• Wed
  • Aug 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:49pm
LifestyleFamily & Education

Online portal connects business-minded students around the globe

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 9:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 9:45am

Campus-based clubs and societies provide a valuable opportunity for students to cultivate networks and gain practical experience. But technologically savvy students are increasingly turning their back on the physical world in favour of online groups to connect with like-minded go-getters around the world.

Simon Evenett, a professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, co-founded global online portal Project Firefly two years ago with one of his former students, Daniel Garraty. Their aim was to help connect students who had a strong interest in business.

The project was officially launched after the pair secured funding from Credit Suisse.

Project Firefly has now reached at least 800 universities across 180 countries. In Hong Kong, the project's website has had around 12,000 visitors since it was launched and has about 500 active members.

The project is constantly seeking collaborations with financial firms to provide up-to-date information about their industry and to seek internship opportunities for members.

"We see great traction from Hong Kong," says Garraty.

"I would say Hong Kong is one of the hot bases from which we get a high level of interaction."

Students are expected to sharpen their skills by applying and consolidating their knowledge through competitions, which also helps to improve their CVs.

The project organises essay writing contests, the most recent of which was the flagship Emerging Leaders Competition, which encourages students to shed light on one of five topics. Among the topics were questions on whether the central bank of the United States could phase out quantitative easing without causing instability and how companies should deal with big data.

Sometimes, participants are invited to submit short videos instead of writing an essay. They can also be quizzed on videos they watch, as they are in the HOLT Valuation Challenge, a three-week game that aims to improve understanding of accounting, finance and valuation.

Formerly a World Bank employee, Evenett believes students can acquire a more pragmatic mindset and stronger global outlook from participating in the project's exercises.

Along with improved skills, the winners of these contests are promised internships, which is another area that Project Firefly advocates.

Evenett and Garraty have been working on building stronger ties with industry insiders since day one.

"This ultimately provides [students] with the opportunity to put their learning into practice, which translates into job opportunities," says Evenett.

About one-third of essays will be posted online after being reviewed and vetted by a panel of academics.

Raveena Mital, a business graduate who is now studying law, says she particularly enjoys connecting with other bright business majors from around the world.

"I got a lot of positive feedback from people who read my essay, and I got to see other people's essays as well. So I really like the whole concept of Firefly," she says.

Evenett and Garraty, along with the winners of last year's competition, will be in town later this month to attend Credit Suisse's Asian Investment Conference.

The trip is part of the prize for the winners.

Evenett says they will also take advantage of the opportunity to "try and reach as many different colleges and universities as possible", as well as meeting local industry insiders.


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