Although I am a Computer Science major, I am interested in international business and I want to explore different possibilities in life, so I applied for an internship position at Marubeni Cooperation, a Japanese Fortune 500 multinational business company. The company is located in Shanghai, the economic center and one of the biggest cities in China.
Shanghai is a dynamic and vibrant city, and there is a lot going on. Using the well-developed subway system, it is very convenient to travel around. The city is a fusion of both the traditional and the modern: historical tourist attractions and skyscrapers stand side by side. Shanghai is very open-minded and welcoming to people of different cultures. It is not uncommon to hear people speak a foreign (non-Chinese) language on the street and you can try foods from different parts of the world and they all taste authentic. Shops, restaurants, concerts, famous people, nightlife. You will never get bored in the city.
Being a marketing intern, sometimes my tasks can be very basic, like printing and making copies of files, picking up deliveries and making Excel charts. But these tasks help me to pay attention to details, which is a key quality in many Japanese companies.
The company is currently launching a project which sets up a joint venture with another company in Shanghai, and there are many details to go over, so I have to prepare files and attend meetings with their Tokyo headquarter, the other company in the project, and people from third parties (accountants and consultants). It is very exciting for someone like me who has very little experience in business to sit with professionals in the industry. I also learned a lot in the way of how business professionals think, like what major points one has to consider in order to start a brand-new business and which parties are involved. The good thing about working in a big company is that you can see clearly where the company is heading, and since there are many resources, you can always find something for you.
The company also has some special events. Last week, they had an open-day event for children of employees to experience their parents’ daily life at Marubeni. Interestingly, I had to take care of the children and take pictures of them. Working with children is a very unique experience and I had a lot of fun (the kids were so cute!).
Although the company is in China, and most of its employees are Chinese, the company is very closely related to Japan. Although daily communications can be conducted in Chinese, files are normally written in Japanese. Every employee in this company is supposed to speak fluent Japanese, so that everyone is able to understand the files and communicate with his or her Japanese boss and colleagues who may not be able to speak Chinese Mandarin very well. There will also be Japanese guests sometimes.
(When reading this, you may find my English a little bit awkward, this is because I haven’t used it for so long. In fact, I feel like speaking fluent Chinese and Japanese is more important at Marubeni Shanghai, although speaking fluent English is a plus.)
Working in the business world is very different from being a programmer. In the world of Computer Science, everything is composed of 0s and 1s, that means, a program is either correct or buggy and it cannot be both. And although there are group meetings and collaborations, most of coding and debugging sessions are done by individuals. However, business is more about people. People’s requests and interests may change over time, so sometimes one has to work harder in order to keep up with the changes. Sometimes people also give you ambiguous answers. Business involves lots of teamwork and you have to work closely with people and make moves together. Unlike running a program, here in business, the outcomes take time to figure out. Keeping a good relationship with people in workplace is also very important. I feel like compared to tech people, business people are more sensitive to other people’s behavior and words. Luckily, my co-workers are all very kind and reliable. It gives me a warm feeling to work in the group.
A Japanese-company-in-China is very different from a Japanese company and an American company. It is like somewhere in between. Unlike a Japanese company, where you have to strictly follow the social norms about manners and etiquette, such as greeting people when one arrives and leaves the company and bowing, you can have a choice to do so in Shanghai. But the company structure is very similar to its Japanese counterparts, and in order to ask for a day off or get company subsidies, you have to do a lot of paperwork and go over the request with many people. It is very interesting to see such cultural differences.
To sum up, I appreciate my experience at Marubeni Shanghai. During the internship, I have developed my relationship-building skills and adaptability. And although I am still confused about my future, this experience helps me to self-inspect and get some clue about what kind of job I want to do. I would highly recommend this program if you are confident in Chinese and Japanese.