pay off to continue your education post-university, pursuing a position at an established company to deepen your understanding and connections in the industry prior to trying to go at it alone.

As experienced professionals and industry leaders, the panellists did an exceptional job of representing themselves and their companies.

This was the second event of this kind that has been hosted by the Master of Management Society, following an alumni event held three weeks earlier.

Max Evans
Current student in the Master of Management program at the University of Sydney Business School and Analyst at CitiBank

Friday, 7 November 2014

Why delaying my graduation was one of the best decisions I have ever made

Six months ago, we were presented with an opportunity by our lecturer, Andrew Ainsworth. “One of the world’s leading asset management firms is recruiting an intern for a six month stint”, he shared.

I thought of applying immediately – what better way to gain more professional experience than to immerse myself in the financial world and apply what I’ve learnt there? It was like a litmus test – would I make the cut?

Concerns flew through my mind at the very same time – I had to take a semester off from university and delay my graduation – would I lag behind my peers after this internship? The fact that I had never heard of Wellington before that day was, in all honesty, unsettling as well.

I quickly reached out to a friend who was working in the fund management industry hoping for some advice. His response was clear – a six-month programme within the financial services industry was an incredible opportunity to distinguish myself as having a genuine interest in finance and commitment to your future employers. He also emphasised that the firm was of high calibre and reputable – that was all I need to hear to seal the deal!

The role
In my role, I have the opportunity to work with two different teams - investment administration in the mornings and externally facing global relationship duties in the afternoons. No two days are the same, making the experience very unique. My typical morning involves facilitating the flow of clients’ assets, corporate actions processing and ensuring that trades and assets are priced correctly. My role in the afternoon covers a broader range of tasks. For example, I could be engaged in performance reporting or working on projects that focus on industry analysis and contemporary trends. I have since realised that the only way to gain in-depth knowledge and experience would be to stick at something for a period of time.

I have been at the firm for only three months but have learnt a great deal – the opportunities to understand financial markets and investment vehicles across a range of asset classes never cease to excite me every day at work. To an ambitious undergraduate, this experience is also an eye-opener to the diverse avenues and career paths within Wellington and financial services that exist all over the world.

Having had prior exposure to other corporate internships, I can also confidently claim that the culture at Wellington on a global spectrum is unique – the firm is made up of incredibly genuine and intelligent people who are always willing to offer guidance. Being able to build a professional network of mentors who have been nothing but supportive is invaluable. 

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Sam Archibald
Current student at the University of Sydney, studying Agricultural Economics and majoring in Corporate Finance. He unabashedly declares that FINC3017 Investments and Portfolio Management is one of his favourite subjects that kick-started his interest in investment management.

Apply for the next internship at Wellington.
Applications close on 10 November 2014. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Business Information Systems 101

The Business Information Systems major is sometimes overlooked as a major within the Commerce degree. Here are some insights into why the BIS major is relevant, from the perspective of current BIS students and the Business Information Systems Association (BISA) executive team. 

Why the BIS major is important/relevant and why being apart of BISA would aid students

Businesses cannot operate without business processes. In a continually advancing digital environment, technology, data communication and analysis are becoming a core way in which businesses can differentiate themselves amongst competitors. In this way, the Business Information Systems (BIS) major is relevant because it  provides students with the knowledge and tools to apply information and communication technologies (ICT) to achieve business goals, improve business processes and drive innovation, to name a few.

The Business Information Systems Association (BISA) is the backbone of BIS and aims to support BIS students in numerous ways. BISA offers as many industry-related opportunities and experiences as possible and in turn, provides BIS students with the greatest advantage in securing a job once they graduate.

BISA exec team at our BBQ

Involvement in the BISA is highly beneficial for BIS students through:
  • Providing networking, professional development opportunities and Industry exposure with numerous events such as our Mentoring Program
  • Providing a support network of peers and academia
  • Facilitating active communication/dialogue between students and BIS academic staff
  • Informing students of numerous internship and graduate opportunities
  • Connecting with other BIS students through a variety of social events such as Movie Night, Pizza & Drinks… and more!
  • Expanding networks to other students from different disciplines. For example, we are hosting a Case Study Challenge with SUITS (the IT society at USYD) in Week 13 

BISA Mentoring Program Semester 1, 2014

Statement by BISA Sub-Committee Member Wendy Li (Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Science, majoring in Business Information Systems, Information Systems and Pharmacology)

“'What the hell is BIS'” is the first thing that came to my mind when I entered the business school and BIS to me was an unusual misspelling of ‘BUS’. It was not until I discovered the Business Information Systems Association that became intrigued at the career opportunities, and the unique coupling between commerce and technology that exists in the field. If you are like myself (i.e. frustratingly indecisive about future careers), BISA can inform you about the industry, careers opportunities and offer industry experience in financial services, banking and consulting through the Mentoring Program and industry speakers. Personally, the connections and people I was exposed to had a direct impact on developing my passion for technology, and opened up many internship and graduate opportunities! Interestingly, the IPP program began with a focus on Information Systems and continues to offer fantastic internships focusing on BIS at Deloitte, PwC and Westpac to name a few. As for the icing on the cake, various Big Four companies offer graduate positions SOLELY for BISA members, and you don’t need me to tell you how lucrative an opportunity this is! Now is a prime time to take advantage of all the activities BISA offers in an industry that is 1) Growing at a rapid pace, and 2) Seeking skilled graduates. So get to it!"

BISA pizza and drinks night-that's right we're drinking with our super cool lecturers!

Natasha Lay and Elizabeth Lao
Current students at the University of Sydney Business School