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Student story

Michaela Lees

02 August 2023

"Study gave me those fundamental skills that prepare you for the business world..."


Bachelor of Commerce in International Business, and Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Graduate: Marketing and Engagement Team, Auckland Transport

Michaela always liked the idea of a people-focused career in business, which led to a range of opportunities preparing for the corporate world within university study.

Through the Bachelor of Commerce, Michaela discovered an interest in business strategy and culture with her International Business and Strategy and Entrepreneurship double major.

"You get to do a range of subjects, and choose from an exciting mix of majors," she says. "Give everything a go, and you might discover a passion for a subject you didn’t even realise existed. The BCom at UC gives you the freedom and flexibility to do that – the Student Advisors were a lifesaver when it came to degree planning!"

The "amazing student culture at UC" made her local university a great choice, and Michaela was able to gain some incredible real-world experiences that made her studies here more worthwhile.

"All the extra opportunities UC provides both professionally and socially make for a truly well-rounded university experience – just get involved and take the opportunities! And not to mention the incredible lecturers I had, especially during your final year, when you are able to build a greater rapport with them."

Michaela was involved with 180 Degrees Consulting on campus during study, which allowed her to work directly with local non-profits.

"I was able to engage with some incredible organisations and people, and the committee I worked with in my final year were amazing," she says. "I definitely encourage anyone, no matter discipline or degree background you are from, to get involved with 180 Degrees for at least one semester and gain some practical, professional experience working with great not-for-profit organisations."

Another stand-out opportunity was the MGMT 228 study tour to Hangzhou, China, to study at Zhejiang Gongshang University and learn about Chinese business culture. Michaela’s trip was funded with a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia.

"I could not recommend this experience enough. Truly an eye-opening, out-of-your-comfort-zone, thrown-in-the-deep-end opportunity – if you can, apply for this trip! The learning and personal development gained is something you can’t get from a lecture theatre."

To finish her studies, Michaela completed an Intern Consulting Project with PGG Wrightson, as part of MGMT 390. Her project involved completing an environmental and organisational culture evaluation, then developing recommendations for the company.

"This was a great opportunity to put those skills learnt in the classroom, to use in a real-world case, and provide findings that would be read, and referred to, throughout the business. I was able to engage with a range of stakeholders and gain a new perspective on an industry I knew little about.

"It was a rewarding experience, and the personal and professional feedback I received from my host manager was a fulfilling moment as I came to the end of my studies, about to enter the working world!"

The experience has led her to consider a career path in consulting and creative solutions for business.

"I am passionate about working with individuals or groups of people to bring their ideas to life, from a business sense. I enjoy problem solving, critically thinking, and thrive on coming up with creative solutions to challenging situations. It is all about the people and starting with “WHY?” so anywhere I am able to do that, is where I will be!"

Michaela began her career with Auckland Transport, as part of their marketing and customer-engagement initiatives.

"Working for a public organisation has its interesting and challenging moments, which I have learnt very quickly! AT is constantly under scrutiny from a public perspective, which offers an interesting working environment that keeps you on your toes. Within my team, the stronger focus on customer needs and values aligns well with my passions and interests, and the projects I am involved in simulate and enhance my thinking further in this direction."

Michaela is thankful for everything she was able to experience through UC, giving such a strong start to her career.

"Study has prepared me by giving me both the practical skills of working in business, as well as the critical thinking abilities of approaching and solving problems organisations face every day. It has also helped me think more about the world we living in and how it is changing so rapidly, and the effect this has on the strategic planning and implementation of businesses, both public and private," she says. "Study gave me those fundamental skills that prepare you for the business world."

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