A hearty “G’Day Mate” from Down Under!
I’m in love with this country. In fact, I’ve been so persistently enthusiastic about Australia that our IBD client teases me about my incessant proclamations about how amazing I think everything is here. It’s hard not to be blown away by the beauty of this country – one moment, you’re strolling across a stylish and modern bridge traversing the winding river, and the next, you’re standing subdued inside a stately cathedral. Skyscrapers dot the horizon in each city and convenient subway and ferry systems take you across town safely and cheaply. Beautiful, colorful birds pick lazily on the grass everywhere, and oh, right, this is the land of kangaroos and koalas too.
There’s another update to come regarding our personal weekend travels, but for now, I’d like to focus on the insights about work and lifestyle that my team and I came across while working with our client.
We’re working with an IT consultancy with about 1,000 employees worldwide. The company is in a transformational period of growth, and has over 50 ideas to consider for the next phase in revenue expansion. My team of five is posted here with the Australian business leads to come up with a scorecard to vet the new strategic ideas and to perform focused research on the top five initiatives. We’re shuttling between the Sydney and Brisbane offices to work with their team.
We’re having an incredible time, and have come across some interesting insights:
- The company’s Australia head is Richard, and though it’s obvious that he calls the shots, he has an amazing knack for involving his colleagues in his decisions. This was reflective of our pre-trip country research about Australia’s egalitarian culture. It really makes for a pleasant experience in the office from the top-down: employees are welcomed and even encouraged to walk into Richard’s office with any questions, and the atmosphere is so collegial and the hierarchy so flat that Richard even gave up his larger office so that we could work there, leaving him to scurry around for free space around the halls. Indeed, not only has working with Richard been amazing, debating strategy with and asking questions of the company’s Africa-based CEO has also been inspiring. He is always open to new suggestions, believes in our ideas, and trusts us with proprietary information.
- One of the team’s favorite work moments was when Richard polled us for thoughts on a recent dilemma that he faced. Our client has a niche expertise within human capital management software and had jointly bid on a multidimensional project with a larger partner. Our client would take the HR specific consulting work, which was a subset of the full project. Unfortunately, the initial partner lost the bid. Richard now faces a decision as to whether he should reach out to the winning bidder instead to take the same subset of HR work for the project; as the established HR technology experts, our client has a fair chance of getting hired by the winning bidder. We each drew from our previous work experiences and value systems to offer our insights. On one hand, Richard would stand to gain a marquee client as well as a relationship with a new partner for future projects. However, it was clear that he still felt a sense of loyalty to the original partner he bid with – he simply felt uneasy walking away from his original partner, even if the partner stood to lose nothing from Richard’s shift, and more tellingly, even if the partner were to approve the move. In the end, Richard decided that he would only be comfortable putting out feelers to the winning bidder to see whether his contact there would invite him to participate in the project; he felt that any stronger move would be inappropriate.
- It was interesting to see how differently all five members of our group approached the debate as to whether Richard should shift to the new partner. Coming fresh out of Ethics class last semester, I found it eerily similar to cases from class discussions. We all enjoyed running the idea through all the frameworks and philosophies in our heads.
- We had the chance to network with several of our clients’ friends working in different sectors including finance, technology, and retail, and through the conversations, we’ve noticed that Australians generally have a more pessimistic economy and jobs outlook than Americans do. One investor attributed it to a more cautious approach on the part of the Australians, who are more focused on saving for the long term, rather than the Americans who are more open to making big bets and thus are more resilient to market lulls.
- The mining industry takes on an outsized role in the daily life here, from our client’s local customer base to industry billboard ads touting a commitment to conservation. A quick perusal reveals that more than half the articles in today’s business section of the paper relate to the mining and energy sectors. One interesting anecdote we heard through our conversations was that miners are paid relatively well, so where miners settle, houses and facilities tend to be more upscale than elsewhere in the country.
- Finally, the post-work happy hour traditions that we’re so accustomed to in the States is also alive and well here in Oz. We’ve had spirited discussions about politics, school, sports, and family, replete with the usual friendly jabs and jeers. When we were in Brisbane, upon our client’s invitation, we went to the local bar to watch a Rugby League (“footy”) match with the guys from the office. The bar, filled to capacity with patrons old and young, was completely reminiscent of Berkeley’s beloved Henry’s on a good night – free flowing drinks, hopeless wait-times for food, indignant outbursts at referee calls against the home team, and uncontrollable excitement at all the right moves.
In other news, our thoughts and prayers are with the Kenya IBD teams – we got news through the school Facebook group that there was an explosion in Nairobi, and while all our teams have checked in safe, it’s a sobering reminder that our IBD colleagues are posted all over the world, and we the Australia team are very grateful for the incredible infrastructure and stability that we enjoy here.
But readers who think that we’re having any less fun and adventure than our peers in more exotic locations – stay tuned for my next post about our weekend adventures!