Rebecca Beutel

Rebecca Beutel

Image: Kylie Beutel 

Why did you enrol in the CBE Special Industry Project (SIP)?

When I decided to enrol in SIP, I had just completed an anthropology field school assignment in Indonesia where I was working with a rural community to develop a sustainable development initiative. Whilst working on this project, tourism continuously arose as a possible driver for development, and yet a lot of the current discourse in their area emphasises how tourism can and has restricted indigenous community’s cultural agency and ownership. As such, when I heard about the possibility of working with Twofold Aboriginal Corporation on their Giiyong Festival through the CBE Project, I was intrigued by the converse possibilities of community-led tourism initiatives that not only encourage non-Indigenous people to engage with their cultures, but also how that can be economically utilised to benefit the community themselves.  One worry I did have for this course though, was how I would fair amongst students who had spent the past couple years developing their business and economic prowess. Meanwhile, I had been writing critical papers on the inadequacies of aid programs and measuring trees on Black Mountain. That fear was mostly comforted by the fact we were to work in groups with diverse skills and knowledge. However, the further we progressed into the course and the project, the more useful my unique academic and cultural backgrounds became, and ultimately the diverse academic backgrounds of my group became the greatest strength to our final project proposal.

Has SIP influenced your future education and career choices?

A couple weeks after I finished SIP, I received an email about an internship opportunity at one of Australia’s leading consulting firms. Prior to taking this course I would never have considered a career in consulting, but after this experience I decided to apply for the opportunity. I ended up getting to the final rounds of interviews in a very competitive process, and whilst I unfortunately did not end up getting the internship, I learnt a lot about a career path I had never really considered. I think the greatest career insight I gained from this course is understanding how diverse a career in consulting could be and that it isn’t reserved for business and finance majors only.

In your opinion, how did SIP prepare you for the professional world?

This unique course taught me how integral collaborative teamwork is to the completion of a successful project. Throughout this course, my group ended up being a great support and stress simultaneously, who ultimately helped  challenge me and develop a new appreciation for the art of teamwork. Not only was it vital that we equally committed to a mutually achievable timeframe and workload, my team was also great at supporting each during the struggles of the course. A consistent challenge we faced throughout this course was maintaining consistent and productive communication with the client, and as our lectures reminded us, this is a common challenge faced by many in the consulting profession. As such, our team had to become more creative and collaborative to overcome this challenge, and I think this was to the benefit of our capacities to work under difficult conditions.

What is the most valuable skill that you acquired through SIP?

I think the most valuable skill I gained through this course was creative problem solving. Within my team’s dynamic, I was tasked with primarily focusing on the environmental sustainability of our client’s cultural festival, and within this context I was free to investigate a plethora of green solutions.  In my science courses, we are often taught to look for the specific answer to a problem, but in this course I felt very much free to explore an array of solutions and investigate how they could on a systems scale contribute to the overall sustainability of the festival.

What was your favourite part of SIP?

My favourite part of SIP was applying a system thinking approach to investigate how the varying puzzle pieces of our client’s context came together, both in the challenges and solutions. As our team was comprised of students stemming from finance, business, economics, environmental sustainability, and anthropology, we were able to take quite a broad approach to our client’s case, and subsequently identify multiple areas of improvement. From sponsorship packages, to bus routes, all the way to composting toilets, I really enjoyed coming together as a team to see where our own individual academic backgrounds had led us to suggesting a unique systems-based proposal.

Share with us a highlight from this course that will stay with you?

Despite my love for debating in high-school and my current job, which requires confidence speaking in front of an audience, towards the end of 2019 I really struggled with public speaking at University. I was never really one to be bothered by public speaking but for some reason, towards the end of my second year at ANU, I started to have really bad anxiety attacks when faced with the reality of standing up in front of a crowd and speaking. I remember for one class it got so bad I thought I was going to faint in the middle of my presentation. As part of SIP, we were required to present twice in front of the client to illustrate our initial and final proposals for their festival. I’m not sure if it was the virtue of being online, or perhaps the confidence gained from being in a group, but when I came to my time to talk during these presentations I felt a little less horrified than previously. Although I still struggle with this today, I think this CBE course offered me an opportunity to confront this fear and personally overcome a barrier that  started to limit my abilities at university.

Can you share an experience from SIP that changed or challenged you personally?

In the winter session of 2019, I participated in a similar community based developed project in rural Indonesia. Whilst living in the kumpungs (villages) with the community we were working with, we were tasked to develop a practical solution to a problem identified by the communities themselves. As this was an anthropology course, our understanding of the problem and subsequent solution was all based on the community’s advice, gained from in depth interviews and participation within community life. This research process was starkly different to the level of interaction we shared with our client, and for me acted as a large barrier to truly understanding what they were looking to gain from our research. I think going through this course with such a challenge, emphasised how my learning process is particularly dependent on qualitative conversations with the community or organisation themselves, as opposed to a multi-layered web of involved parties.  

I think this challenge also forced me to question the efficacy of the short-term engagement preferred within the consulting model. It would obviously be unfair to base my judgments of the entire consulting profession on this one course. However, it did lead me to question how culturally relative a proposed solution can be, without the investment of time, qualitative research, and community partnership.

What advice would you give to non-CBE students applying for SIP? 

Take the time to talk with your group before starting your project. Learn each other’s strengths and weakness, learn what interests each other the most, and what you each find particularly boring. Talk about your schedules and figure out when the best time for each of you to meet is. 

I think the greatest strength of my group was that we identified each other’s strengths and interests and were able to lean upon those strengths rather than being thrown in the deep end without a life jacket. If you do this, then it won’t be such a big deal that you aren’t a CBE student. I was lucky enough to have some incredibly talented numbers people in my team, which meant I was able to focus on the social and environmental aspects of the course, rather than trying to contribute in my weaker areas. This will most likely be one of the hardest courses you do at University, but it could also be one of the most interesting and creative opportunities you have to test what you have learnt before being thrown into the professional world.