Shirley and Alexander from AEBS: Mentorship and Career-Building

Asia Europe Business School (AEBS) is the result of a partnership between France’s emlyon business school and Shanghai’s East China Normal University.

Aside from a top location in Shanghai, diverse and motivated student body, and enviable academics, AEBS is known for its Mentor Enterprise Program. This unique program connects AEBS students with business leaders from the Shanghai community from their very first year at university! Enterprise mentors are executives of domestic and foreign well-known enterprises/units/institutions mainly to guide students on professional learning, business practice and occupation career planning.

Two AEBS students, Shirley and Alexander, are participating in the Mentor Enterprise Program. They will share their experiences with their mentors, career advice they received, and how their mentors are helping them build towards their business goals while at AEBS. Watch or read their interview to learn more about AEBS mentorship opportunities.

The interview has been edited for length, the full interview is in the video. 

China Admissions: Hi, can you introduce yourselves to us?

Shirley: Hi, I’m Shirley from AEBS and my major is High-End Brand Management. I’m going to graduate in June 2022. I’m not in Shanghai now, but in my hometown of Henan province.

Alexander: My name is Alexander and I’m from Germany. At the moment I’m studying Business Administration in AEBS, as a Bachelor program in the first year.

CA: Shirley, as a graduating senior, after three years there, can you tell us a little bit about what AEBS is like?

Shirley: When I was making my decision for my graduate study, AEBS became my first choice mostly because of two reasons. AEBS is jointly operated by ECNU and emlyon business school, so it can provide me with great international vision. This major, High-End Brand Management, sounded very interesting to me. Second, I was very interested in the Mentor Enterprise Program and the ICP program. Both of them are practical projects and can provide me many resources. I decided to work after I graduate, so I think this should benefit me a lot.

CA: How’s your experience as AEBS so far?

Alexander: It’s been great thus far. My decision to go to AEBS is somewhat similar to yours. I have a European background, and previously to coming to China, I was working in the UK on the cross-cultural side between China and Europe, organizing Chinese-British trade events. I have a bit of background of being in-between. Seeing that AEBS lays itself exactly in that niche of being partners with emlyon and ECNU in China, it’s the same cultural bridge between Europe and Asia which is what I myself am interested in.

CA: Shirley, can you introduce the Mentor Enterprise Program?

Shirley: My mentor is James Wu, who is the vice president of Danone. This program lasts for a year in total, and it can be divided into 3 parts I think. During the first stage, our mentor helped us to make the career plan, such as selecting the industry and deciding the future position and he taught us how to achieve our goals. During the second stage, James helped us solve the problems that we encountered during the internship. He encouraged me a lot and raised many examples when he was an intern. In the last stage, James helped us summarize our internships and taught us how to do interviews, how to prepare for the future work, and helped to make a life-long career plan. 

James Wu, Vice President of Danone and Mentor for students at AEBS

CA: Are you still in touch with him?

Shirley: Even after this program, we still keep in contact! We have a group chat, where he always shared some excellent activities and opportunities with us. I think even after I graduate we’ll still keep in contact. 

Alexander: My mentor is Bill Xu who is the director of business strategic planning and operations for SAP here in China. I got to know him initially, not through the mentorship program but by attending an event by TIE which was tailored for students to visit the Shanghai free trade zone – I heard his speech and was very surprised that I saw his name listed in the Mentor Enterprise Program…he has a lot of experience on one hand incubating entrepreneurship and startups in the free trade zone but also working in bigger corporations.

We are just now at the first stage of the program.

CA: How did you select your mentors? Did you have a lot of freedom to pick somebody who would be a good fit for you?

Alexander: We had a lot of choices. The mentors that decided to participate were very well-chosen from a lot of different industry sectors so there was really something for everyone regardless of whether you were interested in entrepreneurship, business, or fashion. You had prospective mentors who have very senior positions or a lot of experience that they can share…very well catered to each individual student’s need.

A mentor meets with AEBS students during a Mentor Enterprise Program event.

CA: Shirley, can you share a little bit about your future goals and how you built towards them with your mentor?

Shirley: Through this program I benefitted a lot, especially my career direction. In this process, James influenced me greatly. My first plan was to work in the consulting sector, but under pressure from Covid-19 it has become less stable. I found that my personality is not that suitable for consulting. I turned to James and he helped me to analyze my personality and even invited some of his friends to share their insights. After several talks with James, I changed my target to the internet industry. James played a very important role in this change, so I’m very grateful for him. I also realized I should accumulate my practical experience so I started taking internships. Until now, I have successfully undertaken five internships and have even received some offers from some big companies in China, like Alibaba, Bytedance, and so on.

Alexander: For me, it’s more of a continuation of business skills. Prior to coming to China, I established a company in Germany doing graphic design work. I think specifically…I’ve spoken about what I’m doing and have done in the past with Bill and he’s brought on some very good suggestions about how I can take things to the next level. I think in the future he can be more involved in giving advice and building it better than it is at the moment.

CA: Of course, there are many benefits to being able to live and study in Shanghai at AEBS, not only in the business realm but also personally and in terms of arts and culture. What’s something that you really love about getting to study in Shanghai?

Shirley: When I was a child, I dreamed of coming to this city. Shanghai is a wonderful city that has endless possibilities. There are many choices here. Some top companies are also located in Shanghai, so you can have many career possibilities in the future.

On top of that, Shanghai is an international city in accordance with creating international linkages. For example, in the ecommerce industry, Bytedance’s ecommerce department is headquartered here as well as some international companies like Amazon’s Chinese headquarters. It means many businesses have international exchange possibilities.

Alexander: I can only agree! Myself coming from a smaller city…I feel Shanghai by far is really one of the most interesting ones I have lived in. Every time you go out you find events on so many different topics, I myself attend the networking events and really learn just so much about many different people’s perspectives. Shanghai is just a melting pot where so many people come together.

CA: What is a favorite memory or great achievement at AEBS?

Shirley: My first year in AEBS was very magical. We have many different kinds of classes, and the teachers are all different backgrounds. Some of them are working in the top luxury companies, others are from the very top universities in the world. In the class aspect, I think it really strengthened my marketing style. The ICP Program and the Mentor Enterprise Program also gave me many experiences from the practical aspect.

Alexander: Overall, it’s been a bit of a surprise for me to come into academia. I have a background where I left high school and then worked for 8 years in different companies. Coming back to going to study, I’ve just felt that it’s enjoyable to learn something. I do feel like now having a bit of work experience and now learning the academic basics of what you’re doing is just giving you a broader oversight of what you’re doing.

study business at AEBS

Read More About AEBS

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Savannah Billman has a master's degree in Chinese Law and Society at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. She holds a B.A. from NYU Shanghai and has also written for The World of Chinese, TechNode, SupChina, and Sixth Tone.
Savannah Billman

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