In today’s post we feature Edouard Lanckriet, an international environmental engineer who has lived, studied, and worked in the US, Europe, Africa, and China. We’ll ask him some questions about his life and career as an emerging markets strategy consultant and see if he can’t help us out in our own extraordinary emerging market careers.
Please tell us about the work you did as a consultant in Beijing – who was your client? What was the nature/purpose of the work?
I was working as a junior consultant in a consulting company specialized in industrial economy and strategy in emerging countries. Our clients were a range of international western multinationals who wanted to know about the major trends of development of China in a specific field. Most of the time, these big companies just want to assess the China market so we brought them a deep understanding of the major Chinese trends in their specific industries.
Moreover, we guided them through any related obstacles and issues that could impact their business – for example, it’s very important to understand how Chinese politics and Chinese politicians think in order to assess potential risks to a range of business decisions in China.
Do you feel like your career progressed more quickly in China than it would have in Paris? Why or why not?
Yes, definitely, in China I was directly in the thick of the business – our team was small, my boss trusted me, so if the team was suddenly overloaded with new deliverables then everyone would work directly on it. In contrast – in Europe, there are plenty of seniors with experience that would have taken on these responsibilities instead of me.
Moreover, in China, you have the opportunity to prove yourself – if your Boss believes in you, he is glad to have someone reliable he can count on and when he travels for business or anything he directly asks you to lead the office and you get much more experience, much faster, than in Europe. Plus when you come back to Europe (or America), people most of the time have no experience of the international world and are impressed by a such positive and different experience.
What sorts of responsibilities were you given that you would not have been given in a place like Paris or London?
Directly interact with the client (that was a director of the strategy office of a multinational company while I was only a junior in its first year of work), then define with him what research and market analysis could be undertaken to relevantly answer their questions and, as my boss was still travelling, do the entire mission by myself: data research, interview of experts, analysis and formatting of the document!
You do not speak Chinese, yet you were able to get an offer to work in China. How did this happen? How were you able to conduct your research about a market in China without knowing the local language?
If you have a masters degree and work in the intelligence business, most of the time you don’t need to speak Chinese to work in China because you deal with highly-educated people that speak English. As long as don’t have to do business development its not necessary to speak Chinese.
But if you are either a technician or a or business developer then its important to speak the language cause your job is to manage local teams or convince and seduce new potential clients.
My job was to lead research, conduct analysis, and more importantly: THINK, in a field where most of the data are available in English. Whenever I had to get more local perspective or analyze a data sheet in Chinese, or conduct an interview in Chinese, I hired a Chinese analyst (masters level, fluent in English). Depending on the volume of research he either worked by himself or hired local analysts and I managed the whole team by interacting with him. We were lucky because this guy was very flexible, brilliant and it was easy to work with him. With such resources available, the language barrier was absolutely not a problem to do our business.
What were your favorite things about having a career in China? Least favorite things?
Favorite things: adventure, anything can happen, get a good salary in a country where life is cheap, work with and meet people from all the continents, work in a country in which crises do not exist and any business is thriving and exciting.
Least favorite things: Pollution, traffic jams, dictatorship, internet blocked, filtered and controlled by the government, food pollution.
What was it like being a French expatriate in China? Do you feel like French expatriates face a different set of challenges than American/British expatriates?
Not really, we are all western to the Chinese. Things vary slightly depending on the diplomatic relation between our governments, for example when Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama it was not the safest to be French in China, but after it changed, and sometimes the Chinese governments targets the Americans or the English…. Its a moving thing.
However, there is something really good about being French in China: the French community is huge and maintain solid bonds, we have a cultural center, a lot of French activities so we don’t feel like we are « in the middle of nowhere » and when we are bored of our French relatives (yes it happens sometimes) there are plenty of Germans, English, Americans, Asians, African people to party with.
So what is next in your plan?
Move to new emerging markets where I can find both the economic dynamism of China and democratic governments: Rio, in Brazil is my next destination. I expect to find there a fun life, good environment (nature, beaches close to the city), and a dynamic market with plenty of job opportunities. I think that after China, it would be a good thing to diversify my experiences in emerging markets.