Name: Brogan Gauld
University: University of Glasgow
Programme: Shenzhen, two-month internship
Host Company: Nanoleaf, Green Technology
I was studying my third year of a five-year course and looking for a way to gain some insight into my career options and obtain some valuable work experience. My degree in Engineering is a culmination of science and technology and I believe that culture is a factor that influences progress of the world around us, including technology and science developments. The integration of cultures from across the world is what leads change; through this internship process I hoped to engage with businesses from different backgrounds and experiences. Through being immersed in other cultures I hoped it would provide me with a deeper understanding their economies, international relations and societies. By learning and working in such an engaged fashion, I knew I could gain a different perspective and a global outlook which would give me a competitive edge in our modern, integrated world where these are critical traits when seeking graduate employment. Although I had a keen interest in Chinese culture, at the time of my application I poorly understood their business practices, but yet I recognised their importance. My insights into the working world have presented the importance of networking and business relationships, and as such I realised that the concept of ‘guanxi’, meaning ‘connections’, is critical in industry. Technological advances in China have made significant contribution to research and development in areas of engineering and I believe this stems from their cultural history. Their advancement in these areas has brought China to the forefront as a technologically innovative and forward thinking nation and this is initially what highlighted the region as an important place for me to gain experience in.
China continues to offer a flourishing business base for international industries to invest in. With regards to the relationship between the UK and China, I believe it is crucial to invest in developing bilateral connections and strengthening relations to advance our mutual growth. Language barriers and the complexities of Chinese business culture can restrict this reciprocal relationship, however the UK and China share common concerns and in this generation of relations and interconnections, it is critical that there are efforts to build relationships between our two countries. By actively participating in Chinese culture I was able to learn the beliefs and values that are so prominent within their society and business acumen. China and the UK are natural partners in business, and this ‘golden era’ of UK-China relations has only deepened in recent history. Britain is home to more Chinese investment than any other European country, and continues to be the second largest economy in the world; Generation UK - China is one way of developing this blossoming relationship. I think the integration of Western and Eastern culture in this programme represents the Chinese ‘middle way’ mindset, where two opposites may integrate and constitute a whole.
My internship was an incredible opportunity to see a full business model. My company was relatively small so I had the chance not only to meet the founders but also to work alongside them. In China you are able to see projects from conception to manufacture, which is quite unique. By being close to the manufacturers in China, I was able to visit factories and see production in action, something you never truly understand or appreciate until you see it in person. Coming from an engineering background, this will further my education in ways that learning in a classroom never could. My company was a green technology, smart lighting company who made the ‘World’s Most Efficient Light Bulb’. Being exposed to a startup company, founded by 3 engineering students from Toronto was an experience that has shown me the true possibilities in my degree. Shenzhen is a city of startups and entrepreneurs and the opportunities that present themselves in a city like this are second to none. My coworkers were so friendly and welcoming and I truly saw the difference in Chinese business culture compared to the UK. The importance of ‘guanxi’ here in China means that people are genuinely friends with their coworkers, and the office environment is relaxed yet encouraging.
China has been one of the best life experiences I have had. Joining this programme I made some lifelong friends; I think experiences like this bring you together with people of a similar mindset, who share similar ambitions as yourself and through these programmes you make some incredible friendships with people from all over the globe. I have gained invaluable experience in an office learning skills that will be critical to my degree, while being immersed in a new country, meeting new friends, trying new food and travelling to some pretty amazing places. China is a country with a very rich history, and I haven't even touched the surface. I will definitely be returning! The opportunity to travel was definitely a factor in my decision to accept this programme too. On my weekends I had the privilege of exploring Shenzhen and travelling to some extraordinary places. A highlight of my trip was trekking through rural villages in Hong Kong, and cliff jumping 8m off a waterfall - I am terrified of heights but this is probably the best way I can think of to try and overcome my fear!
This programme was an incredible opportunity to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and gain extraordinary experience in learning about Chinas rich history, prospering modern economy and thriving future. Generation UK - China has helped me develop skills in the workplace, acquire new business proficiencies, and face the challenges of adapting to an entirely new culture.