Written by Paola Blanco, Nanor Asadorian, Ralph Boyajian, Conor Farese, and Dean Guo
Only a week in, and the hustle and bustle of Shanghai is slowly seeping into our lives. We wake up at 8am every morning, and our team breaks into a myriad of mobility tools to get to work. Conor and Paola on the MoBikes – a local bikeshare service. Dean, Ralph, and Nanor grab a Didi – the local equivalent to Uber. We head into the coworking space where our company, Seedlink, is based. Grab coffees, crack open our computers, and turn on the VPNs (even in China, we are never far from gmail). And we get to work.
Seedlink, our client, is a Human Resources Tech company based here in Shanghai, with offices in Amsterdam as well. They build an artificial intelligence tool that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the science of human behavior. In a nutshell, they can use their tool to predict how well incoming job candidates will perform when compared to the talent a company already has in their organization. They have a strong foothold in China and Europe, and are working with IBD to establish their approach to the U.S. market. We have our hands full, to say the least. Our seven weeks in the U.S. prior to travel was jam-packed with interviews and insights, while our time here in China has been primarily about turning those insights into clear suggestions and tactics that the Seedlink team can use immediately.
Professionally, this has been a tremendous opportunity for all of us. In our push to build a business strategy, we’ve incorporated bit and pieces from almost every class from our core this year. Marketing lessons have influenced how we think about Seedlink’s value proposition and branding. Strategy frameworks have encouraged us to consider the incumbent response to Seedlink’s entrance. From Problem-Finding Problem-Solving, our Haas design course, we borrowed the Business Model Canvas and the insight session tactics. And of course, we lean on our diverse backgrounds to bring it all together: between the five of us, we cover Operations, Finance, Consulting, Tech and Design. Almost perfectly, our project with Seedlink has called on us to weave the lessons from these courses and experiences together into a carefully crafted plan for our client.
But so much of this experience has also existed beyond the workplace. Our first week here was a huge learning opportunity for all of us. We struggled through the four tones of Mandarin, thankful to our teammate Dean who patiently instructs us (still) each time we stumble. We’ve tried countless food options: Dumpling (x3), Hunan, Yunnan, Hot Pot (x2), Xinjiang, Japanese, Korean… the list goes on and our bellies are full.
The weekends have included a trip to Guilin to see the fabled mountains and Hangzhou for the storied West Lake.
Even today, we’re just back from a weekend on the beautiful Jeju island, one of Korea’s most famous spots. We stuffed ourselves full of Korean BBQ, took a trip through a 7km underground lava tube, climbed the side of the volcano, and hit the town at night to see K-Pop in action.
Shanghai, in other words, has served us well: we are working in an urban hotspot, and are eager to take advantage of the proximity to beautiful places and of the melting pot of ideas, cuisines, and cultures that happens here.
It should go without saying that this upcoming last week will pass by all-too-quickly. We much more learning in store, and are preparing our final pitch to our client encapsulating the output of 10 weeks of research and energy. And beyond that, we are focused on spending time with each other, and with the other IBD teams in our Shang-Haas family. We know this time is precious, and that this rare moment in our lives – when we can live and learn abroad with dynamic clients and colleagues – will come to an end before we know it.