Business Meets Science: MBS Internship With The CSIRO

By Shal Segar

Melbourne Business School provides students with the opportunity to undertake an internship while crediting their experience as a subject in their degree. Students can either source their own internship or apply for a university-sourced opportunity. We spoke to both Alex Mullins (Strategic Partnerships Program Manager at the CSIRO) and Master of Management student, Hasini Ilangaratne, who completed an internship with the CSIRO in 2021.

The CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency and innovation catalyst is a longstanding partner of the University. Having already offered four internships to Melbourne Business School (MBS) students, as well as hosting student teams in consulting subjects, the organisation advertises internships based on current organisational needs. While giving students exposure to the workforce, they also aim to provide a full and rich experience through contribution to value-add projects, particularly in the virtual world. In addition to linking interns to a variety of teams and areas within the organisation, interns get to work on live projects.

Prior to studying at MBS, Hasini Ilangaratne earned an undergraduate degree in pharmacy and worked as a Pharmacist for four years. Given her background, the opportunity to undertake the BUSA90525 Business and Economics Internship subject at CSIRO was a dream come true, as she had always admired their role in addressing world challenges. Hasini’s work as a Pharmacist, while enjoyable, offered limited career opportunities. The MBS internship with the CSIRO was the perfect opportunity to explore her combined passions in business and science.

Alex Mullins (CSIRO) noted Hasini’s already-advanced skills gained through prior experience and worked with Hasini to identify new opportunities for skill development. “We tailor the internship to the student - if they need to develop in a certain area, we’ll give them challenges in those areas.”

Hasini described her internship experience with the CSIRO as nothing short of incredible. She gained exposure to a variety of business areas and challenges and contributed to impactful work within the Business Development team. “I was afforded the opportunity to liaise with diverse stakeholders within the organisation including scientists, consultants, executive leadership and business development managers. I was fortunate to be able to present my work to an Executive Director, which was nerve-wracking but rewarding.”

Alex recognised Hasini’s contributions to the organisation’s strategic partnerships program, “It was exciting for me to be able to work with Hasini and give her free rein in terms of designing frameworks the program can operate within.”

Although Hasini started her internship in person, lockdowns in Melbourne resulted in her role being remote. While undertaking tasks from home, Hasini noted that the CSIRO staff ensured she felt connected and included. “Many of my team members were scattered across Australia, which meant remote work was a necessity. My supervisor was incredibly supportive and made sure to check in with me daily. Along with ensuring our priorities were aligned, it was lovely just to chat.”

Students should not be discouraged from applying for internships in the virtual environment. Rather, gaining experience in this environment can help lead students to job prospects they may not have considered before. According to Alex, half of the MBS interns who have completed CSIRO’s internship program have secured employment with the CSIRO following their internship. Gaining exposure to different parts of the organisation has been a crucial part of these students’ career choices, as their employment options are broadened beyond the core team they work with during the internship.

Alex stressed that organisations should not consider taking on interns as a burden. “There’s a negative perception around the admin burden to get an intern onboarded, but if you look at it from a long-term perspective, the early investment could translate to a long-term staff member with CSIRO. It’s really important for organisations to take on interns. In the virtual world, it’s even more important because students aren’t getting in-person time.”

Hasini’s internship was her first experience outside the pharmacy industry, putting her outside her comfort zone. It was a rewarding experience, enabling her to put her business education into practice. Her learnings fall into three categories:

  • Communication: “As I was required to work with numerous stakeholders, I needed to adapt my communication style to individual needs and the environment. I have become more confident in sending important emails and facilitating workshops on my own.”
  • Creative and strategic problem-solving: Hasini was tasked with developing a strategy for one of the CSIRO’s processes which gave her experience in human-centered design methodologies.
  • Power and politics: Thanks to Hasini’s supervisor, she was encouraged to see the value she brought to her team. “I was prone to doubting myself and putting myself down especially around senior staff, but I learned that we each have something unique to bring to the table.”

Alex praised Hasini’s performance and ability to pick things up easily. Unsurprisingly, Hasini was able to secure employment at the CSIRO following her internship. “My next steps are to immerse myself in this new role, to learn as much as I can, and to connect with as many different people at the organisation as possible. I plan to finish my studies while working and look forward to implementing my learnings from the classroom in my day-to-day role.” 

Hasini describes the CSIRO as a melting pot of passionate, talented and enthusiastic people. The highlight of her experience was interacting with the people there. “I was warmly welcomed from day one, which made me feel confident and supported.”

Are you a business interested in getting involved in the Business and Economics Internship? Please contact us to discuss how we can work together.

Are you a Melbourne Business School student wanting to complete the Business and Economics Internship? Find more information here.