Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Insights from the 2015 Beijing Career Trek

Last week during HNC's spring break, HNC Career Counselor Robbie Shields led a group of students to Beijing to visit employers in a variety of fields. Read on for his update of the career trek, as well as insights provided by HNC alumni. For more information on the career services offered at the HNC, click here.

HNC students visit Baidu
During spring break, 20 HNC students joined me on the annual Beijing Career Trek. The Beijing Career Trek is one of many career-focused trips that SAIS offers to get students into the workplace to hear insights from practitioners with various organizations. While each organization and team member offered differing perspectives, one thing they all agreed on is the value that HNC graduates bring to achieving their organizational mission.

The first meeting of the trek was with the China Representative of the Ford Foundation, Ms. Elizabeth Knup. Ms. Knup’s career in China has spanned three different decades in multiple sectors, working at Kamsky Associates, Pearson Publishing, and as the American Co-Director at the HNC. She shared many thoughts about Ford’s role in China and about things students should be thinking about when navigating their career path. One of the most memorable stories she offered was her reflections on being the Co-Director during the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999. While tensions were initially very high, the HNC students came together and worked through differences to change the mood from “you and us” to a shared community of understanding. It is precisely this form of understanding, Ms. Knup noted, that is essential to working to find solutions to the challenges that face Sino-US engagements in business, government, and non-profit endeavors.

Day two began with a trip to visit HNC alumna Saga McFarland (’14) and the team at APCO Worldwide. APCO is a consulting firm whose unique service helps numerous client organizations communicate their message to stakeholders and conduct business globally. APCO has three pillars in their Beijing office: government relations, corporate communications, and business advisory. Saga noted that one of the things she valued in working at APCO was that at an entry level position you’re given significant responsibility and work very closely with your supervisor on executing projects. Whereas some organizations will only give you minimal responsibility as a new hire, APCO trusts all of its staff to do client quality work from the outset.

After leaving APCO we trekked out to Haidian where we visited Huawei’s Beijing headquarters. Walking into Huawei’s facility was like taking a glimpse into the future. Among the many technological innovations introduced to us was a television that allowed you to freeze the image and highlight the fashion apparel worn by the people on the screen. Once highlighted, it would show you the name of the company that manufactured the item and how much the retail cost was on various providers, such as and Amazon (who was also a stop on the trek).

On Wednesday night, we were hosted by many Beijing-based alumni at 101 Coffee at the SOHO complex near Guomao. We were particularly lucky to be here as 101 is partially owned by an HNC alumnus, Mr. Leon Fan (HNC ’02). In total, nearly 60 alumni came to share their experiences with students and welcome them to Beijing. We had alumni from as far back as 1988 and as recent as 2014.

Our last day featured a visit with Beijing legend Kaiser Kuo, the Director of International Communications for Baidu, co-host of the popular China affairs podcast ‘Sinica’ and former singer of the rock band Tang Dynasty. While not an alumnus of the HNC, Mr. Kuo is very familiar with HNC graduates, having worked with many of our alumni in previous endeavors. When asked to give career advice to students, Kaiser stressed that the Chinese-US relationship is the most important relationship in the world and that this relationship needs people that can serve as bridges. As students at the HNC, you are positioned to serve as a bridge and help foster mutual understanding in various capacities between these two nations.

If you are an incoming HNC student, you’ll learn more about the treks when you arrive on campus. These and many other career initiatives are part of the unique experiences that our students enjoy as a part of such a distinguished institution with (nearly) 30 years of history in China.