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The Global Consulting Project: the ‘capstone’ commerce experience


Tom Xia

By

December 31st, 2013


Gaining consultancy experience in a foreign environment and having the time of your life – Tom Xia recounts his time working in Thailand as part of the Global Consulting Project.


Perspiring from the blistering heat while stressing for an upcoming Business Finance exam was the circumstances surrounding my discovery of the Global Consulting Project. Etched as clear as crystal into a corner of my mind, I remember asking my friend where her boyfriend was, to which she replied that he was overseas in Thailand consulting for an unnamed firm, as part of a Melbourne University subject. My mouth dropped in a comical ‘O’ shape as the news sunk in. Gaining experience as a consultant in a foreign environment as beautiful as Thailand, all the while gaining credit for an approved Melbourne University subject – it sounded far too good to be true! I knew I had to follow in her boyfriend’s footsteps in the following year as it would provide me an insightful introduction to the life of a consultant, a potential career path I was exploring. This motive was perhaps the sole driver of my actions before the project went underway. Ultimately, as I learned at the end of my journey, it wasn’t the experience as a consultant which defined the GCP as the ‘capstone’ commerce subject, but it was the experience as a whole, the deftly combined mix of all the elements it offered, which led to the GCP becoming the highlight of my university career.

My time in the project has proved to me beyond a shadow of doubt that a career in consulting is not relaxed. My day-to-day routine consisted of waking up at 6:30am, getting prepared to leave in an hour and working from 8.30am to 5.00pm. Our work schedule consisted of gathering and analysing data, interviewing our clients for various tidbits of information and recommending methods to resolve certain issues in accord with our client’s wishes. Let me assure you that this was by no means a simple task! Unlike most other group projects at university, the internet failed while gathering the sufficient data we required. Without giving too many intricate details of our project away, I can reveal that another group member and I spent two whole working days trekking from one end of Bangkok to another in a bid to acquire relevant information. Along with several other GCP destinations, the language barrier proved to be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome, as communication was core to the overall success of the project. Conversing with staff members turned out quite infuriating in certain situations, as they would sometimes misinterpret our questions, and thereby respond with answers which bore little relevance to what we had asked. Our efforts and shockwaves of stress culminated in a half-hour presentation at the conclusion of the project. This was a very tense, but incredibly valuable opportunity for me, as it was the first time I have spoken in front of an audience of the calibre of managing directors of a top consulting firm.

However, the GCP experience incorporates far more than simply work. While I wouldn’t call it the ideal holiday, there is substantial time to sightsee and explore to your heart’s content. Friday nights and weekends are more-or-less reserved for free time, with the university sponsoring day trips on the first weekend. My group in Bangkok was lucky enough to bask in the beauty of the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya and the Grand Palace, while enjoying the odd elephant ride, and the unique chance to watch elephants boogying to Gangnam Style! I was also able to indulge in an authentic Thai massage for the first time, visit various sky bars across the city which included the one used as the setting for The Hangover, and spend money like no tomorrow at the numerous markets Bangkok is famous for. It is extremely easy to overlook that fact you’re in a university subject when you’re having the time of your life, and even the stress of working is temporarily forgotten as you explore a foreign culture, and the wonders it presents.

Perhaps the greatest surprise that I received during the trip was the friendship that I built with the fellow students undertaking the GCP. This newfound friendship was not limited to members of my team – indeed, in the spare time, we shared shopping and exploring Bangkok together, I was able to build friendships with virtually everyone else who came. Prior to flying to Bangkok, there was no way I could have foreseen that I would develop such close friendships in such a short timeframe. The experience of sharing both the ups-and-downs of consulting has brought everyone closer together, and I truly count myself as fortunate to have been able to work in conjunction and make friends with this diverse and incredible group of students. I have no doubt in my mind that these friendships will last for the years to come.

The opportunity to dine on fine Thai cuisine while paying pennies, perfecting the art of bargaining with stern store-owners, and the chance to travel around the spectacular city of Bangkok and learning about its historical landmarks is a glorious opportunity of which not everyone is fortunate enough to experience. The Global Consulting Project not only made this a reality for me, but also provided me with a strong foundation for future employment opportunities, by offering a personal insight into the dynamics of consultancy work, as well as first-hand experience in interacting with business partners and clients in a corporate environment. I cannot express my gratitude for being able to partake in this subject enough, and I hope that I, like my friend before me, will continue to inspire new students to join the next generation of GCP’ers.

 

The views expressed within this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the ESSA Committee or the Society's sponsors. Use of any content from this article should clearly attribute the work to the author and not to ESSA or its sponsors.

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