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Saturday, November 23, 2019

CEIBS Alumni Talk Thriving in Chinese Companies at Special CDC Event

November 23, 2019, Shanghai – The CEIBS Career Development Center (CDC) today hosted a special panel at our Shanghai campus on the theme of Thriving in Chinese Companies. At the event, seven CEIBS alumni shared their experiences and insights about working for local Chinese businesses.

During the discussion, Diego Garcia Fernandez (MBA 2017), a Spanish alumni with pre-MBA experience at Procter & Gamble, joked that the working pace at FMCG companies was not fast enough. As a result, he said, he chose to pursue an MBA at CEIBS in hope of finding a position at a Chinese enterprise – a decision which ultimately led him to a position at Alibaba’s Ant Financial. After working in the Chinese world, Diego said he feels that as a foreigner, you must be humble and have your own specialty and should not pretend to know when you don’t or be afraid of admitting your own shortcomings. He also emphasised the need to take initiative and get out of your comfort zone.

Ritwik Ghosh (MBA 2011) is a VP at CDH Investment, one of China’s oldest and biggest investment funds. His advice on working in China was to be ready for the unexpected. Being a foreigner, he told the audience, you should adjust your mentality and proactively adapt to Chinese culture, while being humble and flexible enough to deal with various situations at work.

Before joining CEIBS, Eddie Huang (MBA 1999) worked at Exxon Mobil, where he enjoyed many good prospects. But after graduating from CEIBS, he decided to enter the consulting industry. At the event, he said that his advice is to think proactively by thinking ahead of your boss, to make more friends than enemies, and to always develop teams and share resources.

With 16 years of experience in the new energy industry, Jin Li (GEMBA 2015) is now a VP responsible for marketing and human resources at GCL System Integration Technology. “No matter how strong your past experience is, you will face the challenge of winning respect in a new organisation,” she said. “At a Chinese company, flexibility is important, and it is crucial to adapt to different positions.”

Until four months ago, Julie Wong (GEMBA 2011) was working at an MNC. As a senior human resources executive, she reminded everyone not to fall into the “unconscious bias trap” of simply categorising companies into MNCs or local Chinese companies, as each company has its own unique character. She added that she chose to join her current employer D&J China because of the founder’s dedication to work and respect for talent. Her first interview with the CEO was conducted in a tea house at 11PM during the Chinese New Year holiday. Such dedication to seeking new talent deeply moved her. In addition, Julie confessed to the audience that she sometimes felt lonely in her previous job at a foreign real estate consulting company, where she was one of the few Chinese women in a male-dominated top management team. Moving from a large company with 20,000 employees to a local private enterprise with only 500 employees was challenging, but she said she believes her experience has been quite fulfilling so far. She also urged foreign students to master Mandarin if they want to earn a place at a local Chinese company.

Susan Wu (MBA 2016) once worked for Morgan Stanley, an international investment bank.  After graduating from CEIBS, she joined Huaxiang Group, one of the largest automotive interior and exterior parts suppliers in China. As an assistant to the president of the company, she provides support in industrial investment, cross-border M&As, and improving corporate management. She is the youngest member of the management team, while most of her colleagues are senior employees with 10-20 years of experience at the company. During the sharing session, she leveraged her own advantages to complement the rest of the team by contributing vitality and a fresh perspective, as well as a team ethos. She advised students to “keep the big picture in mind, while starting with small concrete steps and a hands-on attitude.”

After the sharing session, Jin Li led a fascinating panel discussion where the topic of career development opportunities for women in Chinese companies arose. The speakers agreed that China’s business environment is relatively fairer for women. After all, some of them commented, in organisations with clear KPIs, gender equality is easier to achieve. Julie also advised the students to come up with their own definition of success. At the same time, she noted that family support and making one’s own voice heard were important for a women in their careers.

Another popular topic during the panel centred on what foreign talent could do to secure better development at Chinese companies. Diego said Mandarin skills were essential for understanding the language and culture and so personal relationships could flourish, and that to operate at an executive level, you must truly understand the long-term strategy of the company – something which is impossible without fluency in Chinese. To this, Ritwik also added that owners of Chinese private companies usually are not English speakers.

CEIBS Vice President and Dean Ding Yuan also shared his views during the event, saying he had observed a subtle change in employer recruitment policies. He said CEIBS has long been well known for incubating talent for MNCs, but when more and more outstanding alumni like Eddie Huang started joining local Chinese companies, he realised CEIBS should change its emphasis accordingly. The Career Development Centre (CDC) has been part of this repositioning since 2016. In addition, Prof. Ding presented a vivid analogy – specifically, that joining an MNC is like a bond investment, it has low risk yields and stable returns; while choosing a local private enterprise is more like an equity investment, with both higher risks and returns.

Finally, he discussed his own experience of choosing to leave HEC Paris, a reputable French business school, to join CEIBS, which was at the time a very young business school just inside the top 100 of the Financial Times’ global rankings. He chose CEIBS, he said, as he believed he could become a key figure at a future-oriented business school. “Join the right company at the right time!” he concluded.

Jenny Wei
Cameron Wilson and Michael Thede
Shuailong Wang