What does it mean to be a leader?

26 June 2019
From student to staff member to leader for good
Meet international student Zeyu Shu, who is also a member of the University's Institutional Analytics and Planning (IAP) team and, if his track record is anything to go by, a future leader for good.
Alexander Zeyu Shu

What is your professional background and how did you come to join the University? 

My career is only just starting! I am genuinely interested in everything and I always challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone. During my first year of Uni, I got my first casual job as a brand ambassador doing sample tasting in supermarkets. Then I had the opportunity to do a social-entrepreneurship internship in India. In my second year, I volunteered in the alumni department for the Welcome to Sydney program. Later, I worked as an international student representative and a residential advisor at student support services.

Aside from my University involvement, I have also been involved in marketing, banking and entrepreneurship sectors. Right before I joined Institutional Analytics and Planning (IAP), I was working for INCUBATE as a program coordinator, which opened a new gate for me to explore the start-up world. Then, at the beginning of 2018, I was surprised to be contacted by HR for an interview with IAP. Therefore, this is a long interesting journey to IAP. 

You’re both an employee and a student at Sydney right now. What is your professional role and what are you studying?

I am currently working as data steward coordinator at IAP. My daily job focuses on the Master Organisational Hierarchy (MOH), University Dictionary and data governance projects, while assisting my manager on the implementation of data governance strategy and framework and collaborating to raise awareness about data governance across the University.

I am currently in my last semester of the Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies), majoring in banking and marketing. Studying banking helped me to gain strong data management and financial analysis skills, while studying marketing allowed me to master relationship management and creative thinking. 

Studying full-time and working part-time can be challenging from time to time, but I am lucky enough to be part of a great team that supports members’ flexibility and diversity. 

Working in IAP with many outstanding colleagues who are experts in data-related disciplines really inspires me to keep learning more about data and the tertiary education industry, whilst stimulating my new ways of thinking on marketing and banking.

Can you tell us about a typical day in the office for you versus a typical day as a student? 

In the office: Normally I work for three days a week, but full-time during the semester breaks. It starts with planning for the day to prioritise my tasks, and reading news and documents about data and data governance. During the day, my colleagues and I collaborate on tasks on MOH and Data Governance Strategy. Sometimes, we meet with data stewards or key stakeholders in the University to discuss how data governance could address some important issues at the University. Whenever I have any questions or concerns on different aspects of my work, my colleagues always help me to come up with better solutions.

As a student: I am currently enjoying my Uni life and last bit of ‘Uni stress’. A student day would be a mix of classes, group meetings, self-studying, catching up with friends and student society activities, which is more like freestyling throughout the day. Some days are relaxing, when I could have time to learn German and enjoy a good movie, while other days could be intensive with back-to-back meetings and studying.

Although there are challenges from different parts, I make sure I can exercise to release stress and feel better every day, or go hiking in national parks during weekends. 

For me, 'leadership for good' is the goal to become the leader who dares to challenge the status quo and sincerely cares about making positive social impacts in the long run.
Alexander Zeyu Shu

You were recently named one of the Australian Financial Review GradConnection Top 100 Future Leaders and a finalist in the Westpac Banking and Financial Services Award category. What was it was like to be involved in these initiatives? 

Run each year, the Future Leaders Awards competition features more than 10 awards across a range of disciplines such as engineering, law, marketing, accounting and more. The Westpac Banking and Finance Award was for students who are currently studying a degree majoring in economics or finance. 

Out of curiosity and courage to compete, I decided to give it a shot and applied for it. It was a half-year selection process through different forms of tests, which is similar to graduate role assessment but with a focus on industrial leadership. Luckily, I was shortlisted as a finalist based on my diverse experiences in different industries and a strong student leadership record, which is a great milestone for my previous work and volunteering commitments.

I was invited to the final assessment day and award ceremony to meet and network with outstanding students from across Australia and HR representatives from many major firms. The whole experience was cheerful and rewarding for me to develop my future career journey since it is not easy for an international student to get a graduate job in big firms in the Australian market unless you have permanent residency or become a domestic student. 

What does ‘leadership for good’ mean to you? 

I have been thinking about this since my first day on campus, 1st January 2015. What is leadership? What is the greater good? How will I become an outstanding global citizen to generate a positive impact on the world? Every year, my understanding would evolve because of my refreshing experience during each year, with constant learning from other inspiring alumni and outstanding students. 

For me, 'Leadership for good' is the goal to become the leader who dares to challenge the status quo and sincerely cares about making positive social impacts in the long run. Plus, a good Sydney leader will work well with other Sydney leaders to lead our society to a better future.

Who inspires you?

There have been many people who have inspired me during different times. Still, my parents are the best inspiration. Both were born in normal families from country towns in China. They are the lucky ones in their families that were fully supported by their parents and siblings to study, especially after the traumatic social effects of the Cultural Revolution, which ended in 1976.

Overcoming all possible barriers, they managed to come to the province capital, Wuhan, to pursue their tertiary education and settle down in the new big city. Their positive attitudes and courageous spirits inspire me to pursue my life in a foreign country. Sometimes for fun, we called this generational journey like a son’s ‘Mars mission’ inspired by the successful ‘Moon landing’ of Mum and Dad. Indeed, it could be hard to live alone in a new country, but the spirits of odyssey go on in my blood. 

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