Leonora Beifuss: Western Sydney University post-graduate student and "Challenger of the Day" on travelling the world, working, studying and collecting experiences long the way.

September 04, 2019
By Aaron O'Farrell

Leonora Beifuss is an international student at Western Sydney University where she is completing her Master of Science degree in Business Analytics. Paddl Co. first met Leonora in July, 2019 at our inaugural Western Paddl Game Challenge with EnergyAustralia where she won our Challenger of the Day award. Leonora has had a very interesting academic and professional career that has taken her around the world. We recently spoke to Leonora to learn more about her journey so far.

Hi Leonora. Can you start by telling us more about yourself? What are you studying and why? What are some of your passions, interests and hobbies?

I am an international postgraduate student at Western Sydney University working towards a Master of Science in Business Analytics. Business Analytics combines both business knowledge and a data science background, giving insights into the best of both worlds. 

Growing up I have always been rather a creative spirit. I chose arts and music classes over science lessons in a heartbeat and have been dancing ballet ever since I was four years old. But somewhere along the line I realised (to my own biggest surprise) that mathematics, information and data is somewhat an art form too. I got lost in patterns and structures and predictive models – and this is precisely, I believe, how I got where I am today. My current favourite subject is Data Visualisation – after all, that is equal parts art and science.

I see myself as a dancer, (risk) analyst and problem-solver, trying to build bridges wherever I go.

I am incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work for multiple companies throughout Europe in the past, gaining valuable experience while doing what I love most: travel, experience new cultures and continue to learn something new every day. So far, I have gotten the chance to call Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Australia my home while studying and working – and there sure is more to come!

Aside from travelling around the world and dancing (pretty much every day and everywhere!) I love snowboarding, photography, cooking and baking and have recently picked up surfing. 


What made you choose Western Sydney University to study your Masters? Having been there ourselves in July on the Parramatta South campus, it’s certainly a beautiful place to study.

I agree! It definitely is a beautiful place to study. Though I spend most of my time at the Parramatta city campus, a “vertical campus”, in a very modern and beautiful office building, I loved roaming around the South campus during the Paddl Games.

When deciding where I wanted to pursue my postgraduate degree, I first chose the city and then looked for a university that incorporates my personal values. Sydney, after all, is a global hub with a significant impact on international business. I loved how WSU presented itself from the first moment on: As an open-minded, cultural-inclusive university striving to be a modern and technology-savvy leader while offering students the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience with their studies. From my experience this far, I can tell you it has all been proven to be true and I am still as excited about my degree as I was on my first day here!

Do you have any long-term career goals? For example, would you like to have a career in a specific profession, or do you have any other plans?

I love the direction in which I am headed – combining arts and sciences and making data approachable for everyone – but I would not want to limit myself to one profession or one specific industry. With a topic that is so up-to-date and at the same time has such a high timeliness (data can be relevant one moment but outdated the next!) I think it is best to always be on your toes and never stop learning.

So, this is my ultimate long-term career goal: To never stop learning and always strive to do my very best. I believe it also never hurts to be as curious as can be and continue to challenge myself to think outside the box.


Do you think your peer group/fellow students are actively planning ahead for their futures? What is that experience like as a young person looking forward? What’s important, crucial, inspiring, stressful?

That is a very interesting question: I believe some are – and some aren’t. My previous employer asked a group of younger employees what they would describe their perfect career path to be. And the answer was as simple as it might have been surprising: We cannot outline our futures, simply because we wouldn’t want to.

The biggest restraint when looking towards future success is probably thinking you aren’t good enough. However, I believe a little courage goes a long way! I would encourage anyone at a stage in life where they have to make an important decision about their future path to focus on what they are really passionate about and what they would want to change if they were given the chance instead of just trying to fit into the position they were assigned to be in. I believe there no longer is an urge to secure a future in a very stable job that might pay well but lacks stimulation. After all, the very best ideas never came to anyone saying “But on page 5 of the manual, it said we should do it like this”, but to those asking themselves “But what if we do it differently this time around?” and I think that is the very spirit businesses need as of today.


We first met you at the Western Sydney University Paddl Games with EnergyAustralia in July 2019, where you won the Challenger of the Day Special Mention! That’s our biggest individual award at Paddl Games. Well done again! How would you describe the experience? Have you participated in anything similar before?

Thank you so much! I felt incredibly honoured and it sure was the perfect ending to such an exciting day. I have never participated in any sorts of innovation games before, so I was twice as excited walking into the auditorium that day.

I would describe the experience as thrilling and a little nerve-wrecking, but most of all fun and exciting: From design-thinking sprints, to heated discussions, science-fiction-like ideas and prototyping to pitching the results in front of a professional jury – the Paddl Games have it all. 


There were students from different disciplines on every team, and many people who you probably never knew before going in. Was it easy coming together and forming your solution?

It is safe to say I didn’t know anyone in my team that day, but we changed that as soon as possible. Coming from different backgrounds and having had different experiences, we were all at different stages in life and our careers, but instead of treating that as differences and disadvantages, it proved to be our greatest strength.

After getting over that initial shyness and insecurity, we patched ourselves up and held up a great team spirit. While a student with business experience was able to explore strategies in depth, another with an engineering background was able to execute a precise technical solution and a fellow student with a journalism background was able to create a creative, interesting storyline for our pitch.


We have a lot more Paddl Games challenges lined up for Western Sydney University, with our next taking place very soon in September. Westpac will be our Corporate Partners for this one. Will you be applying again, and what would you tell fellow WSU students considering applying?

I have already applied and look forward to challenging myself once again! To all fellow WSU students: Do yourself a favour and apply today. You have got nothing to lose and everything to gain!

I value the experience I had very much. I got to know some great professionals from local businesses and amazing fellow students and learned as much from everyone as I learned about myself.

If you are a Western Sydney University student and would like to apply for our next Western Paddl Games with Westpac on September 26th, click here

Paddl Co. takes pride in the positive experiences everyone walks away with from Paddl Games. If you’re looking to build your Experience Profile and expand your professional network through Paddl Games and many other great volunteer, internship, casual or full time opportunities, get started with your profile on paddl.com today! If you are a small business interested in participating, please reach out to caitlin@paddl.co for further information.