Interview with Kang LI, Market Segment Executive at Total

Hi everyone, my name is LI Kang. I’m from Yantai, a beautiful coastal city in Eastern China. From 2008 to 2012, I studied in Sichuan International Studies University. During my bachelor studies, I got the chance to do one year’s exchange in France. This year has left me a deep impression and has encouraged me to come back to France for my future studies and work. The first time I got to know Grenoble Ecole de Management was during a French school presentation in Chongqing. After a series of exams and interview, I was enrolled in Grenoble Ecole de Management for a 3-year “Grande Ecole” French program from September 2012.

Can you tell us about your experience since you finished your studies at GEM?

After I finished my studies at GEM, I decided to come back to China and work in a French company. Thanks to one year’s apprenticeship (working and study program) at TOTAL in Paris, I was recommended for a job opportunity in TOTAL’s Chinese affiliate in Shanghai. The working language is mainly English, butIMG_3318 I still kept contact with my old French colleagues and friends in Paris.
Even as Chinese, I took some time to adapt to the fast speed life step in China, especially in Shanghai, the biggest Chinese city which is also called “Oriental Paris”. You may be surprised by the ownership rate of smart phone in China, but you will no more be surprised if you have experienced the all-done convenience with smart phone which covers all aspects of your life in China.

Can you describe the experience you had in Grenoble?

The “Grande Ecole” French program is a rich and challenging program. But once you succeed to follow and graduate from school, you will congratulate yourself with all the experiences you gained and leave Grenoble with many lifetime memories. GEM is a typical business school which can not only provide you the most advanced knowledge in every business aspect but also keeps you tightly connected with the real professional world.
Besides school life, I also joined an IMG_4189excellent association- Jeunes Ambassadeurs. This association gathers international students from three cities in the Rhone-Alpes region: Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble. Every student is binomed with a local professor or manager who will be your coach during one year’s term. Until today, I still get close touch with coaches in this association and joined its subsidiary brunch – JA4ever – in Shanghai.

You had several professional experiences in France and now you’re working here in Shanghai as Market Segment Executive at TOTAL, can you describe that? 

I really cherish all my professional experiences in France. As foreigners, we face more challenges in job searching than French classmates. I spent two months in looking for my first internship required during the gap year. Even though the searching time is long, it gave me an overall view of French job market and helped me to get familiar with many French companies.
I did my first one year internship in Group SEB, a famous French small electronic appliance company. I worked as an assistant of international product manager for both Calor and Rowenta brands. This one-year internship is one of my most valued experience from which I learned a lot and I felt that I was stepping to the professional world. In the last year of my master, I chose an apprenticeship program which allowed students to work and study at the same time. Students in this program should know how to balance and manage time since we face the same workload at school and we have to handle work duties at companies.

What is different about working here and working in France?

The working style is quite different in China than in France. It’s complicated to explain all the differences in one paragraph. I do not totally agree with some cliché saying that Chinese people work 7/7 and French people take all year’s vacation. In France, I really appreciate every morning’s office greetings and the coffee time among colleagues. While in China, once entering the office, people begin to work and try to finish every day’s duties in the shortest time. Most of people do not know each other if they don’t have project in common. In this sense, I think some casual talking with colleagues may have a positive effect on your work.

What do you like about Shanghai?

IMG_4111Shanghai is a very attractive international city. It provides all resources you need for your life, your work and your dream. You can get the latest news, experience the newest technology, and meet all kind of people. In Shanghai, you can live every day as a new life.

What advice would you give to a student who is willing to study abroad?

Nowadays in China, more and more students are willing to study abroad. It’s a positive phenomenon which means Chinese people are willing to keep pace with the world and to improve themselves by acquiring international experience. While, before going abroad, it’s important to set up clear short-term and long-term goals and to make sure that they are ready to face all difficulties in a foreign country. After going abroad, I suggest students put themselves into local life and make more friends from different countries, especially not to close yourself and stay only in your compatriot’s circle. That’s what we say: live as local people. Last but not least, you will definitely meet all kind of difficulties in studies and work. Challenge yourself and never make such excuse like you are a foreigner.


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