Post by Jess Rush, Global Business Center Assistant Director of MBA Global Programs
Twenty three million. It’s hard to fathom the reality of that number. It is almost the population of the state of Texas. It is the population of the CITY of Shanghai, China. Nearly twenty five hundred square miles. It is both the area of the state of Delaware and the city of Shanghai. It’s daunting to think that this is just one city (and it’s not the biggest) in a country that is on the fast track to overtaking the US as the world’s biggest economy. Some studies indicate that we are less than twenty years from that happening. For the past twenty years, Shanghai has been growing, no, exploding. (Check out the photos here for some visual context: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/shanghai-can-the-fastest-growing-city-in-the-world-keep-it-up/257021/)
It is in Shanghai that the 2013 MBA Study Tour to China took off for a two week exploration of the culture and business of China. Shanghai provides a wonderful introduction to China. It eases one in with fairly clear skies and clean, safe streets. While it’s not as challenging as other cities, don’t be fooled. It’s still a real challenge to take a taxi to the Bund without it written in Mandarin. Just ask a few of us who tried!
While in Shanghai, the Study Tour visited a variety of companies including AGCO, Siemens Healthcare, SKF, Trina Solar and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. Two particularly interesting meetings were with an ex-pat, “C-level” recruiter who left Pittsburg for Shanghai when the US economy took its downturn and with a UW alumnus who created a tech start up and is developing new social networking applications for an increasingly connected Chinese youth. The MBA students, faculty and staff were treated to a wide array of industries and approaches to doing business both in China and around the globe. We were also treated to a typical Chinese lunch meeting. Over plates and plates of delicious food and steaming cups of tea, we talked hiring tendencies, the importance of human resources in multinational companies and creating community while living abroad.
Part of my experience in Shanghai also included a visit to one of our exchange partner schools-the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF). While it also involved being treated to an amazing lunch spread, it was more importantly and opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn more about each other’s programs. SAIF is a relatively new program in a beautiful new building and in a fantastic part of the city near Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Students interested in studying finance could really benefit from spending a term there.
I expected Shanghai to be an interesting learning experience. I did not expect to be so charmed by the city. From exploring Tianzifang and Xitiandi in the French Concession to an adventure under the river to Pudong and up the Oriental Pearl Tower to see the night lights, the city gripped me. Making our classroom the boardrooms, restaurants, streets and taxis of Shanghai expanded the minds and perspectives of students and faculty/staff alike. There is no experience that can substitute for taking one’s learning global, especially given the future of the world’s economy. In our lifetime, the US will be sharing the stage more and more. Our best prepared leaders will be able to sit at that lunch meeting and make deals while serving themselves with chopsticks.
Guest post by Tim Anderson, Foster School and Certificate of International Studies in Business alumnus
After graduating with degrees in business administration and Japanese linguistics as well as completing Certificate of International Studies in Business’s (CISB) Japan track program, I honestly didn’t think I’d end up living in Shanghai, China for the past nine years. However, ending my undergraduate studies on the eve of a burgeoning recession in the U.S., and a full-blown recession in Japan, it seemed like the path I’d set myself up for wasn’t so clear cut anymore.
At first, I was considerably lucky and managed get a nice job working in the marketing department at an international PR firm located downtown by the Pike Place Market. The experience was great and taught me a lot, but as good as it was, it still wasn’t what CISB and the Foster School of Business trained me to do: be a truly international entrepreneur.
About a year into that first real job, I was given an opportunity to help start up a language school in the city of Shanghai. Admittedly I was nervous about taking the offer because although I had spent time in Japan and a couple other parts around Asia as a student, I had no idea what to expect of China. In the end though, my love of Asia proved to be overwhelming so I packed my bags for a new life in a new place with a new language to learn.
The people I’ve met and business challenges I’ve overcome in the past nine years has made my decision to live here well worth it. Since moving here, I’ve found my place amongst the locals as well as the expat community, and have really been able to put my business studies to work. I’m currently managing the marketing operations for an international clothing brand that is trying to break into the China mainland market. The business environment in China is fast-paced and filled with unforeseeable challenges, yet extremely rewarding if know how to play your cards right.
I can’t thank CISB and the Foster School of Business enough for preparing me for the wild journey my life has taken this past decade. I hope many future graduates will be inspired to challenge their comfort zone and follow the path less traveled as I and other alumni have done. In the end, it’s especially gratifying to know I am part of a community of CISB and Foster graduates who are also experiencing what I am experiencing, connected by a common bond.
Case competitions are an incredible skill builder for undergraduate business students – they require students to work as consultants on a real company and business challenges, they are given limited resources and time to create a solution, and then they are asked to present these solutions to a panel of corporate judges. Now, imagine doing this in a second language. This Fall, three Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students studying Mandarin as a second or third language competed in the Chinese Track of the BYU Business Language Case Competition.
Kanghee Jeon, Alex Birch, and Ben Chow spent two weeks studying a case written in Chinese on Pepsi Company and preparing their presentation and executive summary all in Chinese. The team considered three countries in which Pepsi Company might expand. After assessing various economic factors, their solution was to enter the Chinese market. Their plan was to “penetrate not only beverages but also the food market which could be Pepsi’s competitive advantage over Coca Cola Company,” said Kanghee.
The team competed in three rounds at Brigham Young University, and they received outstanding feedback from the judges about the depth of their analysis and solution. Judges commented that they “loved how the presentation started with recommendations instead of analysis,” and that the students had a “great understanding of Chinese culture and financial environment” as well as “great leverage on business terms.”
One of the UW student competitors, Kanghee Jeon, said “I was very excited to do the case competition in a second language (or third for me). Even though I was worried about my Chinese language skills, while preparing for the competition, I learned lots of new vocabulary and phrases. I am a lot more confident in speaking in Chinese after the competition. Additionally, it was a great opportunity for me to meet judges and other students from different schools.”
Kanghee would highly recommend participating in a business language competition to other students: “This is such a unique experience … You will get to build your teamwork, problem solving, time management, leadership, and language skills. It was challenging, but very rewarding!”
Since Jack Ma first launched the business in his apartment in 1999, Alibaba has transformed into one of China’s largest internet companies and Ma has become known as China’s Steve Jobs. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is excited to be hosting the Seattle premiere of Crocodile in the Yangtze a film about his life and start-up adventures, as part of the annual UW EntreWeek. The film presents a strikingly candid portrait of Ma and his company, told from the point of view of Porter Erisman, an “American fly on a Chinese wall” who witnessed Alibaba’s successes and mistakes along the way. This insider story captures the emotional ups and downs of life in an online start-up, including Ma’s battle with eBay, when the Internet was bringing China face-to-face with the West.
Don’t miss this film, which recently sold out its San Francisco Premiere and was awarded “Best Documentary” by the United Film Festival jury. With Erisman in attendance as CIE’s special guest, this Seattle premiere will include a lively Q&A session, so attendees can learn even more about his eight fascinating years working with Ma.