How Two Women in Shanghai Got Started in Their Careers
Shanghai, China, is the most populated city in the world.
A booming port city situated on the Yangtze River, it is a rich economic, financial, and cultural hub of more than 24 million people.
We caught up with two of Shanghai’s professional working women: Anna Liu, Director of Product Marketing at Polymer Group Inc. (PGI) — a multinational company that engineers non-woven fabrics and products for hygiene, medical, wiping and industrial applications — and Coral Zhang, Research Manager at Jigsaw, a Chinese consumer insights company.
Both Coral and Anna were uncertain about what they wanted to do when they graduated from university, but they followed their interests and today work in jobs that they enjoy.
Even though Anna studied literature for her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she was always interested in business. So, she started working part-time as a market researcher during college for a small Danish consulting company. Eventually, this led into a full-time job as a project manager working on plans for foreign companies to enter China.
After three years, she joined 3M in product marketing. She spent seven years there gaining invaluable experience and leading a team before joining PGI for a job she knew she could make an impact in and be challenged doing.
“Your biggest obstacle is yourself,” Anna said. She described that her biggest professional obstacle was learning how to operate within the workplace politics. “I overcame it by paying more attention to how senior leaders’ deal with critical issues and learnt from them. I also got help by reading Chinese history.”
After Coral graduated university with both a Bachelors and Master of Arts, she was unsure about what she wanted and kept changing her mind about a career path to pursue. “I wasted a lot of time,” Coral said. “Now I realize that whatever you do, you need to do it with patience and to accumulate experience to master a skill.”
Today, she takes pride in impressing her clients and winning their appreciation for work from idea conception to execution.
Her greatest professional challenges have been learning to overcome her shy personality and being proactive, and even outgoing, as necessary.
Anna & Coral’s Advice
ANNA: “Most of my friends work. Business women in China seem like a candle burning at both ends. You need to work as hard as a man, and at the same time, sacrifice leisure time to take care of family.”
Anna encourages aspiring professional women in China to not only focus on their own responsibilities, “but to chase any chance to learn from your team, and other teams such as technical, operations, supply chain, etc. The more you know, the stronger you are in your own field!”
CORAL: “There are so many different kinds of working women in China today especially in Shanghai. Some women seem to put more effort into finding a rich husband rather than into their work. But others are very career-driven and want to make their own success.”
Coral encourages young women in Shanghai to “choose a career with growth potential, even if it has a lower starting point.”