For Menzies scholar Olsen Garland, one of the best things about being back in hometown Melbourne is the coffee. But even better than that, he recently had the chance to dip his career toes in new waters.
The electrical engineer has taken a break from studying his MBA at London Business School to return to Melbourne for an internship in business management. He’s just completed the eight-week internship at global management consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which saw him working in a support function he’d had no prior experience in.
“The internship was such a great opportunity,” Olsen said. “It was challenging, but management consultancy is similar to engineering in many ways – they’re both about problem solving. I tend to come at problems from a solution-focused perspective, which is proving useful.
“It was really interesting to be exposed to functions and industries I wouldn’t have considered working in before, and I had the chance to work with some amazing people, experts at the top of the field.”
Given his own accomplishments, Olsen should be comfortable working with people at the top. In 2013 he completed Honours at the University of Newcastle with 100 per cent on his thesis in electrical engineering – only the second student in the university’s history to receive a perfect mark. In 2015, Olsen became the youngest person to be elected Chair of the Electrical Branch of Engineers Australia, leading a group of expert engineers covering the Newcastle and Northern NSW areas. As well as keeping them up to date on the latest developments, Olsen provided professional development seminars and training sessions.
“As a recent graduate at the time, being in a position where I was deciding which areas experienced engineers needed to develop in was a challenge,” he said. “The role taught me that, if you have the right team, a difference in perspective is immensely useful, and that leaders need to embrace diversity to get the best out of their team.”
His outstanding academic record and contribution to community were recognised by the Menzies Foundation, with Olsen receiving the 2017 Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholarship in Engineering to complete his MBA.
“Studying my MBA at the London Business School has been an incredible opportunity, and I couldn't have done it without the Menzies scholarship. I’m learning alongside students from 60 or so countries, and they all have different perspectives on how to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems," he said.
“The MBA is opening so many doors for me. I recently had the opportunity to work on a strategic project with a flexible energy company in London. They provide technology that supplies renewable energy to electricity systems to balance the energy network. It’s an exciting time to work in the renewable energy space.”
With the internship at BCG now at an end, Olsen will soon leave Melbourne to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for three months before heading back to London to complete the final year of his MBA. After that, he plans to return to Australia to help bring cheaper, more efficient, zero-emission electricity to markets here and abroad.
“I’m still exploring what I’ll do, but I know I want to work in the energy sector in Australia. I think management consultancy will be in the mix,” Olsen said. “The type of work I did at BCG and the skills I learned can be applied to many other areas.
“My passion is to create the right incentives that will encourage the use of renewable energy, and I’m still working out how to go about that endeavour.”
For now, Olsen is enjoying his time reflecting on the learning opportunities he’s had in Melbourne, while drinking lots of great coffee!