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Friday, March 25, 2016

MBA 2014 Rishi Dhawan on His Career Shift to the Auto Industry

~ Shanghai - Your gateway for a career leap

As a Marketing Strategist for Ford in Shanghai, Rishi Dhawan is responsible for aligning the global and regional strategies for advance technology features across Ford’s portfolio of vehicles in the Asia-Pacific market.  Before enrolling at CEIBS, Rishi worked in software engineering and techno-commercial roles on the supplier side of the automotive industry in India before making the career switch into the OEM side of the industry. We recently caught up with this CEIBS MBA2014 alumnus to hear about his career in China’s automotive industry. He shared with us his thoughts on the Indian professional community in Shanghai, driverless automation technology and the value of his CEIBS MBA.

Q. Was moving to Shanghai a smooth transition?

I am quite open to new cultures and challenges, and really like Chinese cuisine, which helps.  Apart from Indian desserts, I don't miss the local cuisine too much. There are aspects in the transition that can be frustrating, for example using some of the websites and apps that make life easier for the locals - my wife and I had to take a day off work to sit down and work out how to register on Taobao. But there is a strong international community that can help advise on life hacks that can make your life easier.

Q. What advice do you have for MBA career switchers looking to get into the automotive industry?

I am still fairly new to this part of the industry, but I would advise applicants to manage their expectations as the learning curve is quite steep. There are many moving parts in the industry, including teams all over the world, so to roll out a strategy requires a lot of effort to drive it forwards as well as a long lead time. MBAs certainly bring with them a fresh perspective, compared to those who have only worked in the automotive industry. This is drilled into us from an early stage in our studies when we are reviewing case studies and highlighting insights from other industries.

Q. What are the key words of wisdom or takeaways from CEIBS that have had the biggest impact on your business approach?

The soft skills and communication etiquette has had a big impact. These include structuring management presentations with a storyboard flow to quickly capture the audience’s attention, and writing crisp and concise emails between colleagues and clients. The CDC workshops on networking have been useful for harnessing the power of LinkedIn to expand my network in Shanghai, and also when building relationships face to face within the organisation.

Q. Was the career transition from tech to marketing strategy an easy one to achieve?

Yes and no. From my software engineering background in the automotive industry, I developed the mind set to approach tasks from a functional needs and implementation perspective, which in my current job helps me assess the practicality of the strategy and what challenges we might face. However strategy involves more than that and required me to develop a deeper understanding of the customer types/segment and to learn about the customer from a behavioural perspective, which I continue to do in my work everyday. The other transition I had to make was to be able to zoom out from a project, to see how and where a particular technology/ feature would fit into the overall portfolio of vehicles, while also considering specific customer segments.

Q. What was your CEIBS experience like as an international student?

There are many challenges that you face when moving to a new country, but it certainly helped in China to get up to speed as quickly as possible on the culture and Chinese mind-set. This also helped to lay the foundations for the consumer research I do in my current role. The 18 month programme at CEIBS goes by very quickly, so in order to gain fast track access to the accumulated knowledge of senior Indian professionals working in Shanghai, during my time at CEIBS I also arranged a networking platform, inviting CEOs and senior executives to share their views and advice. Mandarin is not my mother tongue, so I felt like I had to go the extra mile to build my network in Shanghai, but ultimately it paid off. One of the highlights of CEIBS for me was the level of exposure we had to senior business leaders in China. Due to Shanghai’s strategic location within Asia, most MNCs have a presence here and intend to grow. To be able to network with these representatives at CDC workshops, alumni events, and guest lectures played a huge role in shaping my career development.

Q. Looking ahead, which developments in the automotive industry excite you the most?

Personally, I see autonomous cars on the cards in the next 10 years. Even if they are not completely driverless, certainly we will see automobiles with lots of autonomous features. The Internet is also very relevant to my current job, knowing that a car is connected to the wider world will certainly have an impact on consumption. For example insurance companies will be able to receive feedback on your driving behaviour, and fleet companies will know how and where their cars are being driven.

For more information on career opportunities for MBAs in China’s automotive industry, please see the recent industry spotlight report prepared by the CEIBS MBA Career Development Centre and highlights of CEIBS 13th China Automotive Industry Forum 2015.  To find out where other CEIBS MBA alumni are now, including Rishi’s colleague at Ford please see our Alumni stories

To learn more about how a CEIBS MBA can help transform your career, download the CEIBS MBA brochure or email Admissions and Marketing Assistant Director Steven Ji jsteven@ceibs.edu