Over the winter break this year, I was selected to complete the Business Practicum subject as an intensive unit with KPMG Australia, investigating a matter I was keenly invested in - cultural diversity in corporate Australia.
For many students undertaking their studies with Melbourne Business School, completing a practicum subject is a focal point of their postgraduate experience. Theory learnt in the classroom is given the unique opportunity to converge in the completion of an end-to-end consulting project for a highly reputable organisation, with students showcasing their skills and ability to collaborate in a cross-functional team setting. For students approaching and in the process of applying for highly coveted graduate jobs, the Business Practicum is especially pertinent as it offers invaluable professional exposure and experience that could be the final clincher between them and their dream job.
As someone from a culturally diverse background and entering the workforce next year, working on a project aiming to bolster cultural diversity and inclusion, understanding the developments in the space and the extent to which conditions had improved for diverse individuals in the corporate landscape was extremely rewarding. My team and I had the opportunity to interview personnel across organisational levels and functions at KPMG Australia and conduct research for our project. We were also provided all the resources to successfully complete the three-week project before delivering an hour-long presentation of our findings to a diverse panel of employees and upper management. After completing most of my Master of Management (Marketing) degree remotely, the invitation to present in-person at the KPMG Australia office was not only a highlight of the practicum experience, but also my degree.
Although a challenging undertaking, the practicum experience provided several benefits, such as the development of project management skills and consulting competencies unlike any of my past internships. It also provided insights into the intricacies of corporate and workplace culture, and the soft skills essential to successfully transition from university to industry.
The Business Practicum allowed me to work with students from different degrees and faculties, each bringing their own breadth of experience and capabilities. Team member, Michael brought with him over a decade of experience as a Charted Chemical Engineer working in the mining industry and was undertaking the executive level Master of Enterprise. Kane added an incredible level of attention to detail as a final year Business and Mechanical Engineering student. Both also came from culturally diverse backgrounds, and their personal experiences living and working in Australia whilst belonging to different Asian diasporas also served to enrich the findings of the project. Ultimately, the most enjoyable aspect of the entire practicum experience was the opportunity to meet and learn from my team and the synergies we unlocked from our diverse backgrounds that boosted our overall performance. Katherine Philips, a professor at Columbia Business School best encapsulated this sentiment when she said, “diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.”
There were some challenges along the way, such as delivering two pieces of work over the short period of three weeks, negotiating individual responsibilities, working around different time zones, and being accommodating of everyone’s external work and personal commitments. But in this way, the practicum best replicated the true conditions in which a consulting project would be completed. That, in of itself, is enough reason for any student to take up the rewarding challenge of completing the Business Practicum.
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