Current MBA, Future [INSERT HERE]

By Georgia Knox, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

150226_SydneyUni_SH04_11588The concept of future anything is actually quite a daunting one. Rarely do we allow ourselves the luxury of such unrestricted thinking. Of waxing lyrical. Of dreaming big.

But why not? We live in a world that is rapidly evolving and generating endless possibilities in the process. And these are yours and mine to make the most of. So let’s do this – I’ll share mine and would love you to share yours.

My future anything is still as open-ended as the concept suggests. I do not want to insert a term too definitive in there just yet, if at all. That is because my career – and I guess life in general – to date is all about making the most of opportunities, many of which I did not envisage. And I am enjoying the ride immensely.

From a high-school dream of being a journalist, I came to realise that the media landscape was changing quicker than I could learn about it. So I attempted to future-proof myself by combining my media aspirations with legal qualifications via an undergraduate media/law degree. Ten years later, I had completed the degree and been a summer clerk, graduate and lawyer at one of Australia’s top law firms.

But my interest in media remained. So when an opportunity for a very diverse role with APN News & Media came my way, I jumped-in head first… even though I’d had very little to do with the industry since my undergraduate days. After more than three incredible years full of challenge and change at a company with media assets predominantly consisting of radio, outdoor advertising and newspapers, I now find myself in a purely digital content business that is owned by one of the world’s biggest tech companies. Hold up. Reverse back two paragraphs and 13.5 years. I would never have thought that this would be my future anything!

Looking forward, the concept is not just about me. While I am hesitant to be too certain about my future, the world is not slowing down. We need to position ourselves to be able to work hard, have fun and lead effectively within it. So future anything becomes an even more complex and compelling proposition, as it connects the individual to their organisation, their society and beyond.

With that in mind, I know that my future anything consists of roles that I will feel fulfilled in – both personally and professionally. It means that I will be challenged on a daily basis, and challenging others in the process, so that they too can be the best that they can be. It also means that I am contributing to the broader world around me, serving those who need it and making decisions that matter. The roles could be Fortune 500 Board Director, Mayor of Sydney, Vice-President of a global tech company, leader of a local not-for-profit or many others, including an endless array of those that I have never heard of, or better still, don’t exist yet. As long as I am in the position to make the most of the best opportunities that come my way, my future anything is a bright one.

Find out more about the University of Sydney Business School MBA .

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Is who you are your business?

By Belinda Coniglio, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

So much has happened since my last blog about Shanghai and the Sydney MBA Ball at the end of 2014 (thanks EMBAssy for organising a fabulous night!).

A new contract saw me return to Canberra to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) at the beginning of 2015 and enroll in Financial Management and Managing People and Organisations, bringing me two subjects closer to the halfway mark of my MBA.

In the past year, I have lived in over half of the states in Australia, which works out to moving just under every three months. While driving Canberra – Sydney – Canberra every Wednesday evening to attend the remarkable Professor Ford’s financial management classes may sound crazy to some, I feel truly alive and on my path, even on the days when I wonder where the road will lead. Lucky I am a minimalist!

You could also say my life gives a new meaning to going with the flow and redesigning your workspace – Professor Maurizio Flores would be proud of me for using the technology at hand and my flexibility to create ‘the workspace of the future’, which comprises my Macbook, iphone, credit card and table at a café – and thanks to Wifi TLC Fremantle, where I commenced work with an entrepreneur who gave me an opportunity to learn about business and build my own brand – Ideas and Impact.

Working as this inspiring young entrepreneur’s business development manager included strategic advice, sales and marketing, strategies for growth and even managing a cafe to contribute to systems and procedures. I did this, practised law one month (my passion for justice and advocacy had never died) and was exposed to a whole new world of entrepreneurs, mainly in small business.

And then DFAT called – like a former lover, causing me to spend the summer break in Perth asking myself, ‘would I be going back to an old relationship?’ Maybe DFAT was a love that would always have a special place in my heart or the relationship that was not quite over, and I was not prepared to let it be the one that got away.

As Assistant Director to the New Colombo Plan Secretariat, a signature initiative of the Australian government’s foreign policy that awards scholarships and grants to Australian students to study in the Indo-Pacific region, my role was to provide strategic communications and engagement for the public diplomacy team and included speaking with recipients of the New Colombo Plan scholarship and mobility grants about their study abroad and aspirations.

Perhaps some of the student’s aspirations resonated with my own, making me realise that I had already become much more than the young girl whose dream was to be a diplomat. The confidence that I gained through my professional experience, the MBA and the incredible people I have met made my return to work at DFAT feel like going back to an old relationship.

For so many years the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had been my driving force, my reason, my why. Taking six months from the corporate world to start my business had reconnected me with my creative spirit and I discovered that there were so many more ways to show the world all of me.  My business services deliver tailored projects across strategy, marketing, advocacy, negotiation and business development and advisory – yet there is no limit to the ideas or the impact! There is a corporate social responsibility arm to develop to advocate for mental health and a campaign to ignite the public perception of the conventional lawyer to be seen as a savvy, practical and a trusted adviser to business.

Reinvention is critical to business success and the past few months have given me the necessary space to reflect and to redefine my business, which is more than an idea or a model, it is about who I am, what I bring to people and to the world.

What is your journey – has the evolution of your business helped you realise your true potential, your passion, or is who you are your business?  Tell me your story and what you bring to people and the world.

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Current Work of the UNITED Nations Commission on International Trade Law for Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises

By Diane Chapman, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program 

I have just had the opportunity to participate in UNCITRAL’s newest Working Group for Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (WGI) in Vienna in their autumn. Here, countries and their delegations convened with international experts and NGOs to collaborate on new international standard law for incorporation and registration of MSMEs. This international mandate is currently being developed to enhance access for micro and small businesses in developing countries to enable them participate in more formalised and international markets.

Traditional business models have presented barriers for MSMEs, as their establishment has been expensive and they generally face prohibitive compliance costs, over regulation and high relatively liability in cases of insolvency. In response to the last Working Group session, a paper was prepared to analyse best practices around the world for business registration and incorporation. Research found that standard registration forms and fees, minimum capital requirements, unique business identification numbers and minimal judicial or notarial involvement in registration were highly important.

Ex-ante and ex-post checking requirements for business registration and incorporation were discussed at length at this new session, and countries were fairly divergent on this issue, along with use of notaries and level capital requirements to incorporate.

Participation in this amazing new work with the United Nations is currently being undertaken by around 48 nations. The enhanced access of these laws will provide a wide-reaching and internationally recognised method of engaging in business for the benefit of developing economies, with particular focus on small to medium sized enterprises being formally recognised through international standards and providing them with the benefits of legal validation and enhancement of rights, engagement and methods of enforcement.

I am looking forward to attending the third session of the MSME Working Group at the United Nations Headquarters in New York this coming April, and the subsequent experts meeting where we will begin preparing the first draft of the new international laws for incorporation and registration of MSMEs. I hope to share the experience and developments as they unfold.

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One weekend in and the journey towards self-awareness begins

By Natalie Cope, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program and BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship Recipient 

NatalieCope2-(2)You know those moments when you realise you’ve been walking around in a cloud of blissful ignorance? Suddenly, the cloud breaks, and you find yourself on the ground, clear of reality in all its visceral detail? Well my friends that was me at the end of the first weekend of Leadership Practice and Development, and the first full weekend of my MBA. And just what was the detail that came into full view I hear you ask? Well, it was simply me, myself and I.

Had you asked me before the event how I expected to feel at the back end of my first weekend, I’d have probably quite glibly and confidently stated I expected the outcome to be, “oh inspiring and challenging but ultimately rewarding”. The truth though, is that I could never have anticipated the emotions I encountered and the realisations that came to the forefront.

I often talk about wanting a challenge and being outside my comfort zone. The first weekend took me to that place, and beyond. As you would to strengthen a muscle, we were repeatedly required to do reps; to perform exercises that forced us to see ourselves, and to do so from every vantage. If you are truly open to this experience it is both uncomfortable and confronting. Learning about you is hard. Harder still is truly appreciating the impact that you and your behaviour have on those around you.

Prior to the weekend, I spoke about wanting to develop greater self-awareness, while quietly believing I already had a good understanding of self, or at least a conceptual understanding of self-awareness. However, I was wrong. I had not previously appreciated nor properly understood the extent to which the manifestation of ‘self’, whether through your strengths or areas for development, can and do affect those around you. An ability to influence when optimized truly can mobilise the best efforts, excellence and energies from others. Not employed with caution, an ability to influence will overwhelm and exclude many.

Transition this to a real life organisational context, and you begin to appreciate just how critical a genuine understanding of self, and your impact on others really is to effective leadership. While challenging, this was an incredible and immensely valuable transition for me to make. To move from conceptual understanding to genuine appreciation has now armed me with a revised perspective and with it the ability to change. This I hope inches me a little closer to becoming the best possible me, so that I can bring out the best in others.

The first weekend was a powerful and awakening experience, the insights and learning of which I am still grappling. But the best thing about being brought back to ground zero is that the only way is up. This really is the beginning of a journey, one I am glad to be on, and the road ahead appears a lot more appealing when you know that you are joined by a likeminded cohort who are equally committed to this experience and determined to grow.

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From the schoolyard to the boardroom: Learning to play well with others

By Richard Mayo, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

R.MayoMost of us work in teams.  Teams at work, teams at home, teams on the sporting field – and have done so most of our lives.

Up until recently I hadn’t given any real thought to what this meant in terms of productivity and happiness.

So it came as a shock to me when I started my MBA and found that the foundation leadership subject (which every student completes) was focused on improving how we work in teams.

My undergraduate qualifications in law and journalism had not prepared me for this. But as I continued my MBA journey, I started asking myself ‘Why in the world am I only just learning this stuff now?’

My experience with teams in the legal profession was not pretty. Say I have a problem. I should know how to solve that problem on my own. If I don’t have the answer, I will have to ask my boss. Expect him or her to be angry at me for not having the answer. Expect them to tell me what the answer is and to get out of their office. If a less senior employee has a problem, expect the same thing to occur, except this time I’m the irritated one telling them the answer and to shut the door on the way out. ‘Team’ meetings involve the bosses telling the rest of us what we were doing wrong.

To all those people who I told to shut the door on the way out, I’m genuinely sorry.

The lessons I’ve now learnt are deceptively simple but surprisingly nuanced. I needed to learn to listen, communicate more effectively, set expectations, appreciate, and then manage difference, and conduct an honest appraisal of my own strengths and areas for development. And they were just the lessons from the first weekend of the first subject!  As with so many things in leadership, the devil is in the detail and will take a long time to master.

Fortunately, working in teams is not a side note to the MBA; it is part of every aspect of the MBA, including subsequent subjects. The MBA becoms a microcosm of life – we work in teams all the time. Every subject, every assignment becomes an opportunity to further master these incredibly important skills.

Why are they important? For me, I am happier. I feel more engaged by team tasks. I feel better understood and appreciated and my stress levels have gone down. I hope and believe that my team mates (in any particular team I’m in) also experience this benefit. The bottom line is increased productivity with less work.

The beauty of knowing, practising and perfecting the skills of working well in teams is that it is so transferrable. A fellow team member of mine in the course has taken these lessons to an elite sporting team with success. I have taken these skills back to my workplace and even to my home environment, improving my relationships as I go.

I have learned a lot about working well in teams and the benefits involved. There is still a long way to go and I look forward to continuing my learning for the rest of my MBA and beyond.

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Would the REAL future leaders please stand up?

By Anmol Saini, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program and UN Women NC Australia MBA Scholarship recipient

4702 UN WOMEN SCHOLARSHIP AMNOL SAINIThere is a distinct buzz in the air in the lead up to International Women’s Day (IWD) each year. Stories and statistics about women and gender equality surround us in the news, magazines and social media – the good, the bad and the ugly. Numerous events are held during the week of 8 March in every corner of the country and around the world. So what exactly is all this hype about?

IWD is a “global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future.” (UN Women Australia)

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the IWD Panel Discussion hosted by the University of Sydney Business School and the IWD Breakfast in Sydney hosted by the Australian National Committee for UN Women.

These events included an inspirational lineup of panelists, featuring Senior Executives from the Institute for Cultural Diversity, Australian Association of Women Judges, ASX, Women and Work Research Group, TAFE SA, Aurizon and UN Women in Samoa.

The panelists and various other speakers led thought provoking discussions on gender equality in its many facets – social, political, domestic, academic, cultural, corporate and economic.

Both events had a consistent underlying theme – a call to action – 20 years on from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (the most progressive global commitment ever made towards advancing gender equality), it is evident that there is still much work to be done.

Although 127 countries, including Australia, now have legislation against domestic violence, NSW Premier, the Honorable Mike Baird, highlighted that approximately 40% of the NSW Police Force’s time is spent addressing domestic violence issues – 40%!

If our statistics are so poor in Australia, an educated, forward thinking and developed nation, what is going on in regions where social and academic education is simply not available to the average person?

Our Dean, Professor Greg Whitwell, raised a few major concerns around university demographics, including the fact that although over 50% of the University of Sydney’s undergraduate students are female, recent statistics show that female graduates, on average, currently start on lower salaries than their male counterparts – in fact, this pay gap only widens as women move up the corporate ladder.

If we are only engaging 50% of the resources available to us, then we are only working at 50% of our capability as a global community.

Professor Marian Baird, Director of the Women and Work Research Group at the Business School, discussed a survey conducted of senior men and women in leadership roles which highlighted cultural barriers to be the biggest barriers to women in leadership. As an example, on the topic of flexible working arrangements, the research suggested that cultural change improves when male and female leaders role model flexible working – having the appropriate corporate policies and programs in place is simply not enough.

Clearly, while some progress has been made, that progress has been too slow. The Executive Director of UN Women National Committee Australia, Julie McKay, reminded us that “it is the role of individuals to champion gender equality…it is up to us to create change.”

Let’s make sure that conversations around women’s rights are not restricted to a single day each year. As future leaders, we are well placed to take action – drive conversations, raise awareness and take initiatives within our workplaces, our businesses, our classrooms, and in our homes.

We as a global community will not be fully functional until we master the art of engaging the whole population in every facet of life.

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Wishing you every failure

By Kate Bennett, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

Well there’s no other way to describe the first weekend of the University of Sydney MBA program: insanely intense, ridiculously rewarding, considerably confronting and mind-blowingly motivational. I honestly feel like I’ve had a rocket firmly inserted up my backside and that I am about to be launched into a whole new realm that I never even knew existed.

The Leadership Practice and Development (LP&D) unit is the first of the program, and one that our cohort all go through together. The group is brilliant and the diversity of minds, personalities and backgrounds is truly exhilarating. The experience that we’ve shared in this first weekend is nothing short of life-changing.

Having the opportunity to witness everyone opening up, facing themselves, identifying and acknowledging the impacts of their behaviours on others, being visibly perturbed and rocked by the findings and realisations, and then (through their strength and positivity) finding a way to truly connect with themselves, face their demons head on, take responsibility for their behaviour and identify ways to positively transform their approach was truly inspirational.

I was not immune to this experience, and equally learned a phenomenal amount about myself, the full extent of which I will not go into here as some things are best left in the realm of personal reflection. However, I will share my 3 key personal insights and lessons learned, in the hope that maybe they resonate with some others out there:

  1. I place so much pressure on myself to succeed (result), that I’m never truly present and engaged in the task at hand (process).
    Lesson learned: “Be Present!”
    If I’m mindful and truly engaged in the process, the result will take care of itself.
  2. I feel the need to know absolutely everything theoretically before I feel competent enough to confidently apply the skill/behaviour in practice.
    Lesson learned: “Try Stuff!”
    Needing to know everything rather than just getting in and trying stuff, not only keeps me from stepping up and trusting my innate abilities, but also prevents me from developing those skills and behaviours in which I am less competent.
  3. It’s a vicious cycle: when my perception of my abilities is low (insight 2) I tend not to get involved, which compromises the result (insight 1), and reinforces my perception of my own abilities (insight 2).
    Lesson learned: “Fail fast!”
    My fear of doing and failing is actually blocking me from doing and succeeding – so if I ultimately want to succeed, I need to just get in and!

With that in mind, I’m looking forward to a spectacular 2015 full of gloriously fast and fabulous failures!

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