Frontier Economics: An internship experience
This article was featured as part of ESSA’s annual Equilibrium publication.
In semester 2 of 2012, for two days a week over 10 weeks, I weathered Melbourne’s bitterly cold winter mornings and made the trek by public transport into the CBD. Destination: Frontier Economics’ Melbourne office, corner of Collins and Queens Streets. I had secured an internship there as part of the Faculty of Business and Economics’ Business Internship unit, where completion of the unit allowed me to gain credit towards my degree. The aim of these units is to allow students to apply theory to practice, and to evaluate personal learning in a business environment. To achieve this, students not only participate in the internship, but are also required to formally reflect on their experiences. This forms part of the assessment for the unit. I feel that taking part in an internship with the support of the university and allowed me to gain the maximum benefit from this experience.
Securing an internship which fit so closely with my degree had been partly a stroke of luck— having been unsuccessful for another internship placement, which was not directly related to my major and intended career path in economics, my name had been kept on file with Ms Lesley Soan from the university, who matches students with organisations. She notified me when this opportunity presented itself, and I submitted an application without a moment of hesitation. The ensuing application process was relatively standard, and I was soon about to get my first taste of professional working life!
Tucked away inside the old Bank of New Zealand building, the Frontier Melbourne office is rather inconspicuous to the passer-by on the street. Though the space is small (it only accommodates about 20 employees), the intricately decorated high ceilings make it seem much bigger, while the working pods which surround a central library maintain a sense of privacy. Frontier’s relaxed atmosphere soon made me feel at home. People would stop by my desk to introduce themselves. I was to spend my 20 days conducting “desktop economic analysis”, which, I learnt, involves gaining an understanding of a market, then proceeding to find data to construct a model, which would provide a solution to an economic problem. My supervisors were patient in guiding me through my tasks and generous in giving me opportunities to develop my skills and gain experience. By the end of my placement, I had conducted research in several areas of policy including telecommunications, transport, rural water and urban water.
As Friday evenings rolled round, people would one by one gather around the table in the corner of the office for a few drinks. This was where I discovered the passions and hobbies of my colleagues, where I learned of their professional achievements, and, of course, where economics seeped into casual conversation punctuated by laughs.
My time at Frontier was short, but the memories and lessons have made a deep impression on my mind. I am lucky to have had such an opportunity, and my positive experiences have left me looking forward to what the future holds.