On June 13th, 2016 Project Pengyou, returned to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies – China (SAIS – China) bringing together Project Pengyou Chapter leaders, students, and professionals in Washington D.C. for a speaker panel to give advice on building a US-China Career.
Holly Chang, President of the Golden Bridges Foundation, and Executive Director of the Committee of 100 (C-100), along with Mei Yan, the Vice-Chair of the Golden Bridges Foundation, introduced the event as its moderators, speaking of the need for more young leaders in the US and China to participate in professional exchange and understand each other.
The speakers spanned a range of experiences and sectors relating to US-China relations from media to public relations to finance. All three were relatively young, accomplished and in possession of practical and timely advice for the audience about getting started in an international company, as well as a few of the ups and downs presented in the field. Panelist Gabriel Morris, who worked for 8 years at the Chinese state-owned enterprise, CITIC, started the discussion by addressing different types of challenges that come with working in a foreign country or company. He mentioned that the biggest and perhaps the most obvious hurdle is cultural communication barriers not limited strictly to a knowledge (or lack thereof) of Mandarin. Panelist Serena Lin, who was part of the founding team for CCTV America in Washington DC, addressed the challenges in the cultural environment, stating that she is in a very multi-national work environment (99% of her colleagues are not Chinese), and she often leverages her Chinese background and American education to be a bridge builder. The skills that panelist Travis Thompson said served him best during his time in China were flexibility and resilience. As a history major who traveled to China for the first time in 2010, he remembers China during it’s ascendance to world leadership and before the reign of wechat and e-commerce. He marveled at having been witness to China’s search for a modern identity and how it’s given depth to his experiences there.
When searching for jobs, the moderators and panelists all agreed that reaching out through your networks: personal, alumni, and even linkedin, all are the most effective ways to search for jobs in the US-China field. It takes patience, bravery and persistence and you might not know exactly what to pursue at first, but things will become clearer if you make friends, keep learning, and trust your instincts. Mei Yan advised the audience to “make a friend first; that is the start of everything. You are all in Project Pengyou, in the business of making friends. If you can really make people trust you and bring you into their circle, things will go a lot more smoothly.”
After a day of Chapter building strategies and learning a bit more about the complicated history of Chinese in America and implications it has today, hearing from the panelists was a great way to end the weekend. Project Pengyou Leadership Fellow and Chapter Leader at the University of Maryland, Emily Oursler who just graduated this May said that “this was just what I needed to hear”. We hope Pengyous who are beginning to look for jobs in the US-China space, or even those who are already in it will benefit from the advice.
We would like to extend thanks for all the hard work and support of our co-organizers, our staff at Golden Bridges, and all of the Project Pengyou Chapter leaders and guests who made this event so insightful and special. Special thanks all of our panelists, and shout-out to Gabriel, who flew to Washington DC for Beijing just to join us for this event!