If I was asked at the start of 2016 how I thought I would be spending summer in 2017, I probably would have said hanging out at the beach and hopefully having a summer internship secured. I would not have believed that I would have spent January and February living and working in Shanghai, China. I am extremely grateful to the Business School for facilitating such an amazing opportunity.
Shanghai is a bustling metropolis that is strikingly Chinese, but has become a truly international city. The city is “a history book written in stones”. It has a distinctly Chinese culture but also has strong European influences that are ingrained in the city’s character. It is also a strong symbol of China’s rapid development, given the most famously developed district Lujazui, did not exist 30 years ago. This is the backdrop that I, and my fellow students, had to our professional experiences in China.
My placement was with Wicrecend, a large holding company based out of the Shanghai Tower in Pudong. I worked in the International Department of Gaotime, a financial information services company, and Wicresoft, an IT business process outsourcing company. My role was that of a Business Development Analyst. For Gaotime, I prepared daily bond market and IPO reports to update the entire staff of market developments around the world. For Wicresoft, I primarily developed recommendations on potential M&A targets and business partners, and developed reports on the company’s global business strategy that were presented directly to C-level management. My biggest learning from my placement was the attitude of trying to constantly improve and add value, regardless of your position in the workplace or the task you are completing. For example, although I was an ‘intern’, the bulk of my projects involved liaising with the Head of the International Department, and Wicresoft’s global CEO. The leadership style of my supervisor was extremely empowering. He considered himself a member of micro-teams rather than a “supervisor”, and through the attitude of co-creating value, I felt empowered and trusted to make bold decisions and work to a high standard. This enabled me to match his attitude of constant improvement, ultimately making me a more valuable professional in the workplace.
The Chinese business spirit of ‘guanxi’ was also evident through my placement. This term embodies the idea that as a collectivist society, networks are built on relationships and trust. To build this trust and establish a working relationship, I was very generously invited to company meetings, events and dinners, as well as being given Mandarin lessons. In return, myself and other interns from around the world had to perform a dance to the company at Gaotime’s annual dinner. This unique relationship emphasized to me the deep-seated trust that is fundamental to business in China, and something that a solely business-minded foreigner may overlook, and ultimately compromise the professional relationship as a result.
China is truly a very unique place to be, especially at a time where traditional global power structures appear to be shifting. To have experience somewhere as culturally unique as China at such an early stage in my career is invaluable, and I believe it has spurred my professional development, making me more ready to transfer from academia into the workforce.
From pitching targets to the company’s American business, writing strategy for the company’s Chairman, to eating cheap xiaolongbao, riding a bike along the Bund and fumbling through Mandarin, my experience in Shanghai has been extremely memorable.
By James Tsaousidis, current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Shanghai Business Immersion Program.