Dr. William Zucker Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship recipient:
Seravia is a Beijing-based technology company that is currently distilling the power of a world-class law firm into software available to anyone in the world.
My summer internship at Seravia in Beijing was simply awesome! I had an unforgettable experience and am psyched to be able to share a glimpse of that with you. At the time I got the internship offer, I could hardly believe the opportunity that was presented to me. I held the privilege of leading some of the most critical projects that Seravia was working on. Furthermore, the opportunity would be in China where I had always dreamed of working. This was simply too good to pass up, so I jumped at it.
Life in China
After moving out to Beijing in late May, I realized that one of my biggest challenges, aside from the internship work, would be to adjust to life in China. I had travelled to China several times before and even helped create a leadership training course there in 2007. Additionally, I speak some Mandarin Chinese. Hence, I was no stranger to life in China. However, I had never spent an entire summer there, so I knew that there would be some adjustment period. How long would it take me to adjust? What would be my biggest challenges? Would I be accepted by the people I met? These, and other questions, flooded my mind as I endeavored to settle in. Working in a foreign country added an extra dimension to the summer experience that was surprisingly a benefit through the lessons I learned about myself. I got a chance to learn how to connect with people in spite of cross-cultural differences and persevere in uncomfortable situations.
For pretty much every project or task that I worked on, I made sure to establish what my objectives were. For each objective, I also came up with any associated goals. This served to help me understand where things were going. I even came up with an objective for the summer – determine whether entrepreneurship in China was the right career move for me. What were the associated goals? There were too many to list, but if I had to pick one to share, it would be the goal to network with as many people as I could. Networking doesn’t just stop once you have the job. You need to network with more people to help refine your perspective on career. Fortunately, I was able to connect with a number of individuals who gave me very insightful advice about building a career in China.
I worked as the product team leader on a variety of projects at Seravia. Many of these projects were related (directly or indirectly) to the company’s yet-to-be-launched flagship product. The projects ranged from areas like: strategy, marketing, and finance. This was my opportunity to prove myself capable taking unstructured requirements and putting together structured deliverables to solve important problems. For example, I was responsible for delivering data and analysis on potential competitors. This is something I rarely saw in school since many of the assignments have some built-in structure or expected shape or form. The fact that these were real-world problems motivated me even more to work hard to show myself and others what I could accomplish. This was an unbelievable amount of responsibility which pushed me to rise to the occasion and produce results.
I think one of the very harsh realities of this world is that oftentimes we focus on faults or weaknesses and lose sight of our strengths. Perhaps for me this manifested itself in momentary lapses in confidence seeing myself as just an MBA student. Were these doubts insurmountable? Certainly not; with encouragement from my boss, teammates, and friends I was able to build up my confidence level. Now, I know how to solve many of the business problems that technology startups face. Now, I posses the vision to foresee opportunities instead of just challenges. Now, I feel more than ever that I can go out on my own and start a company. These deep and rich lessons punctuated and shaped the entire summer experience. Be yourself. Be genuine. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help when you are stuck. These lessons seem like old acquaintances who I had been introduced to before in college, but somehow they left an indelible imprint on my soul over the summer.
What should I do now? I feel strongly obligated to share my experiences with others and encourage them to pursue entrepreneurship. Of course, it may not be appropriate for everyone, but still for some it may be an overlooked path that is precisely what they are made for. Furthermore, I will continue to explore more opportunities in China. I believe that there is a career path where I can leverage my background and experiences to build great technology products overseas.