Image credit: University of Auckland.
For two Business masters students, getting the chance to work with a New Zealand company on a consultancy project was the perfect opportunity to bring their classroom learning to life.
Master of International Business student Skyler Zhou and Master of Marketing student Siti Maryam Mohd Shukri both completed a ten-week project with nutraceutical company SRW Laboratories as part of their studies. The transformative experience gave them a unique chance to apply academic concepts in a real-world context and see first-hand how marketing drives a successful business.
“We took full control of the case,” Skyler says. “My favourite part was working onsite at SRW’s office - the team was incredible and very kind to me.”
SRW General Manager Crystal Zhang, a Business School alumna herself, led the student sponsorship from SRW’s side and provided a valuable example of leadership for the students. Skyler appreciated learning management skills from Crystal, who led the SRW team with “a very inclusive and encouraging culture”.
While Skyler was on-site with SRW in Auckland, Maryam was based in Malaysia and completed her project remotely. She enjoyed learning about the nutraceutical industry, and the marketing and branding insights she picked up working with SRW’s Global Marketing Manager Fiona Nagy.
“I really enjoyed my supervision meetings because it was an opportunity to see what the industry was like. Fiona helped guide me in the project, she was clear with her expectations and quite transparent with the company - whatever I needed for the project, she was always able to help me.”
"Partnering with the University to host masters students increased our bandwidth to get into projects straight away."
This is the first time SRW has hosted students from the University, but for Crystal, mentoring and supporting the next generation of learners has long been an important part of her professional career. In addition to hosting Skyler and Maryam for their consultancy projects, Crystal has been a mentor for the past three years with He Ira Wāhine, the women’s mentoring programme at the Business School.
“I know how beneficial it is having someone to talk to when you have self-doubts, when you’re a little lost and weighing up different opportunities. Your mentor may not have the solution for you, but they are your sounding board. They could provide a totally different perspective that you never thought about – they can open up your eyes,” she says.
“I hoped I could be that someone for a student to lean towards, and as I’m getting to a more mature age, I’m reflecting on my purpose and my value too. And supporting people to realise their full potential and giving back is important to me.”
On top of the personal rewards of seeing Maryam and Skyler complete their project work and become part of the SRW team, Crystal says the company has also seen significant business benefits.
“We’re a true start-up business, which means we’re always tight on resource and there’s always a million things on the to-do list. Partnering with the University to host masters students increased our bandwidth to get into projects straight away,” she says.
Image credit: University of Auckland.
In addition to having the extra resource, Crystal says SRW also benefited in other ways. Thanks to their classes, Skyler and Maryam were equipped with the latest theories and had access to relevant industry data. The students were also under the expert guidance of knowledgeable supervisors including Jo Wright and Sandra Smith.
“The consultancy projects give the students several really important opportunities,” says Jo.
“It reinforces their developing knowledge by giving them hands-on experience in applying it, and gives them the chance to gain some insight and experience in an industry they hope to establish a career in.
“They also have the opportunity to establish important network connections to support their career development … and the opportunity to use the projects as evidence of their experience in the New Zealand work context.”
For Skyler, the Business masters programme helped her expand on her professional experience and put newfound theories into action.
“Before enrolling, I had already worked in the import and export industry for ten years. The programme taught me insights into theories and strategies, then, the project gave me an opportunity to utilise these theories and strategies.”
Alongside the skills she gained from her studies, Maryam counts the “amazing students” in her cohort as one of the highlights of the programme.
“I have learned so much,” she says.
“Even though we’re all from different parts of the world, they really helped me – it felt nice to feel I wasn’t alone. The faculty made a great effort in creating a really nice learning experience … everyday, I was able to learn something from my classmates and lecturers.”
Republished with permission from the University of Auckland Business School, Business masters students gain real-world insights through consultancy project, 14 September 2022.