- Jessica Chen
Interviews with Jess, Nina, Boris and Harry- Hamish McLean
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
The Melbourne branch of 180DC is really proud of the impact it has achieved in its short history. As with any organisation, it is the people within that make up the character and feel of the community. Below is a collection of short interviews with some recent 180DC consultants and team leaders, highlighting the diversity of individuals that the team attracts.
Jess Han (Consultant) is a 3rd year undergraduate student studying a Bachelor of Biomedicine.
Q: What've you missed most during Quarantine? A: Hanging out with friends, having a set daily schedule and eating out!
Q: What's been your lock-down hobby? A: Cooking! My weekly banana bread has been keeping me sane.
Q: Why did you join 180DC? A: I joined 180 because I wanted to challenge myself and grow beyond my science skillset. I also think that the opportunity to work so closely with and help not-for-profits is super special.
Q: How have your studies complemented your work with 180DC? A: The not-for-profit I am working with is involved in the science field, and so as a consultant with a science background, it’s been cool to be able to understand both the science and the commerce aspects of the client and our project. It just helps tie everything together so well in my head.
Q: What's the problem you're trying to solve in your project? A: Our client is a not-for-profit organisation invested in paediatric brain cancer research. They are seeking to create a network involving clinicians, researchers and the broader community to advance the research even further, and it’s up to us to help them figure out how.
Q: The most surprising thing about 180DC? A: That you don’t need to be a commerce student to be involved, to valuably contribute to your project and to enjoy the whole experience! Coming into this I had done no commerce subjects whatsoever. But the beauty of working in a team is that different people have different strengths and skillsets, and at the end of the day, everyone has something special to offer to the project. Here’s a shout out to my team-mates and team leaders! They’ve been so incredibly wonderful to work with this semester.
Nina McLean (Team Leader) is currently in her Art’s Honours year, finishing in October.
Q: What've you missed most during Quarantine? A: Being able to see and hang out with people but I feel like that’s what everyone has been saying.
Q: What's been your lock-down hobby? A: The Bon Appétit videos on Youtube! They make candy bars but 10 times better.
Q: Why did you join 180DC? A: I was attracted to 180 because of the social impact focus. Growing up in Vietnam in a developing country my upbringing has always been surrounded by non-for-profits and I’ve always been wanting to work in that field. I’ve also never tried consulting before so to be able to work in an area I’m passionate about whilst learning a new skill, I thought it would be a great opportunity.
Q: How have your studies complemented your work with 180DC? A: It has brought a lot of structure into my life in terms of the way I think. Before, I didn’t have any consulting training in terms of how to approach a problem using things such as logic trees or asking the specific questions required to be able to find out the solution. I think I’ve been able to take these skills to my studies: to be able to see a question or see a problem and evaluate it through a different framework, prompting me to consider different things that I might not have considered before.
Q: What's the problem you're trying to solve in your project? A: We’re working with Seven Woman, an NFP that empowers women in Nepal by training them with employment skills. Our project is a little bit different from the other projects because we’ve had to split into two mini-teams within our big team of 7 people. One side of our team is looking at improving the customer journey: we’re looking at making the customer’s interactions with the NFP more efficient and smooth. The other side is creating a new international business network. We’re helping them pool business leaders together to share resources and learn from one another.
Q: The most surprising thing about 180DC? A: Several things, the first thing is that I was really surprised and happy with how you get to meet such like-minded people. All the people who join 180 are interested in the NFP space and being able to find that community in Melbourne, where we’re all students but are still able to make an impact, has been really helpful. Secondly, since moving online the Executive Team has been so good at having both social and formal events through Zoom - making sure we’re still involved even though it has to be online.
Boris Guo (Consultant) is an undergraduate student studying a Bachelor of Commerce.
Q: What's been your lock-down hobby? A: Going to be honest, I’ve been eating a lot, exercising for a few minutes right after to not feel too bad but that's been a recurring hobby.
Q: Why did you join 180DC? A: Essentially it's to work with smart and creative people from all other industries who are also passionate about making a visual impact and being able to see the work that you do.
Q: How has your studies complemented your work with 180DC? A: I think my economics and finance background has allowed me to bring a clear outlook to the team: what’s good, what’s not and cut out the muddiness. The quantitative skills help as well.
Q: What's the problem you're trying to solve in your project? A: Our client is having trouble accurately measuring their impact and that hinders their ability to communicate to their funders their effectiveness. There’s lots of noise around their outcomes and so we’re working on how to filter that through to gain further funding.
Q: Most surprising thing about 180DC? A: Definitely the collectiveness and support, 180 is a big organisation but through my experiences so far it's been great to have a project that is helped by additional sources, resources, regular feedback from other teams and executives, it just makes the whole experience a lot more fun and enjoyable and you learn much more.
Harry Collins (Consultant) has just finished his Art’s degree and is now studying Law.
Q: What've you missed most during Quarantine? A: I miss going to live sporting matches. There’s something quite different about sport where you don’t know the result. Or sitting down over a coffee or a beer for no particular reason. Zoom beers are really just socially acceptable bedroom beers and cheers-ing by tapping your beer against the webcam is about as unsatisfying as an elbow bump to say hi.
Q: What's been your lock-down hobby? A: Fav hob - I’ve loved going for long (romantic) strolls around the local park with a Capulus and Co. cookie and dog spotting. There’s also nothing that beats going to Messina for their Super Dulce de Leche gelato - seriously it’s the actually the best thing in the world.
Q: Why did you join 180DC? A: Because I was intrigued by the entire branch being run by volunteers. I really think this brings a level of authenticity to the work we do for our projects as achieving meaningful progress is our only motivating factor. Personally, I also wanted some experience as a consultant in a low-pressure environment where you actually get to learn and develop your skillset whilst also making a real-world change to other peoples’ lives.
Q: How have your studies complemented your work with 180DC? A: Studying Arts (Philosophy) and now the JD, helped me significantly with the writing tasks but more importantly, taught me how to be a critical thinker and stay open-minded in approaching complex situations. Perhaps the best part about 180DC is that you work in teams with people from all academic backgrounds - Science, Commerce, Arts, Biomed, Medicine, MBA etc. and also different social backgrounds. Everyone has their own unique perspectives on how problems should be addressed and everyone has their own individual strengths and weaknesses. It’s incredible to see how seemingly basic problems can trigger such a diversity of responses - and it never ceases to amaze me how many times a teammate highlights a problem or a solution that I would never have considered.
Q: What's the problem you're trying to solve in your project? A: I was part of the Briagolong RSL team and we were trying to address the overwhelmingly high rate of mental and physical health issues, as well as widespread homelessness, of veterans in the East Gippsland region. We worked closely with the local RSL to lay out a roadmap for offering services and facilities to effectively address these issues to assist vulnerable veterans and get them back on their feet. Through the RSL, we set up a network to enable veterans to understand and access the care that they need. Very soon, we hope that veterans will be able to sleep comfortably in fully maintained cabins, access food and basic supplies, and also find out about the healthcare services available to them locally and in Melbourne. Hopefully, this can create a lasting change in the lives of dozens, if not hundreds, of veterans.
Q: The most surprising thing about 180DC? A: The most surprising thing to me was how supportive the whole 180DC community was regardless of their academic or professional achievements. I think the best way to put it is that 180DC doesn’t have a hierarchy of seniority but instead, fosters a culture where ‘anyone can learn off anyone’ that continues year after year. I’ve never felt like there’s a question too stupid or too annoying that I can’t ask it and that really gives you a sense of community that I didn’t think was possible in such a large group of people!
It’s really exciting to hear everyone’s positive stories about their 180DC experience. Speaking to several consultants and team leaders, there’s a handful of key messages that emerge.
First, everyone’s experience at 180 has served as a true complement to their degree. Each 180DC project is degree neutral and the consulting team works best when a variety of different problem solving approaches are brought to the table. Broadly, 180DC offers a unique opportunity: to solve real world problems within the NFP space. It’s quite rare to be able to work on such real projects whilst still a student, and as many consultants pointed out, this is what they’ve enjoyed most from their role: to be able to complement their skills from their degree whilst having a social impact.
This relates more broadly to the idea of impact. As students, it’s very easy to be intimidated by the credentials and experiences of those above us. To delay the work that we could be doing, for we think we aren’t quite ready yet. As Nina pointed out, 180DC creates a unique community: a place where students can realise a social impact whilst still completing their degrees. The work of the branch doesn’t just culminate in a final report like many assessments would, but it works towards advancing important social causes in our community - be it the issue of veteran mental health or female empowerment.
Finally, 180DC isn’t just about project work. As mentioned, it’s the people within the branch that define the character and feel of the community. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, the club has managed to support a social environment for similarly minded individuals within our very own ‘virtual’ community. As conditions ease, the club is eagerly looking forward to re-commencing in person social events for Semester 2.