Experts share: three things to know about working in a small-to-medium-enterprise

Earlier this semester, Melbourne School of Engineering as part of the 2019 Professional Skills Series hosted five industry leaders to hear the intricacies of working within an SME in Australia.

Shot of audience and presenter at SME event

In Australia, small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) employ around 4.8 million workers and generate an approximate 57% of Australia’s GDP. Start-ups and SMEs can offer students a fantastic platform to launch their careers through internships and entry level positions with the opportunity to develop new skills, experience new challenges and make a strong impact on the success of the organisation.

The panel consisted of:

Jackson Yin, Managing Director,  iBuild

Razali Mohammed, CTO and Co-founder,  Alerte Digital Health Group

Yifeng Chen, Founder and CEO, Darkspede

Danni Sevas, Head of Graduate Recruitment and Employee Relations, Alex Solutions

Rajneil Raj, Agile Coach, RecordPoint

Lauren Chambers, Industry Placement Coordinator from the Student Enrichment team in the Academic Support Office, facilitated the discussion whilst also providing helpful hints and tips for internship success.

Here’s what they said:

What would you say the biggest perks of considering an SME would be?

The panellists were unanimous in their belief that graduates working in SMEs tend to take on more leading roles in the projects they work on as they are exposed to a wider perspective of an organisation.

For Danni Sevas, graduates working in an SME often get to feel like an integral part of the team.

“You’re not lost in a big organisation. You have people around you who are willing to talk to you – you’re working so close to them every day,” she said.

As a result, graduates shouldn’t be afraid to bring their personality to the job, according to Sevas.

Where do you see the future of SMEs in Australia and their contribution to the Australian economy?

“SMEs in Australia have the opportunity to disrupt and make huge gains in innovation.  It’s all part of what makes the sector an exciting one,” Razali Mohammad said.

For Yifeng Chen, the ability to keep learning and to tackle problems fast are two key skills that would help graduates progress in their career.

“It’s all about attitude, ” Chen said.

“In an SME, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. You can plan all day long, but in the end you need to execute and get things done.”

What skills do you look for when recruiting and what type of people thrive in your environment?

“We’re looking for people who don’t mind learning and picking up skills as they go,” said Rajneil Raj.

According to Razali Mohammed, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is another integral attribute for graduates working in SMEs.

“Communication is a big part of it – being able to go to someone that you don’t know and say; hey I’ve got a problem, can I have some help?”, he said.

Yifeng Chen observed that interns in the SME space are eager to learn and hosts are eager to teach, meaning they have the opportunity to learn things quickly and solve real problems.

Some takeaways from the day

The factor that sets SMEs apart from larger organisations, according to those on the inside, is that graduates get to pick and choose the direction that they want to go, giving them the freedom to explore their interests.

Panellists were keen to communicate that graduates are encouraged to explore different directions and it’s all a part of what makes the sector an exciting one.

Perhaps a role in an SME will be a path you choose for an internship and later, a career.