Colin Speakman, our Director of China Programs, found himself searching for yet another SOHO building in a China megacity recently. To say "I'll meet you in the SOHO building in Shanghai is almost like saying, "I'll meet you in Starbucks Shanghai". There are over 50 of those cafés, including multiple ones by same metro station, so precision is needed. SOHO is a leading developer of high end office complexes with useful western facilities all over China's big cities. We turn it over to Colin...
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Going for the first time to meet Zhu Min (Jasmine), the marketing director at a long term connection of CAPA in China, the Vandergeeten (VDG) company (a major importer and distributor of Belgium fine chocolates and premium beers in Beijing and Shanghai), the best way is armed with the address written down in Mandarin, street numbers and a good taxi driver.
VDG in Beijing is housed in a smart Sanlitun SOHO building which became a familiar sight and VDG in Shanghai is in the SOHO building on West Zhongshan Road - equally impressive. The entrance lobby boasts one of those Starbucks, where I pick up a necessary caffeine fix before my appointment, and a Chinese brand cafe that became the lunch venue for Jasmine and myself. Office workers in China appreciate on-site cafés since lunch hours are often short, perhaps eating "al-desko", and ready-boxed salads are a good solution. We had smoked salmon salad, though we did enjoy waitress service!
COLIN SPEAKMAN: Nice to meet you Jasmine. I knew your colleague, Ann-Sophie in the Xitang Road office.
JASMINE ZHU: Yes, Ann-Sophie moved on and we merged everything on site here with two offices on 7th floor.
CS: Shanghai attracts so many workers from other parts of China. How about you?
JZ: That is true, but I am a real Shanghai local. However, I did leave Shanghai and China for a while.
CS: Where did you go?
JZ: In my last year of college, I was able to transfer to study in Australia, initially in Adelaide. That was followed by an included internship. After that, I was able to stay and work in Australia, on the Gold Coast.
CS: So what brought you back here?
JZ: Shanghai - along with marriage and starting a family. My parents help here so both my husband and I can go out to work.
CS: How do you feel about Shanghai as a place for foreign students to intern?
JZ: Shanghai is the best place in China to do an internship. Several of our past interns, who returned to the west to complete their degrees, have come back to Shanghai to work after graduation. There is something about this city that draws people back. I think it is the excitement of living and working here in Shanghai.
CS: And how about those who do an internship at VDG?
JZ: Doing an internship in our marketing department certainly is part of that excitement. Our staff go to see our customers in their own businesses in many areas of Shanghai. We help host lots of events for corporate clients in international hotels and other conference facilities. You never know who you will meet!
CS: What are you looking for in an ideal intern?
JZ: We are very clear what we expect of our interns. Apart from a marketing background, we need professionalism. They are a face of our company when they go out to events. We need confident people who have determination and flexibility. Shanghai is a 24 hour city and this is not a 9 to 5 role, but a great one for engaging with Shanghai.
CS: Shanghai is ranked as mainland China's most expensive city. Do you notice that when living here?
JZ: Locals starting out after graduation do struggle with starting salaries relative to living costs, but students living on university campuses have a great opportunity to live economically in the city. Our previous interns have managed it well.
CS: The Zhongshan Road is such a major one in Shanghai, starting right along The Bund at the South part. Yet it also reaches Zhongshan Park out in the West.
JZ: The Zhongshan Road is a long one, but I see that it is quite near CAPA's Shanghai campus. I live on the North Zhongshan Road a bit beyond ECNU and VDG are in this big SOHO building on West Zhongshan Road. That's less than 15 minutes by 224 bus.
CS: I think CAPA interns will have an exciting time here. Thank you for meeting with me.
JZ: It is my pleasure, and thank you for lunch. We are looking forward to welcoming new CAPA marketing interns soon!
Thanks Colin and Jasmine!