From FundX Fintern to Microsoft Seattle

Julian Blair, UNSW, Commerce, Financial Economics and Computer Science

Julian Blair is in the final semester of a double degree in Commerce and Financial Economics and Computer Science at UNSW. Just back recently from Seattle, he has been working at Microsoft HQ as a software developer on their Business Development team, a journey which began with an internship gained through the Ribit platform.

“I was halfway through uni and I knew I needed to get some experience working. I found out about Ribit through my university. The platform was very straightforward to use back in 2015, and I daresay it’s had some refinements since. It was easy to create a profile and also see which companies were looking for interns.”

Although Julian also signed up for “Fintern Fever”, he never actually attended the event, having already been snapped up for an internship by startup FundX. They had approached him after seeing his profile on Ribit.

FundX is a marketplace invoice financing platform, helping businesses to manage their cash-flow by connecting them with investors who can fund them to value of their outstanding invoices.

Julian began the finternship as a web developer and administrator, but soon branched out to apply his other skills across finance and commerce. During his 3 months there, he also worked in bookkeeping, financial analysis and business analysis.

“I got a very well-rounded experience working at FundX. In fact I’d say this is one of the major benefits of interning at a startup versus an established company. They are effectively building a product from scratch. You get a chance to be involved with all aspects of the design and build from the ground up.”

“These are skills which are are really valuable and transferable. How much you learn and experience in some ways is up to you. The more you put in, the more you get out.”

In fact he believes that brilliant grades alone are no longer enough to guarantee landing a great job after university.

“Everyone has a degree these days. However, work experience gives employers a way to evaluate your knowledge and competencies. Plus you also gain other important skills such as teamwork and communication. A lot of employers are expecting you to come with these types of soft skills already.”

It can also help prepare you for the challenge of applying your skills and knowledge in the real workplace.

“It’s a lot more messy than the environment of university assignments, particularly within Computer Science. You quickly realise that things are done in an incredibly different way from the systems you were used to at uni. You can feel quite thrown in at the deep end, so it makes a huge difference to have the chance to learn this through an internship.”

After completing the internship at FundX, Julian returned to university to continue his studies. He has since interned at Commonwealth Bank, as a data scientist and then later at Microsoft, as a software developer.

The internship at Microsoft took him to the United States where he joined the 1500 other (mostly American) students on the Microsoft’s Summer programme.

“They looked at my resume and thought I would be a good fit for their business operations unit. I’m certain my experience working at FundX through Ribit is one of the reasons I was able to get accepted on the programme.”

Working at Microsoft as a software developer, but also having to apply his knowledge of business processes, finance and statistics, Julian worked on a project to automate the data processing systems within the company itself, improving their efficiency and preventing fraud.

“It was an amazing experience, I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Julian went on to complete a second internship at the multinational software and technology giant during the Australian summer break, and has now been offered a full-time role, which he will take up when he finishes his degree in a couple of months time.

Something he found particularly beneficial about taking on internships whilst studying, was that they helped him to figure what interested him.

“I realised that I really loved software engineering and this was what I wanted to focus on career-wise.”

“Also, I got a great deal of value from the Ribit platform itself. Particularly with regards to presentation skills and pitching workshops that they offered. These are tools you often don’t get from a traditional STEM degree.”

What advice would he give other students in his position considering an internship?

“Be open to trying different fields, not always strictly related to your field of study. And take initiative, work hard, take teamwork seriously. If you see a process that could be improved and make people’s lives easier, go to your manager with a solution. Small things can build up to something big. The right internship can really make a difference.”

Julian is excited to take the next big step when he jets off back to the Pacific Northwest of America in a couple of months time. So what are his plans for the future?

“Starting my job at Microsoft as a software developer. I’ve really enjoyed working in a small but fast-paced environment. Getting the chance to work really hard and make a meaningful impact somewhere means a lot to me. It’s been very fulfilling so far and I’m really looking forward to the future.”