The first visit on Wednesday was to the Sydney American Chamber of Commerce. Though this organization is not affiliated with the American Chamber of Commerce, they do provide opportunities and a voice to American companies operating in Australia. During the presentation they made sure to distinguish between themselves and lobbyists, as lobbyists advocate for a specific company or product, while AmCham advocates at the industry level in order to foster competition. AmCham is not selective in membership as Australian AmChams must work very hard to recruit and maintain membership, one of two key sources of revenue. In contrast, Asian AmChams do not have to work very hard because they are seen as a place to meet westerners and network with western business leaders. AmCham does not sell a product, nor do they really sell a service. Rather, AmCham provides a platform for businessmen to engage and network with each other, to learn, and to connect businesses with Australian officials. During this visit we were able to ask about some of the biggest differences between Australians and Americans, to which we were told basically that we are arrogant. However, we are not necessarily arrogant at the individual level (we don’t walk around thinking we are better than everyone else), but rather we are arrogant in the way in which we perceive the world. We do not understand the current events of other nations, and everything we do know we only know in the context with which it relates to the US. While I have always intuitively known this, hearing it out loud from a non-American who had spent time working in the US really opened my eyes to this fact.
The second visit was to IBM. This visit was split between a question and answer forum with the head of Blockchain at IBM, Rupert Colchester, and a forum with a panel of interns working in a variety of positions. The forum with Colchester was by far the most interesting part of the visit, to the point where I was really disappointed when his section ended. Not only was he extremely informative about Blockchain, a technology that has been touted for the last two years as having the potential to change life as we know it but one that very few people actually understand, but he also gave really practical and simple tips for being a valuable and high-functioning member of an organization no matter your position, such as setting a personal goal of reading 2-4 hours a day. He also gave insight on the differences between working in Australia and Britain. According to him, Britain is much more hierarchical and much less comfortable with innovation and change. He even made the comment that skipping one step of the organizational structure could result in getting fired. The panel with the interns was valuable, but seemed to focus primarily on work-life balance and setting yourself up for the future. While this is certainly important, I feel that this time could have been better spent, for example, with Colchester.
The third visit was to KPMG. I went into the meeting thinking that it was going to be mostly about auditing and the different practices and regulations for Australia, but this was not at all the case. Instead the visit focused primarily around data analytics, which, while really interesting, largely went right over my head due to my ignorance of all things data related. I did find it really interesting how they were using data analytics and machine learning to analyze tax information and look for potential problem areas. I also found it interested how they develop a relationship with their clients, primarily through get-to-know-you games. Again, my favorite part of this visit was during the happy hour session at the end where I was able to spend time talking to their Blockchain expert who was able to walk us through the basics of how it works and where the technology is going.
On Thursday I went to the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately, it was really rainy, which I would not have minded if the fog did not completely inhibit visibility. Nevertheless, the fog did add a really cool dimension to the sightseeing, giving the whole range a sense of mystery and wonder. At one point at the Three Sisters the fog opened up, revealing an incredible view. The highlight of the visit was most likely the chocolate shop where I got to make my own hot chocolate with a candle, creamy milk, and amazing milk chocolate.
The low point of the visit is tied between when I spilled the candle wax all over myself and when I passed up on an opportunity to buy a great Indiana Jones-style hat. On Friday I went to a Koala sanctuary where I got to see Koalas, dingoes, wombats, a saltwater crocodile, birds, penguins, and snakes. I also got to pet a kangaroo (without getting boxed). After going to Patty’s Market for a few souvenirs, I went down to the harbor for a relaxing dinner as I watched the day turn to night over the bay. While being able to enjoy the bay area over dinner and a coffee was the best way I could have asked to spend my last night in Sydney, the fact that I am still hatless weighed heavily on my mind. I guess I’ll just have to order it online.