Lakshmi Balasubramani was in the final semester of her Masters in Actuarial Studies at UNSW, when she received an invitation to an Ribit internship networking opportunity, “Fintern Fever”, which was being held at Stone & Chalk, a fintech and regtech innovation hub and co-working space. It was November 2015 and little did she realise how much her life was about to change.
Particularly intrigued by the “speed dating” format of the event, Lakshmi decided to check it out. “The concept sounded really fun,” she explains, “totally different from the usual recruitment process, which is so serious and time-consuming. However at this event, instead of applying for 20 different internship positions, you could meet 20 employers all on the same night.
It proved to be a winning formula for Lakshmi. “It was very organic and made it easier to choose. You can quickly find out if you like the people and the company culture where you are thinking of working. I think this is one of the most important factors to consider when you are looking for a job.”
In fact, she matched so well with one of the companies at the event, that she became a “fintern” shortly after. A move which would alter her career trajectory entirely. “At the time, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go into actuary, remain in engineering (my background) or perhaps even move into software development, something I’d been enjoying more and more lately. However, I was not thinking about startups at all.”
Shortly after, Lakshmi began an internship at Simply KYC, a Stone & Chalk startups who have created a platform to simplify and consolidate the client onboarding process for businesses.
“If it hadn’t been for Ribit, I would never have experienced the startup world. Learning about the startup ecosystem changed my whole outlook and plans for the future.”
The internship lasted 3 months, after which she joined the firm permanently as a Business Analyst, before progressing to Testing Lead, and then finally to Product Manager. It was a great opportunity to learn about the work environment and how to put her skills into practice in the real world.
“There is a huge value to working whilst studying, everyone should do it. It’s the only way to really understand the work environment and to be sure that the career path you’ve chosen is what you really want to do.”
Two and half years later, and Lakshmi is now in the process of launching her own business. “It’s in my blood. Practically everyone in my family is an entrepreneur actually. But it was the internship which gave me the experience and confidence to choose this route.”
Lakshmi’s company, BlueTemple, is a tool designed to help startup founders establish and maintain a successful business, through using unconventional methods to achieve employee engagement and retention.
The drive to create a more nurturing startup landscape through the launch of her own business was, in part, inspired by seeing the significant under representation of skilled labour within her chosen profession of actuary.
“There are not many actuarial engineers, and female ones are even rarer. I was thinking, how can you make the workplace more attractive so that you retain skilled employees? Workplace culture is something I was passionate about and I decided it was time to do something to improve it. It’s been so exciting to watch my startup go from being just idea, to become business and start scaling up.”
“I would recommend doing an internship to anyone who is studying. So you can understand who you are and what your purpose is…Get to understand yourself inside out before you jump into the workplace, so that you can love what you do, and be happy and passionate.”
And the best advice for students thinking about an internship?
“Get to know your trade really well. Become super niche in some kind of a tech area. Pick one thing and become really good at it.”