On December 8, we held a seminar moderated by BX Alumnus Joushua Cho at the Yenching Academy of Peking University on career choices, development, challenges and strategies as BXAI’s first Alumni Association kick-off event. Ms. Ronna Chao, CEO of BXAI; Ms. Laya Liu, Senior Marketing Manager at Microsoft; and Ms. Linh Nguyen, BX Alumnae and consultant at New Oriental Technology and Education Group, each shared valuable lessons and insights about their career paths and real-life struggles, and offered advice on job interviews, career development, as well as overcoming obstacles.

Reflecting on how she left a career in finance to follow her passion for fashion and apparel, Ronna encouraged the young people in the audience to pursue their dreams. “At that stage in your life, you actually have the luxury of ‘not having a lot of responsibilities’. That’s the time when you should take risks and follow your heart,” she said. She went on to share openly about her job interview experiences and advised students to see every job interview as a training opportunity and not be afraid to fail. “A fear of failure can become an obstacle in your path,” she said. “Have a contingency plan in place and give yourself a margin of error, understanding that even in failure, you actually learn a lot about yourself in the process. Failure builds resilience – a very important skill that I often look for in the people that I hire.”

Asked by a student as to how her academic background in international relations influenced her career path, Ronna responded, “My degree wasn’t directly relevant to my career, but the interdisciplinary learning, the broad spectrum of subjects and topics that you are exposed to, I think that trains your brain to be able to see things from different perspectives. And ultimately, that’s much more important in your life than being trained in very specific skills.” She went further on the subject and urged students to look for ways to enrich their study experience so as to equip themselves for their future career. “It shows that while you were pursuing your degree, you were not limited to the world of academia, but were also proactive in gaining real-life experiences and applying what you learned to situations in the real world.”

For Laya, her background in journalism taught her the importance of asking questions and instilled in her a host of practical life skills. She later decided to shift from a career in journalism to one in the technology industry, even though she had no experience in the field. The switch forced her to learn everything from scratch and to adapt to the fast-changing nature of the technology industry. “No matter how old you are, or what kind of background you have, you must always be prepared to learn new things and adapt to change,” she advised.

Linh shared openly about the challenges she faced as a foreign worker in Beijing and recalled her struggle to find the “ideal job” when she was a student at the Yenching Academy. Looking back, she appreciates the networking events and career seminars she attended, which allowed her to interact with professionals and connect with various companies. The opportunity to work abroad in different countries also enabled her to learn from and adapt to different workplace cultures. “I’ve learned to be more patient,” said Linh. “Even if your current position is not ideal, it pays to stay a year or two to learn more,” she said.

Responding to Linh’s sharing, Ronna added, “No matter what job it is, no matter what situation you are in, there will always be something you can learn. There will always be challenges that will provide good training. And then you have to be patient.” She also advised students to take advantage and be proud of their skills. “All of you should think about what company would find your skills valuable,” she said. “Do not ever look down on or doubt what you’re studying or what your skills are because there’s always someone who will find those skills valuable.” Laya encouraged students to explore each job thoroughly, saying, “If you look at a job, don’t just look at one side of it. Look at it from different angles. You may discover the beauty of the job from a certain angle and realize valuable aspects that you may not have considered before.”

The interactive session concluded with a wealth of positive feedback from our scholars and alumni. Joushua Cho, BX Alumnus studying at Tsinghua University and moderator at this seminar, was impressed by the practicality of the seminar and was especially inspired by Ronna’s advice to “find a place that values your skills”, which encouraged him to adopt a more flexible, step-by-step approach to his job search. For Hideo Natsume, another BX Alumnus from Tsinghua University, one of his biggest takeaways was the importance of being proactive while staying patient. “I like the idea of seeing interviews as training opportunities,” he said. “I also need to learn to be patient so that I can learn more from each place instead of jumping around all the time.”

We would like to extend a big thank you to our speakers for taking time out of their busy schedules to share openly about their experiences and insights with us. We hope all our participants learned something new and enjoyed the opportunity to connect and interact with fellow members of the BX community. Until next time!