I studied the Master of Management (Marketing) program at the Melbourne Business School, and before that, I also did my undergrad at the University of Melbourne majoring in Anthropology, French and Spanish.
What does your current professional role entail?
After I graduated, I received an offer to join Accenture in their Graduate Program, working in the strategy consulting team. I’ve been there for just over two and a half years now, and I am based in Melbourne. I am working on a quite a wide array of projects across with clients from several different industries like; insurance, telecommunications, media, aerospace and defence. So it’s been been a real mixed bag, which is why I find my job to be extremely rewarding.
You shifted from Anthropology and French to Management (Marketing), what led you pursue this change?
That’s a good question, and I’d like to say that it was really well planned out and a really deliberate decision, but the reality is that it wasn’t. I had finished my undergraduate degree, and I had been on exchange for a year. After coming back I saw all my friends had moved on to whatever they were going to do with their life, and then I realised that I hadn’t thought enough about what I was going to do after university. I kind of decided on a whim that I should sign up for a Master’s, to give me two more years, to make the decision about what I wanted to do. As to why I chose to study a marketing degree, it was drawn from my interest in the discipline.
What I loved about anthropology, one of my undergrad major, was the focus it had on human behaviour, and human culture. The cornerstone belief of anthropology is that it’s our job to understand not to judge. It is our job to look at human behaviour and human culture, and rather than determining what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s good or what’s bad, to actually understand what’s driving that behaviour and where does it come from? And I guess I felt that marketing was sort of a nice complement to that, in that it’s looking at human behaviour from a different perspective of how does one harness human behaviour? How do you change human behaviour to ultimately drive the interests of a particular company or a particular brand? That’s how I chose that path and ended up at MBS.
What was a key takeaway for you from the Masters of Management (Marketing)?
In terms of understanding the industry, I was lucky enough to do the Global Business Practicum and Consulting Fundamentals classes while at uni. I think nothing really prepares you perfectly for the workforce, and particularly for the consulting industry, where every project, every engagement is going to look different, your team’s going to be different, exactly what you’re working on is going to be different. But I think those two subjects were probably the closest I got at uni to understanding what it was going to be like.
I remember, in the consulting fundamentals class, we had to deliver our final essay report as a PowerPoint deck. And at the time, I thought that it was barbaric. I thought to myself “Why would anybody do that? That’s crazy.” But in nearly three years of working within the industry, I’ve not opened Word once. I don’t think that Word is a tool that consultants use very often. So I think, it’s kind of funny to look back on that moment and realise that “Oh, actually, that’s probably one of the most essential skills I would need in my current role.”
With the Global Business Practicum subject, going to work with a client for two weeks and trying to solve a problem with a team, I guess, in some ways really mirrors what we do as consultants. I guess the one key difference between the subject and the industry is that in the subject, you’re a team of four equals, and in the workspace, you’re often in a team with a hierarchy, which I actually find much better because instead of four people arguing over the best way to work on a task, you’ve actually got someone who ultimately makes a decision so that you can get through things a bit faster because you’re not all going to agree all the time.
How do you think the extra curricular activities helped you while at the University?
I was involved in a range of different things while at uni, but I think my involvement in MBSSA was probably the one that I cherish the most. I started off as the Social Media Officer, and then I went on to become the Marketing Director. I also worked as an Event Manager after doing that because I thought hadn’t quite got enough of it yet.
And I think what it taught me most importantly was, balancing things outside your day to day life.
I’m sure this is true of many jobs, but I think, particularly in consulting, and particularly as a junior person, your job isn’t just to sort of turn up every day and deliver for your client. There’s a lot of expectations in terms of what we call a plus-one activity, where you do things for your team and for the company. It involves organising events, there’s I guess an unwritten expectation that you will contribute to the community of the organisation on top of your day job, and I think that’s one thing that uni really prepared me well for.
I was also involved with the Global Consulting Group and participated in the career mentoring programme. I was also involved with the student team that guides incoming students on campus, showing them around, although I am not sure what it’s called anymore.
What were the challenges that you faced while starting your professional life?
I think the biggest challenge for me was managing expectations. We often go through always knowing what the next step is, or what success looks like. For you it might be getting those H1s, so you feel that that is what you should be aiming for. You finish high school and then apply for undergrad, once that is done you might choose to study further and apply for grad school. In the professional world, that changes dramatically. Prior to entering the workplace, I always knew how I could assess myself and measure success. Now, it is more transient.
Management consulting has been deemed to be a male centric field how has it been for you to be a woman and be able to leave a mark?
I think that is something, I have often grappled with myself. Our company is trying really hard to do better on s gender balance, and now our team is as well. But ultimately, I do feel that there’s not a lot of women in senior positions. I think, that at the junior levels, we do really well. There’s a 50, maybe even 60%, female to male ratio. But the issues really is at the senior levels.
The implication of that, in my opinion, is, that it can be hard to find mentors or role models, that you can look up to and aspire to be like someday. However, I don’t think it’s impossible. It might not be as direct as you might like to be, it might not be someone in your direct team on your project, it might be someone in another part of the company, it might a mentor outside of the company or has previously worked in consulting. Those people can still understand your experiences and give advice based on that.
I think the industry is really aware that this is an issue and that we don’t want to be as male-dominated as we have been. I also think there’s a lot of really positive work going on at the moment. For example, at Accenture, we host an annual International Women’s Day event, and the first one that I attended in 2018, really inspired me. It’s a day when the whole company comes together, and we present some key research done by Accenture on achieving workplace equality. In 2018, we found out that; the number one factor in getting women back into the workforce after they have children is actually not giving them more maternity leave but giving their partners more paternity leave or secondary care leave. The research concluded that if you give the mother more leave, she’s more inclined to take it and stay out of the workforce, but actually, if you want to encourage her to return, the best way to do that is to enable her partner to sort of step up and take over any childcare duties while she sort of makes that return. In response to this Accenture actually increased their secondary care leave to 18 weeks which I think is incredible!
What are some tips that you’d like to give MBS students?
I am going, to be honest; it is hard out there, and especially with COVID’s impact, it has gotten tougher. I guess my key advice to all recent graduates would be to be dedicated and persistent. I remember when I was applying for positions, I went on a spree of applying for what I believe were 40+ graduate roles in the span of a month. I used to come back home in the evenings, and enter the contact details of all the companies that were hiring into a giant spreadsheet. I would apply to almost any role advertised. I wouldn’t say this is the approach everyone should take, because I wanted to cast my net pretty wide open, it worked for me. That really helped me prepare for assessment centres, online interviews and all the other steps of the hiring process, and I think it goes unnoticed how much practice can help us. It helped me not feel very nervous, although it is a general tendency for many of us. Particularly when you’re doing an online interview, of which I assume now will be many, it is easy to come across as inauthentic. The company ultimately wants to see; if they put you in front of a client, could you have a conversation? Could you explain what your role is or what your team is here to do? So really focus on your delivery. I think that’s where a lot of people who are amazing candidates let themselves down.
All the best!
Master of Management (Marketing)
If you’d like to ask Nadia more about her experiences, connect with her on LinkedIn and mention you saw her Alumni of MBSSA interview.