News & Voices

[Career Development] Matteo Giovannini : Time Waits for no Man, Act Now and Transform Career in China

"Foreigners looking for a job in China? Hard! Looking for a good job? Even harder!" That’s what people say nowadays.

It is because foreigners in China, though well aware of the western culture, have little understanding of Chinese culture;

And their Chinese is not fluent enough to communicate with local colleagues and customers;

And their hearts are more captured by hamburgers and fries, not noodles and steamed buns.

However, in spite of these disadvantages, Matteo Giovannini, an Italian who completed his MBA at Peking University, not only found a decent job that peers envy in China, but also succeeded in transforming his career – a leap from Milan's media industry to finance industry, now assuming the senior manager of the Shipping Department of Beijing ICBC Financial Leasing Company.

His career dream began in Milan, Italy, the capital of fashion, but came true quietly in a classical courtyard in China named "Long Run Garden".

LangRun Garden, located in north bank of WeiMing Lake of Peking University, the best higher education institution in China, is a beautiful garden in oriental styles. It is in this quaint and elegant courtyard that Matteo completed his MBA study. Graduating from a place built in the late Qing Dynasty with over 200 years of history, Matteo had found a new direction in his life.

Gorgeous Transformation from Media to Finance

Back in Milan, Italy, Matteo had built up years of experience in media. But he still dreamed to work in the financial industry. To fulfill his very dream, he came to the BiMBA Business School of National School of Development at Peking University – the top university in China – also known as the "International MBA”, a MBA program jointly established by Peking University and Europe's top business school - Vlerick Business School in Belgium. Since its establishment in 1998, the program has won a good reputation in Europe and the United States.

Inspired by the long-cherished wish of transforming into the financial industry, Matteo had started his career planning at the beginning of his one-year full-time study. During that time, he focused more on the optional courses on finance; in 2015 when he was engaged in the ICP (a company consulting project), Matteo also took the initiative to participate in the investment-related consulting projects. Meanwhile, he was also good at utilizing the job opportunities offered by the University-asking teaching staff of the Career Development Office to help keep him informed of job opportunities on finance.

In October 2015, the opportunity surfaced. The teaching staff of the Career Development Office advised Matteo to pay attention to the recruitment of ICBC. It turned out that ICBC, as China's largest state-owned enterprise, intended to recruit ten foreign talents to promote the implementation of overseas internationalization strategy. "Back then the competition was intense. More than 100 candidates went through the interview, and finally only 8 were admitted," Matteo still remembers how he got this hard-won job. "Timing is very important. Our teachers in the Career Development are very professional. They have been helping me analyze my career direction, accommodate my needs, and finally recommend this job opportunity to me at the most appropriate timing.”

As the only foreign employee in his department, Matteo hardly feels no uncomfortable, and gets along with the Chinese colleagues very well. "Because most of the colleagues in my department have experience of overseas study, they know very well how to get along with foreigners like me" - this is a sign of the future: as more and more Chinese study abroad and return to work and embark on entrepreneurship in China, Chinese enterprises will grow increasingly international, and therefore will be better equipped in integrating foreign talents.


So, why would a Chinese state-owned enterprise attract a European who grew up in market economy?

Speaking of his employer, Matteo feels a sense of pride, a pride beyond the national boundary, just as the Chinese are proud of being working in Google or Apple. "There are three reasons why I choose to work here. First, ICBC is a very valuable employer brand; second, ICBC is a large institution where I can grow myself by working in such a complex workplace. And third, ICBC offers a lot of opportunities for self-improvement." Matteo signed a three-year contract with his employer ICBC. He thought the company would offer a shorter-term contract, but later found that the Chinese and foreigners are treated equally in this regard, which made him feel great.

"Here, I can see how Chinese state-owned enterprises run. If one day I have the chance to return to Italy and do business with Chinese state-owned enterprises, I can handle it well because I understand them well!" Matteo is very considerate when analyzing problems, and always thinks out of the box and beyond the current situation. He has a vision for future and broad horizon.

Mastering Soft Skills is the No.1 Rule in MBA Program

If studying at the BiMBA, the most internationalized business school in China, is an important springboard for his career transformation, then what exactly is this springboard like? Is his study really helpful?

In the interview, Matteo was repeating the words "Soft Skills". Before that, Matteo had already acquired financial certificates through self-study and training. But in his eyes, these are "Hard Skills”- namely hard knowledge; but in the promotion during career development, mastering the soft skills is more critical.

At BiMBA, Matteo witnessed a brand new world through the Leadership course lectured by Professor Yang Zhuang and the Negotiating Skills lectured by Professor David Venter, a negotiator who worked for former South African President Nelson Mandela.


Yang Zhuang, Dean of National School of Development at Peking University, was awarding a degree to Matteo at the Graduation Ceremony

"Negotiation is ubiquitous through our life, whether for business, with HR in the company, or even with your wife and mother-in-law in the family," Matteo never stops applying skills learned from the program in all aspects of his life. Even a year after graduation, he still keeps the good practice nurtured during his study - texting professors and asking them to recommend books on certain topics, which gives him an edge over peers on the knowledge reserve of soft skills.

The essence of soft skills lies in culture. In order to help foreign students better experience and integrate into Chinese culture, the prerequisite course of Business in China in the MBA program also leads Matteo and other foreign students to embark on the "Journey of Chinese Culture " - from Henan Shaolin Temple, to Shanxi Pingyao ancient town, and then to the ancient capital Xi'an, with each place showcasing the profound Chinese culture, offering both admirable experience and better understanding of the inner spirit of Chinese culture.

"In Europe, we usually call our bosses directly by their names, but in China, because of the existence of hierarchy, we must call them by titles." This is what Matteo learned from the Cross-cultural Communication course by Profession Bruce before he stepped into the Chinese enterprise. Now, Matteo is applying the knowledge acquired from the Peking University bit by bit.

Apart from knowledge pertaining to soft skills, BiMBA also provides opportunities for students to practice. In the last class of Management Integration, students formed several groups, each with five or six members acting different roles, to mimic a business war. Some are CFOs, some CEOs, and some CHOs. "This simulation is very useful. We can digest all the professional knowledge and soft skills learned from the MBA program!" In the simulation of the business world, the war drums were beating in full fledge. Matteo felt he was running a company, and learned how to consider problems from a perspective of the management. This is what his previous career experience could not afford. “I want to get into the financial business, but I do not want to take a master's program in finance. I think MBA can give me more comprehensive knowledge and broader vision," Matteo has always been able to see something that people never see.

How should foreigners seize the opportunity of studying and working in China?

In addition to the current working environment, the "significance" behind this job is also an important driving force for Matteo to stay in China. "In Europe, you just work for a company; but now with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, many businesses of ICBC are a part of this ambitious undertaking. At this moment, you feel like you are not only working for a company, but for the progress and changing of the world!" The rise of China's economy in the world may soon be an important factor to attract foreigners to work in China.

"Now, many Europeans do not understand China. They think China is full of factories and fake goods," Matteo said, "In fact, I think China is very high-tech. We can pay anytime anywhere through WeChat and Alipay, but in Europe we still have to carry cash; and China's high-speed railway transportation is highly efficient and the urban development is also changing rapidly.”

Finally, he suggested that foreign friends who intend to study and work in China should first learn Chinese well. And, due to the differences between Eastern and Western cultures, there will inevitably be a period of time for adaptation, but once that is over, China will be a very good choice; for those who want to come here to attend the MBA program, first of all, make a career planning, and then focus on relevant optional courses.

"Where there is capital, there is opportunity", Matteo ended the interview with such words, his deep eyes shining with light. He suggested that foreign friends pay attention to the influx of large amounts of capital in China and it is a good choice to start their career transformation and development by studying in the MBA program at Peking University, the best business school in China. (Reporter/Zhang Tong)