On the road with Afra Cader

By Seth Robinson

Afra Cader likes to do things a little differently. She’s been a student, a consultant, and an activist. Now, she’s rethinking work for the next generation of young people.

Afra Cader grew up moving between Sri Lanka and the Middle East, establishing an international lifestyle early. When it came time for university, Afra become enamoured with the city of Melbourne, and decided it was where she wanted to be. She enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne, majoring in finance and marketing.

‘In coming to university, I knew that my goal was to drive social change, so I wanted to develop a skillset that would allow me to do that. I chose Commerce as my vehicle for doing that,’ says Afra. ‘I enrolled in finance and marketing majors, because I liked the idea that I would be engaging both sides of my brain, the analytical spectrum through my finance work, and the more creative side with marketing. I also got the chance to pair that with some breadth classes in geography and the environment as well, and glee singing, which are some of my fondest memories of my time at university. It was all a really nice balance.’

Afra Cader
Afra (right) and Making Waves Co-Founder Sophie.

While she was studying Afra interned at a selection of market research and advertising agencies, saying she was particularly interested in marketing and communication strategy. However, not long before her graduation her interests ‘pivoted’, a term we all became very used to in 2020. Afra was just ahead of the curve.

‘I realised I wasn’t so much interested in marketing, as I was the sustainability part. When I graduated I transitioned into management consulting, with my first role after uni being at PwC. I think it was there I realised that there was so much more to fully understanding business, and that there was all of this knowledge that I could pull across to causes and organisations in different fields that I was interested in. I had all of these conversations with people I was working with, and other graduates, who were articulating how they felt they needed to put their skills into creating some kind of social good. The way I’ve been able to do that is by balancing my full-time job with not-for-profit work and social justice movements on the side.’

Afra’s not-for-profit work has included stints working with the United Nations, the Centre for Multicultural Youth and Headspace. It’s a portfolio career that balances her skills and interests. Most recently, it’s seen her rethink where she wants to be, and how she wants to work.

‘I’ve actually just moved to Torquay, where I’m working on setting up an organisation that uses surfing as a tool for social change and empowering young people. Basically, it’s bringing together my skills and all these things I love into something I think can create positive change,’ she says. ‘Prior to this, I spent some time working from a shared space in Byron. The last year has made me realise that there are so many advantages to remote work, and that kind of mobility really lends itself to getting projects like this off the ground. I would love to get a van and set it up so I can be completely mobile.’

The Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) equips students with the skills and knowledge to understand and solve key business challenges. Make a difference to society, policy, and organisations while forging a pathway to a global career. Choose from majors including Accounting, Actuarial Studies, Economics, Finance, Management and Marketing.

Find out more about the Bachelor of Commerce now.

Afra thinks that this way of thinking is something that the workforce, and particularly young people, needed.

‘I think COVID-19 accelerated this process, but it was happening already. It’s a shift in paradigm that was really needed, it’s about people being responsible for their own hours and deliverables. For me, it’s about creating the lifestyle you want, and working in a way that supports that and allows you to create meaningful work. And I feel like because I put my lifestyle first, I’ve been able to find the work I enjoy, and build on my experience and skills. Ultimately, it means I work better.’