FROM STUDENT INTERN TO INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCER
Why not start a successful business while you are still a student? Lily Wu built her business, Austern International, on an idea incubated at UNSW. This young entrepreneur connects Australian students to high growth start-ups and multinationals in Asia. Her program combines immersive cultural, language, and workplace experiences. Her students help to hack real company problems, working in teams and pitching their solution back to the company. With plans to expand operations to Canada and the UK, Lily’s global business is booming.
Lily Wu didn’t expect to create an international organisation connecting students with employers, but because she persisted in asking why not, that is exactly what happened.
Having tasted a student internship that wasn’t the right fit for her, Lily set out to create her own. She travelled to China and began negotiating with a university to arrange accommodation and industry connections for herself and her friends on the proviso that she brought more students with her on her next trip. The following year would see her introduce 100 Australian students to internship opportunities in China and set her on her entrepreneurial path.
Lily set up her business, Austern International, as a Bachelor of Commerce student, with mentoring and support from the Student Entrepreneur Development program run by UNSW’s commercialisation company, UNSW Innovations. Austern was previously recognised in UNSW's Young Entrepreneurs project and her start-up was awarded a prestigious $10,000 AMP Tomorrow Fund innovation grant. The grants are offered to people - who have a talent or a passion for something that will ultimately benefit Australia - AMP received more than 3,000 entries for the competition last year.
Not satisfied with the limitations of internships, Lily decided she could do more for students as well as the companies offering the internships. She recognised that for some organisations it was unrewarding to invest time and resources into temporary student internships, which meant that students were given menial tasks and little opportunity to extend their skills. Lily's creative solution would benefit both the students and the companies with unique and rewarding experiences.
'Companies identify a problem and the students hack through that problem. At the end of the week they pitch their solution back to the company,' Lily explains.
'Using design thinking and entrepreneurial skill sets they are also able to demonstrate team work, leadership skills, communication and pitching skills that companies can’t usually see when they are trying to hire someone from a resume.
Lily’s company now focuses on three week career immersive programs where students work at high growth start-ups and multinational companies like Philips and Dropbox. They are supported by Austern International’s professional workshops and cultural experiences.
Austern now base their student programs in Singapore and Hong Kong, with programs running in Sydney and Melbourne next year. There are plans to expand operations to Canada and the UK.
While Lily is still a UNSW Business School undergraduate student, she is also a successful entrepreneur with an international business set to thrive in the Asian Century.