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Students in Focus

GRADS 2021: Ella Hourigan

Ella Hourigan has something that many fresh graduates in the creative consulting industry don’t – the real-world, hands-on experience that comes hand-in-hand with a University of Canberra degree.

Ella will receive her Bachelor of Communications in Advertising at this week’s graduation round – an opportunity she is beyond grateful for, given that many among her cohort missed out on graduation ceremonies in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m so happy that the ceremony is in person – I’m looking forward to graduating … I just hope it’s not too cold!” Ella says.

The ceremony will mark the end of Ella’s studies, despite her having worked full-time in the consulting industry – at creativeXpeople at Synergy Group – since late last year, following a work experience project at the firm, thanks to UC’s industry ties.

It was the kick-start she needed to get into her dream industry.

“In my final unit last semester, we had a project where we had to pitch to a client. My group’s client was actually Synergy, and we actually won the presentation pitch,” she says.

“The creative director there invited us back to do some work experience, where we sat in on campaign meetings and pitched our ideas. From there, I got in contact with them about joining the team and eventually received a job offer!

“I’m just grateful that UC was able to connect me directly to the industry, giving me a chance to showcase my skills and prove myself.”

Since then, Ella hasn’t looked back. She’s immersed herself in a creative career, working with several clients to provide marketing and communications advice.

She works across the social media, writing, and multimedia spaces, providing her with a wide range of experiences.

“I’m in a position where I am able to learn a lot, really quickly, and while my skills from uni are still so fresh,” says Ella.

“I’m working on such a range of different projects and tasks which keep me busy.”

As for the company, Ella can’t speak highly enough of the work environment.

“It’s a really exciting, fast-paced place to be – particularly straight out of uni,” she says.

“I’ve landed exactly where I want to be – especially in a really competitive industry – and I’m in an environment with creative, likeminded people.”

Creative Director at creativeXpeople, Jason Perelson says the benefits to hosting work experience students are mutual.

“Having new voices, perspectives, and energies in the team is brilliant – not just from a culture perspective, but from a viewpoint and ideas perspective,” Jason says.

“One of the things we pride ourselves on is never letting good talent get away, and making sure we absolutely support and nurture thriving talent. We will always try to help, guide, coach, mentor, support and introduce where we can.

“To have that level of talent staying in Canberra, and building the industry, is a benefit not just to us, but to the industry as a whole.”

Ella was the perfect fit for Jason’s team.

“During her work experience, Ella always stood out as engaged, interested and passionate. That’s not to say the other students weren’t – they were all high calibre,” he says.

“At the end of the day though, Ella reached out to shoot her shot, and emailed me to say she’d love to work with us. That isn’t always a foot in the door – but on top of that, she was always engaged, she contributed, and checked in, was kind, wrote well, had great ideas, got involved and felt like a good fit for us.

“She is doing brilliant work, in fascinating spaces, and I can’t wait to see how she builds and grows her career here with us.”

Luckily, that’s exactly what Ella wants to do as well.

“I’m definitely in the industry I want to stay in – I just want to keep progressing and seeing where my career takes me,” she says.

“Ideally, I’d stay right where I am forever – and I think it is all due to just how practical my degree was, and the opportunities we were given to put ourselves out there.”

Words by Elly Mackay, photos supplied by Ella.

The University of Canberra celebrates and congratulates the graduating class of 2021.

You have forged ahead in the face of unexpected challenges, grown in so many ways, and built strong foundations, for yourself and for others.

Many of you have taken steps into your industries of choice, to make your mark; others are building legacies on the postgraduate path.

We are so proud of you all.

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