Executive Dialogue with BiMBA

March 9, 2011, Beijing International MBA (BiMBA) at Peking University held a dialogue between five executives of World Top 500 Companies and BiMBA students, aiming to understand students’ expectations and thoughts on their career development, thus printing the picture of future Chinese leadership from young business professionals. Our guests are Vice President and Global Engineer of Wipro Jan Nilsson, Senior Vice President Energy Management Solutions of Schneider Jacques Letzelter, Zone Managing Director of Western Europe of L'Oreal Martin Smith, Sr. VP-Global Drug Products Americas of Eli Lilly Maria Crowe, and General Manager Commercial of Rio Tinto Paul Shannon. 

After the opening address given by the host, the five executives were informed with the brief history and present situation of BiMBA, which followed by a short self-introduction of the guests and BiMBA students to promote mutual understanding of the past professional experience. Subsequently, Martin on behalf of the five executives described the purposes of their trip. He told us, as China has emerged as a vital source of growth when choosing commercial strategies, therefore, executives need to figure out how the product, labor, and capital markets work—and don't work—in China. They would like to put themselves in touch with Chinese promising elites to help them understand the differences between home markets and market in China. In addition, Chinese social and political milieu—as well as the manner in which it has opened up to the outside world—shapes those markets, and companies must consider those factors to be better compatible with and explore the market of China. As for BiMBA students it was a great chance to interact with those “commercial giants," obtaining precious information on the management and development of certain multinational companies and whether they themselves were suitable to be part of the programme. 

The five Top 500 Companies intend to be able to develop a more rational policy, to better attract the Chinese elites in the progress of localization, to enhance state-holder management so that branches in China could further enlarge and strengthen. Five executives encouraged BiMBA students to enter their companies and ensured that cultural differences are not insurmountable factors to be promoted to a high position. They think highly of potential Chinese market, and attached great importance to the sustainable development in China. Jacques indicated that relative increase of China's labor costs will not hinder China’s competence as one of the vital emerging developing countries. The development strategy in China will remain stable for the coming decade. 

BiMBA students are actively involved in the interaction with the five executives – they showed their concern on the recent development plan of the five multinational companies and asked for suggestions on how to get start and proceed with their career path and achieve professional success; they were curious about the pros and cons of starting their career from a state-owned enterprise, a foreign enterprises and starting their own business right after their graduation. Jacques proposed "Be your own HR", no matter what you do be sure to produce something valuable, or put it in another way always have some output instead of frequent job-hopping in short term which is very unfavorable for career development. Paul pointed out that the enterprises are quite concerned about the "functional expertise" of an employee, but this is only the nuclear, cross-experience is essential as you climb the ladder of your career. For students who have determined to start his or her own business, Martin's experience attracted the attention of everyone. His personal experience was fairly different from the other four executives in the sense that he had begun by running a small retail store, but through the constant pursuit of entrepreneurship, he learned a valuable lesson from it and achieved his success. As he put it, “determination makes a difference”, try to show your ambition even when you are not blessed with a high starting point. Paul added that good staff is not only smart and constantly adapt to changing environment, but to be able to reach his or her idea via a progressive method, especially when there is a gap between one and his team members. 

When the dialog entered to the end, the five executives on the basis of the interaction summarized the dialogue and offered their take-home messages for the BiMBA students: Maria wished BiMBA student could know their strength and weakness through constant and continuous self-improvement; Jan encouraged the students to find something they love to do and enjoy their lives; Jacques pointed out the importance of team spirit and believed once you treat others well they would pay you back and play a constructive role in your team; Martin emphasized the significance of EQ compared with IQ, and that "Ambition, Determination, Confidence" will serve as an inexhaustible power pushing us forward; Paul thanked representatives and students of BiMBA and expressed his most sincere wishes to BiMBA. 

After the dialogue, BiMBA students and executives took their group photos, and continued to exchange ideas on how to build a concrete and successful career path. The students said the dialogue with five executives of Top 500 Companies of the World were really thought-provoking. To create a diverse and multinational network and to facilitate communications among graduates and the commercial elites is the common wish of BiMBA and the students.