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DBS students tackle a real-world industry challenge

Deakin Think Tank Challenge 2017

In the fiercely competitive 21st century world of business, how does an organisation attract and retain its newest batch of ‘millennial’ recruits?

This was the real-life business problem faced by Deakin University undergraduate students at the recent 2017 Deakin Think Tank Challenge – an annual event hosted by the Deakin Business School (DBS).

In this year’s event, four teams of Deakin students took on a challenge from one of Deakin’s industry partners, multinational IT company Dimension Data.

‘The challenge was to identify the ways in which the organisation could improve the retention of its “millennial” staff beyond two years,’ explains Dr Jeff Chamberlain, Director of Industry Engagement in the Department of Management.

With strong emphasis in the Faculty of Business and Law on the importance of industry integration and engagement, he says the Deakin Think Tank Challenge is an important way to harness the energies and synergies that result from partnerships and engagement.

‘It provides our students with an opportunity, and industry-centric platform, in which they can express their preparedness. And it especially provides our industry partners with opportunities to share their challenges with us.’

Mark Miller, CIO Dimension Data, says the millennial generation now represents a significantly large chunk of the world’s current employees.

 ‘Millennials are becoming the biggest proportion of the workforce so it’s great to get some “outside-in” thinking on engaging and retaining them.’

Working in teams of four, the student teams had eight weeks to brainstorm their solutions. During this time they visited Dimension Data for extra scope and context and also participated in preparation workshops with Deakin MBA mentors.

The final presentations were made in front of a large audience of industry representatives to a panel of judges that included Professor Amanda Pyman (Head of Department of Management, DBS) Professor Barry Cooper (Associate Dean of Regional Engagement, DBS),  Danielle Storey (CEO Eastern Innovation Business Centre) and Chad Gates (Managing Director, Pronto Software).

‘The presentations were excellent,’ says Dr Chamberlain.  ‘The teams were assessed against ten specific variables –  including delivery, quality of the solution and team dynamics –
 and each judge individually assessed against these variables so in total, 40 assessments were made during each presentation.’

As a member of the 2017 judging panel, Chad Gates, Managing Director, Pronto Software, says the Deakin Think Tank challenge is an exciting opportunity to observe how the ‘leaders of tomorrow’ approach complex problems.

 ‘It was really impressive to see the way the students approached and conceptualised these scenarios. Each team presented something unique and they all demonstrated out-of-the-box thinking to come up with innovative solutions.  It was refreshing to see new ways of looking at problems – the way each group presented and articulated their solutions has also given us, as a company, great insight into how young graduates think about successful work environments.’

He adds that by participating in the Deakin Think Tank Challenge, industry representatives have an important opportunity to meet the talent of tomorrow.

‘In a competitive business environment, our people are a central reason to Pronto Software being a multiple-award winner. With nearly 400 staff across Australia, we’re always looking for the brightest and best minds of tomorrow. The Deakin Think Tank Challenge is a fantastic initiative and a great opportunity for all Deakin undergraduate students. As an Australian success story in the software industry, we are proud to be involved.’

In a close challenge, Team 4 (Bhavya Pahuja, Varum Kewlani, Mahin Vashisht, Syed Asadullah) took out the winning place by providing an innovative range of retention strategies in an entertaining and engaging presentation.

Other team members included: Team 1 -Belinda Spork, Cianan Thomson, James Louw, Joshua Cook; Team 2 – Anastasios Kazis, Nick O’Neill, John Sapranidis, Trent Torkar; Team 3 – Peter Uy, Maninder Singh, Harry Stephens, Adelle Cramer.

Dr Chamberlain says the event was huge success and preparations are already underway for the 2018 challenge.

‘All the teams were fabulous and the end results were extremely close. We are already preparing for next year's Think Tank and are presently seeking interested sponsors for the event with the aim of making it even bigger and better.’

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