Master of International Business Student Maria Cruz has travelled the world, taking an unconventional road to the University of Melbourne, seizing opportunities when they come her way, and seeking them out when they’re not as apparent. In Melbourne, that’s meant networking, and taking on challenges like the Business Practicum and working with the Melbourne Accelerator Program.
“If you don’t, you won’t”. Maria Cruz’s credo is a double-negative that makes you pause, but once you’ve had a moment to meditate on the idea, the sense of it comes through. In a way, it’s an inverse version of the Nike philosophy, without the commercial connotations.
“It’s not the most positive line,” she laughs. “But it’s something that’s really stuck with me, and I find it really motivating. If I have some deadline coming up, and I think ‘well you can have another day’, there’s a part of me that kicks in and just says those words.”
Born and raised in the Philippines, Maria moved to the United States for her undergraduate degree, where she studied communications and broadcast journalism. She went on to film school in California, before returning to the Philippines, where she was invited to join Rappler, a start-up that has since grown into the most visited news organisation in the Philippines.
“I helped set up a second newsroom in Indonesia, then I went on to look at the business side of things: new business streams, work flows, people management, and transitioning from a more traditional news set up towards a digital set up. Working in Asia made me realise that a lot of the key decision makers hadn’t gone to school in the US, but in Australia. That was a network I lacked, so I started looking for that, and I realised my next step was to go to business school.”
For Maria, going back into an educational setting – in a new country – after five years in the workforce was a lot to come to terms with, but she hit the ground running, throwing herself into her studies and connecting with her peers. “I was a little bit scared about getting into readings again, doing cases, and exposing myself to all of this new information, it’s a chance to stretch my brain. I didn’t realise just how much more learning I could do!” Maria also set about working for job opportunities, and chances to connect with Melbourne’s professional world right away.
“I started looking for work opportunities very early in my Master’s program. I realised I needed to speak with someone and understand a little bit more about the culture. I didn’t have a professional network here, so I joined the university skills workshop, and later got into some volunteering with 180 Degrees Consulting, which is one of the largest social impact consulting organisations in the world,” of which, she is now the Consulting Director. “Then I applied for the Business Practicum, which I did in Melbourne with Carlton United Breweries (CUB). It gave me a chance to expand my roots here, and it’s exciting because the work we did has now been put into practice within their innovation stream. I’ve walked into pubs, and spoken to bartenders, where they are starting to implement our recommendations.”
Now, Maria has joined the Melbourne Accelerator Program, developing new communication streams to reach students, faculty members, and the wider entrepreneurial community. It’s an opportunity for her to work within the rich and expansive network she has built here in Melbourne. To get to this point, Maria has capitalised on every opportunity that has come her way, and she’s been rewarded by becoming an established member of Melbourne’s business community.
“I started early, and I knew that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. Because I knew what my goals were, I was able to work backwards with the end in mind, so I could figure out how to get there and what kind of support I needed. I realised quickly the University could offer me that support, but at the end of the day it takes initiative, and that’s something employers are looking for every day. It’s something I brought to the table.”