Originally from Scone in the Hunter Valley region, Harrison says that at the start of his placement with KPMG he felt “a little daunted. But once you settle in, it’s a very open and welcoming environment”.
As a Financial Economics and Management major, Harrison found himself quickly applying the theories learnt during his studies in a real-world environment. Challenged to solve problems in innovative ways, identify and analyse trends, conduct in-depth research, contribute to important projects, liaise with key departments, Harrison says he received a valuable first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in the corporate world.
The opportunities you get at the University of Sydney are almost limitless. You really get out what you put in.
Over the course of his placement, Harrison got to work across a range of departments, from the Property Team to the Supply Change and Logistics Team. “I was always speaking with someone to solve a problem”, Harrison says, “You have to be open to knowing your weak spots and areas for development. I was always striving for feedback to strengthen my skillset.”
“It’s incredible what you can learn in six weeks,” Harrison says, explaining that the hands-on nature of the placement allowed him to exercise his technical skills as well as develop his ability to give professional presentations. Additionally, Harrison was able to apply his research on a key project to identify a trend of exponential growth with sea-freight costs, creating a graph that compared this with air-freight costs for businesses. The graph ended up being used in a key presentation on the project. Harrison says he was able to clearly recognise the value he added to the company and was made to feel part of the team.
A key highlight of Harrison’s placement was his involvement and contribution to the Western Sydney Airport project. During his time the consultancy, Harrison conducted extensive stakeholder interviews and researched state-of-the-art airports for the project to meet global standards. This level of engagement meant Harrison was able to directly assist KPMG in knowing what to build to meet client’s needs. “I feel proud and fortunate to be able to contribute to such a big project,” Harrison says, “In thirty years I’ll be able to walk through the new airport and remember the amount of work that went into this project.”
Over the course of the six-week experience, Harrison also learnt how to conduct himself in a professional environment and hone what he calls his “personal brand”. This included everything from learning how to dress appropriately, how to address senior colleagues, along with other expectations regarding office etiquette. Interestingly, a colleague at KPMG who had previously worked as a professional actress, offered Harrison practical advice on his presentation skills. This included tips on posture, breathing, volume, tone of voice, and public speaking skills.
A recipient of the Faculty of Art and Social Sciences Undergraduate Internship Scholarship, Harrison used the extra support to assist with transport costs, a new business suit, and subscription costs to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Review to keep up with news and financial markets.
Reflecting on his experience, Harrison says “I am so grateful for all the help from the Faculty. I wouldn’t have been able to be afforded these experiences without their support. I found the application process smooth and transparent.”
Given the chance to advise future students, Harrison says, “It’s important to come in with the correct mindset. Come in with an openness and willingness to learn. Be prepared to tackle a challenge head on. Know that if you don’t know something, you can ask for guidance from those around you to solve the problem.”
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