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After studying abroad in college, I knew I would want to participate in an international transfer during my career. Last February I was lucky enough to attend EuroShop, a retail design tradeshow in Düsseldorf, Germany and then travel to Amsterdam and Paris to scout retail design trends. Recaptured by wanderlust and a desire to expand my understanding of our business on global level, I knew the time was right for a transfer.
The question I get asked most often is “Why China?” It’s a fair question. I’m a mid-western American whose Chinese doesn’t extend beyond “Ni Hao” (“Hello”). What could possibly prompt me to move half a world away to a country I had never set foot in and whose language I can’t even speak? If you’re reading this on an iPhone then you’re holding my answer—“Designed by Apple in California. Made in China.”
China’s rapid economic growth is helping the country to shift away from its role as the world’s factory to a nation full of potential to create and market new products and services that will engage its emerging middle-class. In the past, Chinese companies have viewed branding as a tactic like advertising or promotions; but today these companies are beginning to see their brand as a valuable asset worth investing in. They want to play on the same level as Coca-Cola, Nike and, of course, Apple. I felt that this relatively new change in thinking was a great opportunity to bring my skills in strategic branding and retail experience design to our Shanghai office.
My biggest concern before moving here was how I would be able to communicate, but I quickly realized we are all fluent in “Interbrand!” I love that our “One Firm” mentality can unite people with diverse backgrounds from around the world! I’m thrilled to be able to help build a stronger working relationship between my home office in Dayton, Ohio and Shanghai by collaborating on a retail design project this summer. Sure the 12-hour time change and cultural differences are challenging at points, but I believe creating an environment where both offices can learn and grow together will only lead to world-changing ideas.
Outside of work there is so much to discover about Shanghai and China. On the weekends, I like to peruse the extravagant flagship stores along Nanjing Road and wander the tree-lined streets of the Former French Concession. I love the thrilling feeling that comes from stumbling upon something unexpected, like a foreign language bookstore or a restaurant that serves Cincinnati-style chili. And, of course, I like to do some traveling—I spent New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong and Lantau Island, and I have trips to Beijing and Guilin planned for this spring.
Each day here brings a different adventure, be it attempting to cross the street without getting run over, trying to communicate with a cab driver via charades, or discovering a bar selling green beer on St. Patrick’s Day! While living abroad can be overwhelming at times, being immersed in this unfamiliar world has been eye-opening, and it will encourage me to keep exploring the unknown and pushing myself out of my comfort zone long after I return to the States.