I visited the Alibaba Global Leadership Academy (articles here and here) and sent a couple of this year’s students some questions. Below are the answers of Quintus Dienst.
I originate from Munich, Germany. Throughout my education I focused myself on business and technology. After university I started my professional career at a private equity boutique in Thailand, investing in renewable energy infrastructure. Drawn from finance to sales, I joined Microsoft in Switzerland and later on founded my own e-commerce company. Accepting the offer from Alibaba to join AGLA was a logical step to combine my passions for e-commerce and China.
Q1: How did you hear about the AGLA program?
While I was starting and growing my own business in Switzerland I sourced a lot of my products from China through Alibaba platforms. I applied to AGLA to learn more about the company. Little did I know that I was only touching a fraction of the entire ecosystem at the time!
Q2: What groups have you worked in at Alibaba?
Alibaba Cloud & Tmall Global
Q3: Describe your experiences in these groups and what you did.
During my tenure at Alibaba Cloud I worked in Business Development for the German market. It was an exciting time since the team on ground consisted of only 5 people. It felt just like my prior startup experience.
At Tmall Global I am currently working in Operations to improve tools and processes of how we match Trading Partners with overseas brands. This job includes dealing with a lot of different communication styles and finding creative ways of how we engage western brands with Chinese service partners effectively.
Q4: How is Alibaba different, if at all, to companies in your home country?
I particularly enjoy the fast-paced and competitive environment. No one beats around the bush and everyone is here to work hard and make an impact. Lengthy approvals, clear job blueprints and seemingly endless internal meetings are hard to find. That’s definitely a plus!
Q5: What has been the most surprising thing about being at Alibaba? What didn’t you expect?
Alibaba’s culture surprised me the most. Its culture and history are things that are deeply engrained in every employee and also guide our customer interactions. Compared to this, I hardly remember any of the cultural values of prior employers!
Q6: What has been your favorite thing about AGLA? Whether part of the program, just daily work, small or big?
As part of our training I was sent to Guizhou. Until then I had only seen big cities with fancy cars, so it was quite eye-opening to see the poorer parts of the population. Learning about Alibaba’s Rural Taobao initiative, I really hope that we can positively impact the economic and social developments in the rural parts of China.
Q7: What has been the biggest adjustment to living or working in China?
Mobile payments. Leaving the house in the morning with just your mobile phone was quite a change. Everything is available at the tip of your fingers. That’s very exciting and makes life so easy! But it also means that you are constantly “ON” and things like going to a restaurant look very different compared to the west. Human interactions are replaced by QR-Codes and applications, plus you always need a spare battery pack J.
Q8: What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday in China?
I love to explore the culture and find new interesting places. I just wish that my Chinese would be better, so that I could have a casual chat with locals.
Q9: What will you do after you’re done?
My plan is to go back to Germany this summer. I want to help western companies to figure out how they can benefit from China’s rising consumers and how they can innovate with the help of Alibaba’s ecosystem in the retail space.
Q10: What is your favorite book, TV show or vacation spot?
Favorite book: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Makes haggling at Chinese markets fun.
Photo courtesy of Alibaba