The Number Narrative

By Seth Robinson

When we think of Finance and Economics, there’s often a very formulaic response – we imagine data and spreadsheets – but to be successful you have to think outside the Excel box. It’s not just about the numbers. For BCom Student Barry Zhang the narrative is just as important. His experience in the Management Consulting subject, working with HASSELL Architecture and Design firm gave him the chance to build a new narrative, and understand the full scope of management consulting.

Barry Zhang moved from China to the Gold Coast when he was in high school. When it came time to enter university, he chose Melbourne, enrolling in finance and economics majors. But for Barry, it’s always been about more than numbers.

“I actually like both numbers and narratives. I think they’re both important, particularly in areas like stock valuation. Just being presented with the numbers doesn’t work, you need to have a story about why the numbers came about, otherwise, there’s no real-world understanding. I have the capability to do the numbers, I’m good at math, but I love philosophy, and psychology, where you get those narratives to understand the data.”

Barry Story Build
Barry Zhang

For Barry, the chance to undertake the Management Consulting (MC) subject with HASSELL added scope to his own narrative and breadth to his future options.

“It was interesting for me to hear people’s stories and understanding the diverse backgrounds they came from. We worked most closely with HASSELL’s managing director, who actually trained as an architect at the University of Melbourne, but worked as a consultant for most of his career. We met the CEO once as well, who was previously an investment banker, and had a PhD in psychology. He was interested in the ‘inertia’ of the industry, and how you could use psychological models to change things. These interactions opened up my mind to new horizons. I was really inspired by his story.”

The project that Barry and his team worked on – looking at an alternative fee structure for architecture and design services – has also added value to HASSELL’s operations, with Managing Director Steve Coster commenting on the team’s work:

“The students collated the relevant issues and clearly captured the key dynamics for our business. Their interrogation of the topic added value and streamlined presentation of the issues in a way that makes it presentable and understandable to other internal stakeholders. The brief has progressed our thinking on how to incorporate the issues into our traditional approaches.”

Steve also has a little advice for students like Barry, who are in the process of launching their careers.

“Consulting is a great way to engage with a vast and diverse range of organisations in an accelerated way – but getting deep into the client mindset might require working in/on the client side as well. One person’s ‘consulting assignment’ is another person’s life’s work, identity, and career!”