How Jin is engineering a future in leadership.

“Take advantage of the opportunities at uni – especially all the programs. If you don’t, you’re missing out big-time,”
“Take advantage of the opportunities at uni – especially all the programs. If you don’t, you’re missing out big-time,”

Jinang ‘Jin’ Liu has come a long way from Kaifeng, his original home in the South-central China province of Henan. “It’s not a fancy place,” he says, “but it has a lot of history. It was the capital of eight dynasties. However, it’s also right next to the Yellow River. Every time it flooded another dynasty would end. Nowadays, nobody builds high-rises there because anywhere you dig, you discover something. There are eight dynasties of history underneath.”

At just 17, with zero English, Jin left Kaifeng to immigrate with his family to Australia. “I learnt English from the ground up. I had a year at the Intensive English Centre in Beverly Hills, then I went to Bankstown Senior College for Year 10, 11, and 12,” he says. The college in Bankstown caters for students outside the compulsory high-school age, particularly new arrivals in Australia. Jin enjoyed his time there. “There are no uniforms,” he says, “and school was just four days a week – big selling points!”

Discovering a talent for Physics
While school hadn’t been Jin’s strong point in China (“My grades were horrible,” he says), at Bankstown he excelled in physics and economics. He wasn’t sure which way to go until a university professor visited his school physics class. “I don’t know why. He was just sitting up the back observing. After a while, we started talking, and he said, ‘You’re good at physics – you should pursue that.’ He suggested Electrical Engineering.” Later, the school careers adviser recommended studying at UTS. “She said it’s diverse, and in the CBD. She thought I had the UTS vibe,” he says. “It has a good ranking for engineering, but she was more focused on the culture and things like that.”

A sense of achievement
Jin began his pathway to UTS with a Diploma of Engineering at UTS College. He says it built his confidence in ways well beyond academic preparation for his degree. “You learn all the stuff everyone else does, but the co-curricular programs helped me most,” he says. “I remember getting a pretty good grade in foundation mathematics, and the teacher tapping my shoulder and asking if I’d like to be a peer helper. It’s a job where you can support other students in class if you’re excelling in a subject. I agreed to do it in my second semester, and I enjoyed it a lot. I discovered that it feels good to help people. You see your impact when the student walks out knowing stuff. It gives you a sense of achievement.”

That peer helper experience lit a fire, inspiring Jin to take on all kinds of projects. He says, “I did some work with Jasmine Cheng, the Program Manager for Engineering – some workshops and presentations to staff when the College switched to Canvas, our learning management system. After that, Jasmine told me the College was looking to engage alumni more. I helped get the Alumni Club started with Student Services. And I participated in the Brand Ambassador program – now the Student Ambassador program. There was also a Leadership Program. It all made a difference.”

A foundation for the future
Now studying Bachelor of Engineering at UTS, Jin still contributes to the student community as President of the Board of Directors at ActivateUTS. “We’re a public company. Basically, we handle anything that’s fun at UTS. It’s been my best experience so far. Most people don’t get experience on a board like this. It’s been invaluable. My roles at UTS College 100 percent helped prepare me. They’ve built confidence and are part of the foundation for my future.”

Research from UTS Business School, in collaboration with ActivateUTS, supports Jin’s enthusiasm for co-curricular activity. “We’ve done extensive research on how these programs differentiate active students from those who just go to class and go home,” he says. “The first report came out in 2019. We already have very good numbers showing how co-curricular programs reduce the rate of dropout and support academic success and future employability.”

Building a start-up
Another project keeping Jin busy is ‘Zeus Charger’, a start-up he created with a friend as part of a UTS program called Build a Start-up for Credit. He says, “It’s already a business. We’ve mapped out all the critical paths, like supply, logistics, storage, marketing, legal, sales network, and distribution channels. We’re doing all that. It’s a bit like that meme where somebody sits at a table with all the titles in front of them. It’s all us.”

Valuable management skills
Jin sees a future beyond electrical engineering. “So much of what I’m doing now doesn’t relate to that,” he says. “On the ActivateUTS board, I do planning, strategy, and approve the budget, audit, and annual report. I represent the company’s best interests. I negotiate with the university. I connect stakeholders. Then, with the clubs there’s lots of event management, negotiating sponsorships, people management, membership engagement – again, nothing to do with electrical engineering.”

Mentors at both UTS and UTS College have encouraged Jin to find ways to combine his degree with the management skills he’s acquired. “It’s helped me shift a bit on what I’m looking for in the future. I’m thinking about getting into a consulting role – so strategic or management consulting – leaning on the engineering side. I think that could be a good start,” he says.

Jin’s three tips
Jin has three tips to help other students – especially international students – to find their way. “First,” he says, “ask yourself exactly what you’re doing here. Am I here to get a degree? Am I here to learn and grow, or just because my parents want me to get this degree at a fancy university? You need to reflect on what you really want.” His second tip is to make the most of the opportunities that come your way. “University is a very safe environment to try new things. You need to take advantage of the opportunities – especially all the programs. If you don’t, you’re missing out big-time,” he says. “Lastly, think about how you might grow in future. How does your learning journey look for the rest of your life? When UTS talk about being a global citizen, about lifetime learning, it means a lot. That really differentiates you from your peers. It helps you advance in every way.”