UQBS students crossing the cultural divide in management consulting

31 Aug 2010
UQ Business School students are proof that business can cross cultural and even geographical lines, having just returned from working on projects in China. The nine students travelled to Tanghai Town in Tangshan, China, from June 27 until July 3, and worked with the Caofeidian Industry Zone Council on four projects-- Caofeidian Harbor dispatch and information systems design, Caofeidian modern service industry development strategy, Caofeidian financing and investment strategy, and Caofeidian low carbon development strategy. Completing the projects with postgraduate students from City University of Hong Kong, UQ Business School students Yening Gao, Fernando Ponce Gomez, Maren Mojen, Madeline Ko, Xiru Xiu, Gloria Leung, Weizhao Liao, Lucie Novakova, and Sam Dabestani began the tasks of interviewing, data collection, and problem diagnoses, and providing solutions. "In less than five days, you need to come up and communicate your proposed solution to your client. The means to this are an effective co-operation with your client, working effectively on your team and conducting analysis of the environment, such as on site interviews with stakeholders and prior due-diligence research," Ms Novakova said. On the last day of the study, four project teams presented their consulting reports to the client company, and will hold another presentation in Brisbane on September 3 about their experiences of conducting business in China. Course co-ordinator Dongming Xu said the course allowed the postgraduate students to apply the knowledge learnt in the classroom into a real business environment during their program. "It is a great opportunity. It helps our students to acquire hands-on experience in problem-driven rather than domain-driven management consulting, to obtain insights into business in China, to learn professional communication and how to interact effectively, and finally to further develop the ability to work as part of an international project team," she said. "They learn from the failures, imperfect outputs, and of course the successes. All of these experiences will be taken away when they finish the course." But the experience extends far beyond simply studying. For Mr Dabestani, travelling to China meant he had to adjust to cultural differences, and was able to contribute to the community in a meaningful way. "I knew it would be a fantastic opportunity, not only in terms of being incredibly valuable work experience, but as an enriching life experience in general," he said. "This course not only provided hands-on experience consulting on a real-live business project, it provided us with the immense satisfaction of knowing that our work would potentially be providing some degree of value for the community it had been conducted for. Value that will hopefully still be manifesting itself five, ten and thirty years down the line." "It also allowed us to work in an environment so different to our own and consequently opened our minds and experiences to operating in a completely different culture. It's an old cliche but never before has it felt more true to me than it did after this trip: travel broadens the mind. I made some great friends out there, strengthened existing friendships and will always look back on the trip with nothing but absolute fondness." Having come from China to study in Australia five years ago, for Ms Xie the trip was an opportunity to get an insight into how business was done at home. "Travelling back to China and experiencing something other than just visiting family and friends was special and exciting," she said. "This course is certainly helpful for students who wish to understand more about business environment in Asian Countries. It gives students opportunities of getting involved in real Asian workplace." For Masters of Business student Ms Novakova, the course provided an important stepping stone towards her future career. "In a nutshell, once you commence this course, you are not a student anymore. You are an external consultant, solving a problem for your client," she said. "This entire China-trip experience enables you to experience what nowadays potential employers are rigorously looking for in their prospective employees. I believe this experience will definitely give all of us a competitive edge against other job applicants." Now the students are preparing to present their experiences to fellow UQBS students in relation to topics as diverse as Caofeidian Harbour dispatch and information systems design, Caofeidian modern service industry development strategy, Caofeidian financing and investment strategy, Caofeidian low carbon development strategy, five most impressive experiences, how to conduct research, how to overcome language barriers, multi-language multi-culture virtual team work challenges, and culture difference and its impacts. Mr Ponce is planning on making a video about how to overcome language barriers, and said the 'exciting and rewarding experience in China has enhanced my career prospects and contributed to my personal growth'. "As a student I developed my business skills while being exposed to a culturally diverse environment and booming economy such as China," he said. The students have praised the course, and said it offered a unique and rewarding experience. "Dr. Dongming Xu has given every student who has participated both a career-enhancing and life-enhancing experience, and this is something I am extremely grateful to her for," Mr Dabestani said. The presentation will be held on Friday 3 September, from 3-5pm in room 39-103. Media: Dongming Xu (07 3346 8057), Amanda Sproule (0435 553 225), or Cathy Stacey (07 3346 8068).