Alumni Q&A - Smriti Kalra

Master of Management (Finance)(2017)

· Current role/company:

Technology Specialist and Finance Lead for IoT Product, Telstra

· Where in the world are you?


· Tell us about your experience since leaving university. How have you come to your current position? Is this the sort of role you always wanted to be in, or were there some twists and turns along the way?

"Competing with myself and my previous best" is the adage that serves as an impetus to my endeavours. Throughout university life, I have practised a convergent, yet pro-active approach towards working on my professional development and shaping my career. My beliefs strengthened in the final semester and I was confident enough to apply for the company that I had narrowed down to as a synergistic fit for me.

A diverse profile, in my case, with a T Shape skill set; breadth skill in Business and Finance and depth in Technology, an exchange semester with IE Business School Spain, internship with KPMG and working in research space for Risk analytics and Corporate Governance at University of Melbourne, really worked to my advantage. After seven rounds of rigorous assessments, I landed the only job I had applied for - Telstra Graduate program. Right after graduating from Melbourne Business School, I rolled into my dream role of that time, to manage business and financial decisions for cutting edge technology projects. I rotated in three very different areas, Business Strategy & Investments and Mergers & Acquisition integrations before I found my current role in the IoT space. I am a person who is driven by the impetus for next big challenge that adds value and Telstra has been oiling my machinery just right.

However, the only reason why I sat in on Telstra’s employer presentation hosted by University of Melbourne Careers team,  was to fill in for an engineering friend! There I learnt Telstra is not only one of the most reputable telecom, it is a techno as well with exciting opportunities for Business Graduates. So, I must admit, no matter how convergent and proactive your approach is, life has mesmerising and unbelievable ways to surprise you with its twists and turns. What one can do, however, is to grab the opportunity by the horn and be persistent. You either succeed or you learn.

· How have you adapted over the last few weeks, e.g. moving on-line, working from home, etc? Have you learned anything about working flexibly/digitally that you were surprised by?

I totally see this digital wave that COVID-19 has brought upon us as a silver lining. I feel far more connected to the people that I want to stay in touch with now more than ever before, as they are all just a click away. Obviously, being an extrovert, I do miss the in-person vibe and warmth. But I believe that this time has given us a way to restart our pursuits in ways that were never foreseen.

Having been equipped to work-from-home, thanks to Telstra's flexible work environment, it has been a rather smooth transition in this new normal. Saving on time and energy otherwise siphoned by commute, I have been continuing my usual workday over digital platforms. Moreover, I am focussing on upskilling myself through Online Learning and Virtual Coffee catchups with my mentors and peers on Fridays.

I try to live by the daily mantras comprising of:

  • Virtual Yoga, HIIT sessions and hourly stretch-breaks during my virtual study/work sessions
  • Online Learning / Upskilling
  • Socialize -    Virtual game night with peers (without a fail from last 8 weeks ;) ) and  Regular Virtual Coffee Catch-ups
  • Eat well and Stay positive
  • Learn to say no to anything that breaches your healthy boundary

· What method would you say is best for reaching out for connections and networking?

An effective way is through UoM Alumni events and Career fairs. It’s here one gets to meet like-minded people from the industry who maybe commanding senior positions but are eager to guide and teach.

Considering the current scenario, there are virtual meetups and conferences taking place for every matter of interest hosted by Universities and Corporates. Attending these meetings and connecting with the host/other attendees via LinkedIn, is the best digital analogue. Don’t hesitate to use your UoM grad-card to introduce yourself and build a connection.

Use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc to have video calls and find Mentors to guide you throughout your journey. Mentorship according to me is one of the most important parameter to success. You are surrounded by amazing mentors while there at UoM as well, reach out to them and start forming your connections as you read this. I would myself love to have a Virtual Alumni Meet-ups as well.

· What do you think the most valuable skills for new graduates entering the workforce are? For fresh graduates what companies are looking for is right mindset and cognitive abilities along with technical understanding.

More and more graduates are eager to work and the competition gets intense every year. (Even more challenging due to COVID-19)

If you’ve had any of these experiences:

  • You’re eager to put your new college degree to use but don’t have your perfect job lined up.
  • You’re worried that you may have a lack of experience.
  • You’re unsure of what industry you should be in.
  • You’ve never been interviewed and aren’t sure how to prepare.

Do not worry. Everyone worries about these situations after graduation, and I want to share what I did when I was in those shoes and few key inferences from my experience.

Industry outside the University is a team game. We study advanced JAVA, Advanced negotiations, Advanced analytics etc but some of the most precious qualities one should work on during university days are:

  • 'Advanced Networking'
  • 'Personal Branding'
  • Emerging Trends and Technology
  • More often than not, it was my team that was responsible to deliver a successful campaign instead of an individual member. And in these scenarios, one needs to know how to network in order to best fit the team and also to maximize team output. While you are in University, you are surrounded by so many graduates who will become a part of future workforce and it gives a great platform to launch in later years by being connected with them. #StayConnected
  • One needs to develop their own Identity as well in order to be recognised within the team and eventually within the organisation. That's where Personal Branding comes into the picture. Focus on these things equally, if not more, as we do on our specialisation subjects. #YourReputationPrecedesYou
  • In this era, all fields are converging into one another through technology and there are no more real boundaries. Therefore, along with a thorough understanding of your specialisation, try to have a basic grasp of the emerging technologies like IoT (Internet of Things), Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, etc to give yourself a head start. And the last thing I would like to impart is to encourage asking questions. They could be about things and topics that you come across in day-to-day life and try to understand the mindset behind it. #BeCurious

We go through several new experiences almost daily. Your reflection process is best directed by a workplace guide such as a supervisor, mentor, or a faculty member, after having undergone the new experience.  This post-experience reflection with a guide gives you another voice that can ask questions and draw comparisons to abstract ideas that are now more completely understood.  Lessons learned can be internalized and used in future work opportunities.

If you’d like to ask Smriti more about her experiences, connect with her on LinkedIn and mention you have read the Q&A.