Some of our students kicked off the new year with the first IESE career trek in China. Chuanlong Li (Class of 2017) recounts his experience visiting companies in his home country and reveals what he found surprising.
Earlier this month, I joined a group of first and second year students on the first IESE China Trek visiting companies in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. This was a meaningful discovery trip, even for someone like me who has lived in China my whole life. I decided to go as I want to start my post MBA career in China, so I thought this would be a good chance to learn more about the business environment there and explore potential opportunities.
During this trip, we met with top business leaders from different industries who shared their market knowledge and insights on doing business in China. For example, Mr. Markus Kramer, President of Dispersion & Pigments Division of BASF, discussed some of the initial challenges he faced; Mr. Oliver Blum, CHRO from Schneider Electric, revealed how Schneider manages a successful global footprint. All the business leaders we met highlighted the differences of doing business in China in their specific industries and how to navigate this environment in order to be successful. During these conversations, I was surprised to find out there are many subtleties within China’s business landscape that I had not been aware of.
What was very educational was the career and life advice dispensed by the business leaders and alumni we met. Ms. Inma Diaz, managing director of Morgan Stanley HK, taught us two important personal mottos in her career: “be the best at any time” and “get it done”. Ms. Diaz also shared her personal experience of having a successful career in such a demanding work environment and enjoying a great family life at the same time. At lunch with Mr. Samuel Lee and Mr. Bernard Tsui from UBS, I learnt about how the wealth management business has been evolving, and also Mr Tsui’s philosophy about the difference between managing your career and managing your personal life. Additionally, speaking with the Human Resource teams helped me to understand the challenge of talent acquisition from their perspective. I believe this knowledge will allow me to better prepare myself to achieve my career goals.
After two packed days in Hong Kong, we travelled to Shenzhen to visit Chinese tech giants such as DJI, Huawei and Tencent. We had interesting discussions with these companies on how Chinese businesses have evolved and also managing the global expansion of a Chinese company. Overall, it was an enlightening experience for me.
Apart from the company visits, we also had the chance to enjoy the local food culture. While eating street food in Hong Kong, we organized an impromptu “chopstick contest” where we had to pick up peanuts with our chopsticks as quickly as possible. Matthew, a student from Australia was the eventual winner, even beating all the Chinese students. We also celebrated a classmate’s birthday at a hot pot restaurant in Shenzhen, where the birthday tradition is to eat “longevity noodles”. Jason, the birthday boy, had to finish an almost 2 meter long noodle in one bite which was quite a feat!
I learnt many new things about China on this trip, I guess I did not know my country as well as I thought. I’m glad I had the chance to be exposed to all these companies and to get fresh perspectives from the business leaders. Finally, I am grateful to the organizing team, the hosting companies and alumni for the great hospitality we received on this trip.