Paying it forward with the Industry Project

Vanessa Hao

The Industry Project elective gives students the opportunity to solve industry problems through the rigours of research. 

For Vanessa Hao, third-year Bachelor of Commerce student, her passion for business began in high school, where she had developed an interest in breaking down numbers, observing market trends, and analysing organisational performance. This inspired her to undertake her tertiary studies in Accounting and Finance at the University of Adelaide.

The subjects taught by the Adelaide Business School exposed her to a range of possibilities, specifically, gaining a better understanding of what she can achieve with a strong entrepreneurial mindset and practical business experience.

“Studying commerce definitely allows me to get exposed to different positions, and explore different career choices. In other words, the knowledge that I learned at university is very transferable across different job positions and give me more opportunities to choose from”. 

As part of her degree, Vanessa worked as a research intern for the Gawler Innovation Hub. Vanessa’s contributions to the organisation played a critical role in testing the new ‘Pay-It-Forward’ initiative that was funded by Connexus; a telecommunications company that is part of Asia-Pacific’s leading technology company, the MNF Group.

“I choose to undertake the Industry Project so I could have the chance to apply the knowledge I learned into real-life practice. Throughout this experience, my interpersonal skills were also developed which helped me gain a better understanding of working in a team and in a workplace environment”. Vanessa Hao, Bachelor of Commerce student


The Industry Project is a third-year elective, specifically designed to build skills in delivering professional presentations, applying research to develop project outcomes, report writing and reflecting on the development of employability skills. This course is offered to all students, regardless of discipline, enrolled at the University of Adelaide. 

Vanessa worked as part of a small team (Connexus had only two employees based in Gawler), to plan the strategic launch of the ‘Pay-It-Forward’ project in the local area. Being part of a lean local team meant that resources were limited, but there were also some hidden advantages. For example, Vanessa was trusted with the responsibility to think on her feet and devise creative solutions for the organisation’s issues. This involved calling on her Accounting and Finance theories to weigh up the risk and rewards of decision making.

“The company is based in Sydney. So we had weekly meetings to discuss the progress of the project on Zoom together. The team was so supportive and took me to the meetings where all team members were present. This provided me with a better understanding of what the project is about, what I have achieved, and what aims I need to progress further”

Settling into a new learning space and developing a new work routine was a challenge for Vanessa, but one that was easily overcome with support from the University and the internship host. Navigating the journey from seeking an industry host to completing her final assessments was an overall positive experience for Vanessa; with resources like the University’s Careers Hub and academic supervisors, only a click and an email away.

“I initially applied for the course on Career Services Hub. It is a very effective process for which I need to submit a resume, cover letter and academic transcript. Afterward, I got a congratulations email from my academic supervisor, Melissa Connor, to inform me that I was offered a position”

All students undertaking the subject are required to produce a business plan and industry report for their host organisation, deliver a presentation as well as reflect on their development and skills gained from the experience. Subject marks are assessed from an academic lens as well as the industry which is based upon the host organisation’s feedback and the student’s ability to communicate their key findings. 

“My supervisor Melissa had always been there for me during the whole process.  We had weekly meetings at her office at the University to keep track of the progress and discuss challenges that I encountered. She has provided me with guidance along the way”

The Industry Project experience has allowed Vanessa to gain first-hand exposure to working in the real world. Heading towards the end of her studies, the third-year student feels confident, having developed interpersonal skills, teamwork, and critical thinking skills. 

“Having professional experience and an entrepreneurial mindset has definitely enhanced my competitive edge for my future job applications”

Undergraduates in their 3rd year of study can undertake the Industry Project elective and gain insights into learning outside of the classroom. 

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