I know what you did last summer - Part 2

Bachelor of Commerce students, Yan Liu and Emma Swannie recently completed internships over summer, the latter in Melbourne, and Liu in Shanghai. They share what it was like to get a taste of the working world.

As summer rolled in over December 2016, Emma Swannie was enjoying a welcome breakfast in EY's Melbourne offices, while Yan Liu was making her way across Shanghai’s financial district of Lujiazu. Both of these young women were just about to take their first steps into their summer internships: Swannie with EY, and Liu with Zhongyin Financial Leasing Co. Ltd. (Zhongyin).

First days at EY Melbourne

“I knew from the get-go that my time at EY would be a positive experience,” Swannie said. “Everything was incredibly well-organised – from distributing intern profiles prior to commencing so I had an idea of who I was going to be working with, to meeting up with my ‘buddy’ the week before the welcome breakfast, to the brand new laptop that was given to me in anticipation of my time there.”

Melbourne at dusk, with its CBD on the right of the Yarra River, and Southbank on its left.

Swannie participated in an induction program that was (unsurprisingly) efficiently timetabled and thorough, yet also enjoyable.  Recalling her first impressions at EY, she said, “On top of the regular presentations and learning modules, we were also sent on a scavenger hunt!” The timing of her internship also meant that she was part of EY’s annual ball in December and the Winter Wonderland event at Crown was a highlight and a memorable way to end her two weeks of training.

An independent start in Shanghai

As Liu set foot in Lujiazui, located on the eastern banks of the Huangpu River in Shanhai, she felt dwarfed by the skyscrapers that house some of China’s more influential financial organisations. “The busy streets and the sight of all the men and women in their corporate suits on their way to work both excited and overwhelmed me,” recalled Liu.

An aerial view of Liujiazui, Shanghai's financial district.

With a small internship program Zhongyin's approach to orientation was much more personal as Liu discovered, “I simply sent a text message to Zhongyin’s HR manager to confirm my start date and the working hours of the program.”

“On my first day, I was introduced to team leaders and the financial director, my direct supervisor, who assigned tasks to me straight away. I began working, mainly on my own, although assistance from colleagues was readily available if I needed it. ”

Getting into it

In the new year, Swannie was ready to take her seat amongst her EY colleagues, and in no time at all, also found herself part of the team’s customary Friday lunch outings. “After the training and feeling so welcomed by the people around me, I felt ready to tackle the real client work that was to come,” she said.

Swannie was placed in one of EY’s Assurance teams, and after a month of in-company work for her team’s first client, she was ready to head out to a second client’s offices. “To my surprise, the work I was assigned to do was important and necessary to the team! I was able to work with people from all levels of the business from graduates through to partners,” said Swannie of her off-site experience.

While the real client-facing work was challenging, Swannie felt equipped and prepared for her role, particularly as she was provided with support and guidance from her team.  “I felt included and supported, and truly appreciated the patience that they displayed towards me while I was learning what to do,” she explained. “With such a fantastic team around me, I really found the work enjoyable!”

Swimming in the deep end

“Zhongyin is a subsidiary company of Yanzhou Coal. Successfully utilising financial resources has been one of the main reasons behind Yanzhou Coal's success in recent years, and was why I applied for a finance internship with them,” said Liu of the reason behind her choice of companies. “I wanted learn about industrial practices that combine and harness accounting and finance theories – classroom learning from my BCom that I could apply in the real world.”

Liu found herself in a largely self-guided environment, but felt there were benefits to her being forced to learn quickly and work efficiently. “While I had to work independently, the autonomous environment meant I pushed myself further than I would have if I had been spoon-fed with instructions,” said Liu. “My first task was to write a report evaluating different accounting methods for a US$150 million debt, and make a recommendation on the best way to allocate resources. I felt a little daunted by the task but really appreciated the confidence the team showed in me.”

Liu understood that while open-ended tasks such as this were common, with results only to be seen in the future market, she valued the experience. “Evidence-supported insights were what my bosses were looking for, to be taken into account in the decision-making process, so it was great to be presented with opportunities to develop my research skills, and subsequently, learn directly from the team how to make sound business decisions based on these findings.”

emma and yanYan Liu (L) and Emma Swannie (R) back on campus in Parkville

Final reflections

Emma Swannie: Work hard, play hard

"During my internship, I had the opportunity to work closely with two large Australian businesses, and it was fascinating to see the ways in which they operated. I also learned that it is entirely possible to maintain a work-life balance, and an internship is a wonderful way to gain insight into an organisation’s culture.

Looking back to my first day when I knew next to nothing about Assurance, I can see how much I have learnt and how far I have come in just a short time. Emma Swannie

I know that the opportunities I saw are only the tip of the iceberg, but even this small glimpse has shown me so much: on top of your regular work, staff are encouraged to get involved in committees, HR activities and even international secondments! With EY being a global firm, working internationally is totally an option, and is a great way gain exposure to an even wider range of clients and opportunities. All in all, I have absolutely loved my internship at EY and I am so glad I have had this experience!”

Yan Liu: Eye-opening experience

“Even though my first impressions of Shanghai was that of an incredibly busy, high-pressured city, Zhongyin surprised me with their much more relaxed atmosphere.  Although expectations were high, the general vibe was very friendly and welcoming. Jeans and sneakers featured heavily in the office, and my colleagues were always keen for stories from Melbourne, which I shared over lunch.

While it was my first internship experience, I was also Zhongyin’s first-ever intern! My internship pushed me to test my limits and I am glad that it did. Yan Liu

As an intern, I was well-looked after, and never needed to work overtime. I really appreciated learning from the experience, and also enjoyed working and living in Shanghai. The winding Huangpu River, flanked on one side by The Bund, featuring stunning, historical buildings, and by modern skyscrapers of Lujiazui on the opposite shore is to me, a must-visit in Shanghai. This larger-than-life display of architecture reveals an amazing comparison between the country's modern history (colonial past and western influence) and its contemporary society (representative of China’s role in the global economy), and is a unique symbol of Shanghai! This internship has truly been an eye-opening experience for me."

We would also like to congratulate Emma Swannie, who has just been offered a graduate role at EY, beginning in 2018! Well done, Emma!

Bachelor of Commerce Students can find out about upcoming internship opportunities through their weekly current student Newsletter or via Melbourne Careers Online.

If your organisation is interested in hosting an internship student please contact our Industry Consultant team at fbe-industryprograms@unimelb.edu.au