Recent UNSW Business School graduate Sonia Parulekar's experience as a Co-op Scholar saw her attending work sessions at the IMF and the World Bank, rub shoulders with global policy makers and publish papers on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, and all this before she had even graduated.  Now a consultant at A.T. Kearney, Sonia takes time out to share some insights into industry placements, her love of the FinTech sector and her experience at UNSW Business School.

Q/ Why did you choose UNSW and the Business School over other universities?

Sonia: UNSW Business School's deep industry connections and the opportunities they offered outside the classroom was my main reason for choosing UNSW Sydney.  I was looking for a degree that equipped me with theoretical knowledge while providing opportunities to put my learning's into practice and I believed UNSW was the place to do this.  Attending open day and other information evenings at the university, the people I met and the overall campus culture were what sealed the deal. 

Q/ What is a Co-op Scholar and how did you become one?

Sonia: The Co-op program is an industry-linked scholarship that provides scholars with the opportunity to intern at a variety of organisations while also offering leadership and professional development training, mentoring opportunities and an amazing network of current and former co-ops (who have become some of my closest friends!).

I applied for the Co-op Program in my final year of high school.  After an online application and an interview on campus I was fortunate enough to be awarded the scholarship.

Q/ How did you become a Global Voices delegate?

Sonia: The UNSW Co-op program sponsors two scholars each year to take part in the Global Voices program, which offers the opportunity to attend some of the most significant global policy forums.  I was selected after submitting an online application and interview.  My application included a detailed research proposal on my chosen topic of FinTech and Crypto-currencies and policy recommendations that I'd be able to bring to the world stage.

Q/ You were one of just four Australian Youth Delegates to the 2017 World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings (in 2017), what was that like?

Sonia: It was an amazing experience!  To be given the opportunity to attend working sessions with some of the greatest minds of our time, meet influential domestic and global policy makers, and deepen my understanding of the financial, economic and social issues that we face was personally and professionally transformative.

Q/ Tell us about your passion for FinTech?

Sonia: I have always had a deep interest in harnessing technology to deliver business goals.  I believe FinTech is one of the most exciting industries today and I want to be a part of enabling its positive business revolution. It is an exceptionally fast moving industry, and the opportunities it presents to disrupt traditional financial methods have already started revolutionising the way societies operate.

Q/ Are you able to summarise the report you wrote about the Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies?

Sonia: I wrote a policy paper that investigated the rise of FinTech and the policy implications of cryptocurrencies on the Australian financial and regulatory landscape. This research led to my formation of four Australian policy recommendations including the adoption of international standards and operational regulations, the introduction of Government approved cryptocurrency wallets, investment in the creation of a 'Digital Australian Dollar' and the establishment of an Indo-Pacific FinTech panel to create an evolving regional strategy. 

Q/ Your major is in Information Systems and Management at UNSW Business School, how has this helped you?

Sonia: Every business now uses some form of technology to deliver its products and services to consumers. My major in Information Systems has fundamentally equipped me with the knowledge and tools to understand the nexus between business and technology. This has provided me with an invaluable working knowledge of the way in which businesses operate in our digital age and I continuously draw upon this in my current work as a management consultant.

Q/ How has the time spent at UNSW as a Co-op Scholar benefitted you?

Sonia: My time as a Co-op Scholar at UNSW has been incredible. The opportunities I've received are second to none and these experiences have directly contributed to my personal and professional development. My industry training placements were an eye-opening experience in demonstrating the sheer breadth of opportunities available within the field. I've been able to travel the world, study overseas on exchange, intern at organisations both in Australia and abroad, contribute at global events and make life long friends.

Q/ What was your highlight moment whilst studying at UNSW Business School?

Sonia: It's hard to choose just one moment! Going on exchange for 6 months to Malaysia and Singapore was definitely a big highlight. Being able to completely immerse myself in their culture through travelling around the country, exploring the cuisine and actively participating in local events was wonderful. It expanded my horizons and networks, unlocking new opportunities on a global scale.

Q/ What did you do after you graduated?

Sonia: After graduation I joined A.T. Kearney as a management consultant, after having previously completed a 6-month UNSW Co-op internship with them.

Q/ Where are you now?

Sonia: I'm currently working as a management consultant at A.T. Kearney. In this role, I work as part of a consulting team to solve CEO-level issues for clients across a range of industries and functions including strategy, operations and finance.

Q/ Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

Sonia: Making positive tangible differences in an environment that provides opportunities to continuously learn and challenge myself.

Q/ Is there any advice you could offer prospective students?

Sonia: My advice to prospective students would be to back yourself and apply to degrees, programs and scholarships that you have a genuine interest in. Always have a go!

About the UNSW Coop program

The UNSW Co-op Program was started in 1987 in response to industry's unmet demand for exceptional IT graduates.  Since then Co-op has extended into many areas of Engineering, Applied Science, Business and the Built Environment, based on industry demand.  

The Co-op Program scholarship offers more than financial support, it aims to develop scholars into professionals, not just graduates at the end of a university degree and makes sure UNSW scholars have lots of fun along the way.