Xin Tong Tea

Xin Tong Tea

Image: Cindy Ng 

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

When I completed Year 12, I proactively searched for internship and part-time opportunities to obtain hands-on experiences. Knowing that SIP was conducted in such a way that it mimics the real-world consulting environment, I knew it would be a great way to get a taste of the consulting world. I decided to venture into a course that is completely different from the usual courses CBE offers. The client, Twofold Aboriginal Corporation, was another reason why I chose this course. Coming from a multi-cultural background, I have always been interested in culture. Having been in Australia for two years at the time of enrolling in the course, I realised my knowledge regarding the Aboriginal culture was very limited. I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to learn about Australia’s First Peoples from an international student’s perspective.

Has SIP influenced your future education and career choices?

Being impacted by COVID-19, there were a lot of changes to my plans, which led me to consider whether I should pursue postgraduate studies. Not to say that postgraduate studies aren’t a good choice, I may consider doing a part-time degree later in my career, but for me SIP made me all the more certain that I wanted to venture into the professional world now, leveraging my skills and knowledge practically. 

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

Completing SIP during the pandemic definitely taught me the importance of being resilient. With the sudden switch to online teaching and campus closure, communication between team members, mentors and clients was especially difficult. I have always preferred to work in person. As this project required discussion and even debates between the team members at times, I found that human connection made our weekly meetings more productive. Being able to adapt to the situation quickly became so important, ensuring that tasks were completed as planned and the team’s schedule was not affected. Looking back at it now, I believe this is how the real-world or even life is like, not everything will go as planned or expected, but it is important to be flexible, persevere through hard times and learn to overcome the difficulties along the way. 

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

Communication was greatly affected due to the switch to online teaching. However, it is one of the most valuable skills that I gained during this course. Having to communicate virtually taught me to convey ideas in three different situations – internally between team members; externally to clients, mentors and other stakeholders; and through presentations. Working with opinionated team members meant debates occurred, but I have learnt to appreciate these debates. They were intimidating at first, but worthwhile as long as we negotiated and came to an agreement for the best conclusion after considering perspectives from everyone in the team. 

What was your favourite part of the CBE Special Industry Project?

I am immensely grateful to my team. All of us were from different backgrounds and different Colleges; hence, we brought to the table different perspectives and different strengths. We were all fairly competitive individuals, but we did not rival against each other, we competed together as a team with a shared goal. There were two things that we did which, in my opinion, were immensely useful in growing our team spirit. First, we shared our strengths and weaknesses during the first meeting. Having to get along with people you barely know is challenging, so getting to know your team member’s strengths and weaknesses from the start helps you work together. Second, we took 10 minutes at the start of every meeting to catch-up on how we were doing that day or week. These routines helped me build trust in my teammates.  

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

During this course, I have learnt a lot through collaborating with my team, from the guidance Strategy&’s mentor and the course convener provided. The most significant change in me was being able to confidently voice my thoughts and ideas. This may seem like something so small or even easy to do for many, but it was not always the case for me. I used to agree to other’s ideas solely because I thought they were smarter than me. The reasons for these changes were the unique opportunity to assist the Yuin people and being aware of my ability to apply attention to details. 

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

I remember being slightly intimidated in the second team meeting. The team decided to have a ‘brain dumping’ session to collate our ideas after the site visit at Eden, TwoFold’s main location. Due to the amount of information presented, I felt lost but also amazed by some of the team members’ ability to have a clear thought process regarding leading the direction of our research. Knowing that was my weakness, I worked harder and trained myself to structure my thinking and problem solving. I treated every discussion as a practice session to analyse and break down problems. Of course, I was slow in the beginning, but I was so determined to acquire this skill. With continuous practice, I definitely noticed improvements in myself and that I was able to contribute more to the project.

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

My advice applies to both non-CBE and CBE students. You may think that your degree or major are unrelated to the case study or the client’s industry, but in my opinion, what’s important is your passion for problem solving. My team members were from different Schools and Colleges at ANU and we each brought to the table different strengths and perspectives. Being a non-CBE student will not be a weakness but an asset to the team.

Be open-minded to the people you are going to work with and welcome the differences. While the ideal situation is to remain friends with your team after SIP, if this is not the case, you will have at least learnt the type of environment and work culture you thrive in. It is more than a course but an opportunity that will cultivate growth through hard work and commitments.