Hongdou Xu, a Master in Management student from Shenzhen in China, is no stranger to the international lifestyle. In 2015, she began her global experience in a semester exchange programme at her uni in China. Travelling around Taiwan with her friends, she thoroughly enjoyed meeting people from different countries. As her uni — South China University of Technology — had a partnership with the University of Idaho, Xu applied to volunteer as a Mandarin teacher and moved to the US for a year.
After her experience in the US she was hesitant to work for a great company in China or go to Germany, where her boyfriend was studying at the Technical University of Munich. Xu later chose love over her job opportunity, but her hard work in Germany has since paid off. Now she works at Allianz Technology in project management and co-founded Sino-German Entrepreneur Alliance — which aims to bridge the Chinese and German innovation and entrepreneurial culture — alongside studying for her Master in Management at ESMT Berlin. Below we speak to this accomplished young student on juggling work and studies:
What made you choose to pursue your Master in Management?
I graduated with my first master’s degree in English Studies in 2020 and found a job at a startup in Germany. Unfortunately, I got laid off soon after due to the pandemic. Job searching became difficult and the economy was unpredictable.
I considered the transitional period a treasured opportunity for me to look back and ponder over the pathway of my future career. I always dreamt of pursuing a full degree in business and asked myself “Why not now?” That’s how I ended up doing my Master in Management, my second masters.
Why did you choose to pursue this course at ESMT?
I found it very practical and very well designed with the highlight being the internship and social impact project. In addition, Business Analytics from the Quantitative Business track is very appealing to me because I wanted to develop strong analytic expertise.
Do you think it would have made a difference if you pursued your MiM in China?
I believe my whole life would have been very different. I would already have been working for many years, but probably not enjoying my life as much as I do now. I would probably regret not going abroad and experiencing more while young. Therefore, I am happy to be in my current situation.
Walk us through your most memorable class thus far.
So far, it’s “Judgement and Decision Making.” We learnt how to use a decision tree to make important choices in life. The professor used his personal story as a case in one of the courses, which we only got to know of at the end of the class. It showcased how important decision-making is and how you can do so through scientific examination.
Are your lecturers supportive?
I think our teachers are very supportive in general. For instance, at one point, our Financial Management professor offered extra workshops and Q&A sessions and the Statistics professor is always available on Slack to answer our questions.
What are the practical learning elements in your course?
Our courses are always practical-oriented. We have simulation games, case studies, and group presentations. It’s really awesome to have study groups for different courses, we learn how to cooperate with classmates to work on a project and how to handle conflicts within a highly diverse group. I can definitely transfer this knowledge into the real world.
What are your plans after getting your Master in Management?
I still have one year to go in Master in Management, where I will specialise more in business analytics. We will have a course on machine learning, data science, and more programming and coding courses so I look forward to that. Then, I plan to find a job in a corporation in the field of business analytics or in-house consulting after graduating. I am looking for trainee opportunities to work in different locations.
Tell us about your work experience at Allianz Technology.
I began work as an IT project management working student at Allianz Technology only a month ago. I like my role and the team a lot. I have many challenging tasks, so I never find myself bored. I am currently working on building charts, dashboards, and creating strategic plans.
My supervisor and team leader really care about our learning and professional development. So much so, they offered mentorships for the working students. As I am working virtually, however, one of the biggest challenges has been the lack of interaction with my colleagues.
To overcome this, I set up some virtual coffee chats and one-on-one meetings so I get to know my colleagues more through casual conversations. I am now working with quite a complex programme consisting of several sub-projects. As someone without an IT background, I find myself struggling with most of the content because it’s very techy. I am working on getting to know the bigger picture — I think it’s just a matter of time!
Tell us more about your company the Sino-German Entrepreneur Alliance.
I co-founded the Sino-German Entrepreneur Alliance with another guy from Shenzhen who was studying at the Technical University of Munich. We both like innovation, entrepreneurship and we simply wanted people from Germany to learn more about the companies and technology in China. We also wanted to help Chinese people who were planning to start their own business in Germany.
Through the experience, I organised many online and offline West-to-East entrepreneurship bridging events with much success. One highlight was when I co-led 13 German startups in 2019 at industrial exhibitions. I also organised matchmaking sessions, company visits in Shenzhen, Foshan, Guiyang, together with AHK Guangzhou and Founders Fight Club.
What tips do you have for international students looking to study in Germany?
Germany is a great country to study and live. You won’t regret it, be confident and trust yourself to conquer any uncertain challenges.