A foot in both camps

| November 12, 2019

If you haven’t yet found out what your strengths are and what you are passionate about – there is no need to worry as this is completely normal. UNSW Business School alumna Jenny Chu initially enrolled in an optometry degree to follow her parents’ footsteps.

However, a few months in, she quickly realised that this was not the right career move for her, so she swapped science for a commerce degree instead.

Jenny Chu

UNSW Business School Alumna Jenny Chu.

“I decided to study user experience design as I was passionate about that. I also dabbled in food blogging in my spare time and worked with a start-up at UNSW called Caitre’d,” Jenny said.

However, it was only after starting work at Caitre’d that she realised her passion for start-ups – which prompted her to change her degree to Information Systems at the UNSW Business School. Her decision to build a career in tech was largely inspired by the people in the industry who display a can-do attitude and are determined to make an impact.

Support for a start-up?

During her time at UNSW, Jenny ran Textbook Ventures, a student-run start-up that encourages student entrepreneurship across NSW.

“Start-ups represent great opportunities to make connections with peers and mentors and also keep up with the industry. Textbook Ventures holds many events where we connect with different start-ups who are willing to hire interns. It’s a great platform for students to learn more about what they want to do once they graduate.”

Speaking about how UNSW helped her realise her passion for start-ups, Jenny shared that her team was one of the start-ups in residence at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre (MCIC), where the UNSW Founders program is based. The program is designed to support students, staff and alumni to build on their entrepreneurship skills and found and grow companies.

“With the support provided by UNSW, I was able to immerse myself in an environment where I could learn everything about start-ups – just by talking to amazing founders who were also residing at the MCIC.”

Start-ups v corporate jobs

Fast forward a few years and Jenny has since moved on and joined Atlassian in the role of a Product Manager.

“Atlassian specialises in building tech products and was founded as a start-up before considerably expanding in value upon its listing on the NASDAQ. I wanted to learn from their success story and learn how a start-up can scale and become one of the biggest tech companies globally.”

When comparing the corporate world to start-ups, Jenny pointed out that one gets to know everyone and work really closely with people in a start-up. Roles and responsibilities can also be blurred as there is so much ground to cover with limited resources. However, she notes the corporate world offers great opportunity to learn how businesses work.

“In a start-up, you’re just trying to survive the next day and you’ll do whatever it takes. You don’t really get the luxury to have the time to think strategically about how you’re going to tackle the problem at hand. In comparison, in a big company, you’ll be able to work on a long-term strategy and have more time to work with stakeholders to make sure that you are producing the right solution.”

“When you switch to a corporate culture in a much bigger company, your role is more defined. You are able to hone your specialist skills and develop better collaborative skills as you will be required to work more as a team. In my role as a Product Manager at Atlassian, I have to define the vision of what I want to build. So, communication is key if you want to work in a big organisation,” she said.

Atlassian

Atlassian co-founders and co-CEOs – Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar are both UNSW alumni. UNSW appointed Mike as an Adjunct Professor in 2014 – a role in which he helped students explore and act on their start-up ideas and advised on how such ideas could be incubated.

Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar founded Atlassian back in their university days with a $10,000 credit card debt. Today, the market value of the company has soared to over $50 billion.

“Knowing that I went to UNSW and did the same Information Systems degree as one of the co-founders was certainly a great conversation starter when I interviewed at Atlassian,” Jenny said.

“I still use a lot of the materials that I learned from my Information Systems degree in my everyday role and it has provided me with a better understanding of the link between technology and business.”

A word of advice for students

“Many students think that because they have a commerce degree that they won’t be able to work in the tech industry. I personally think that as long as you have an interest to learn and grow, you will be able to learn on the job and succeed. Employers want future graduates who can problem solve and have the right mindset. So, bring along your business perspective and go for it.”

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