From Strategy to Startup: One Chinese Woman’s Journey
With corporate, international and startup experience, Michelle Wang turned down offers from leading strategy consulting companies to join Capvision, a fast-growing startup with only 60 employees at the time.
Raised in China, Michelle graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. Afterwards, she joined the Mahindra Group, an Indian multinational conglomerate with operations in more than 100 countries across the globe, to work on Sino-India strategy. She also co-founded the first Mandarin training institute in Mumbai, Inchin Closer. She returned to China to work at Capvision Partners, a knowledge-network service company in Shanghai, where she is the marketing director.
“The most valuable ‘asset’ I have had so far has been my international education and professional experience.” Michelle said. “Having interacted with people across the world has really helped me change the way I think. I realize how important it is to listen and to understand other people’s perspectives because the more I hear from others, the less I feel I know. The open mind and honest attitude I developed during my years abroad has benefited me greatly throughout my career journey so far.”
Michelle’s time in India founding Inchin Closer made her realize that she really enjoyed working at a start-up environment. “New ideas can be put into action very quickly,” Michelle said. “One of the perks of being in an emerging market is that there are a lot more opportunities for young professionals to take diverse as well as leadership roles, which is even more true at a growing start-up.”
During Michelle’s time at Capvision, she had the opportunity to establish and lead a team of 15, from scratch. “There has been tremendous personal learning and development for me from this experience,” Michelle said. “Capvision is a very young and collaborative environment. Most of my team members are fresh graduates or within two years out of college. My hiring philosophy is to value attitude and potential over experience,” Michelle said. “At such a fast-changing environment, the ability to learn and adapt quickly are the most important attributes that help our team and company succeed.”
Although most of Michelle’s Capvision employees are local Chinese, many leadership team members also have an overseas background. “It is a great blend of international and local culture,” Michelle said. “Although sometimes we face culture clashes, many great ideas come out of those the differences. People learn to welcome and value different perspectives over time.”
According to Michelle, a lot of industry information and knowledge in China has been held closely by certain individuals or groups. Capvision aims to bridge these information gaps and facilitate knowledge transfer between different groups. For Michelle, this value is the most motivating factor at work for her and many of her fellow co-workers.
But, her professional path has not been without its own set of challenges. Michelle said that looking back, she believes the key to overcome difficulties is really just to be creative and to keep trying.
“Have more confidence and be brave to experiment in new things.”
“People have been hearing many stories of successful career women in China today,” Michelle said. “I think there are a few sociological factors which have contributed to this phenomenon: China’s fast growth in the last few decades created large labor demand; the one-child policy which enabled families to provide sufficient resources for children to receive quality education and an unbiased hiring policy for professional women. If there is one thing that modern career women in China can do better to help themselves succeed, it is to have more confidence and be brave to experiment with new things.”