Olivier Tabi, the Vice President of Alumni Affairs, interviewed Jingqi Huang (FACES '11) in late April, 2014. Jingqi is now working as a product manager in Baidu.
Olivier: Hi Jingqi! It’s really nice to see you again for this interview. Can you please introduce yourself to our public?
Jingqi: My name is Jingqi Huang, I’m originally from Guangdong, China, and I work as a Product Manager at Baidu.
Olivier: Right, can you tell us more about your experience at FACES?
Jingqi: I think the most interesting aspect of FACES is to give the chance to work and interact with people from different backgrounds, with a great diversity in terms of cultural, professional and academic backgrounds. This allowed me to have a broader view of the world and to learn a lot from all these people at FACES.
Olivier: Which year were you a FACES Delegate again?
Jingqi: In 2011, I was then a junior student majoring in International Relations at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong. The first part of the FACES Conference was held at Stanford, and the second part at Peking University (Beida). Exchanging with FACES Delegates and confronting our ideas in seminars or in discussions on various issues, from politics to business to culture, was fantastic.
Olivier: I totally agree, I feel like my experience at FACES was actually pretty similar to yours. Also, you said that you majored in IR. Can you tell us more about how you link your IR background to your current activity at Baidu, is there any link at all?
Jinqi: That’s a very interesting question. To be honest, my major in IR is not very relevant for my current job at Baidu. We do a lot of product design, functional design, project management and strategy focused on the Chinese market. It basically requires organizational skills and logical thinking.
As a Product Manager, you need to be very clear about what the goal of the product is, and what the demand for this product is. We do what we call a “gap analysis,” to identify a current gap in the market, and we then try to find the most efficient way to fill this gap. I don’t think that Product Manager is a job that necessarily requires a background in Computer Science or the likes. It is a job for people interested in taking challenges and passionate about innovation.
Olivier: Did your experience at FACES influence your decision to work for a tech company?
Well, back at the time when I participated to the FACES Conference, there were some workshops where we had the opportunity to meet and talk with tech entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley. This experience at FACES, and an internship at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), gave me the opportunity to talk with CEOs of tech startups as well as VCs focused on tech products. I found it absolutely fascinating to create products to satisfy people’s needs and improve their lives. So I applied for jobs in tech companies right after I graduated: Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba, which are the top three Internet companies in China.
Olivier: I’m glad to hear that FACES contributed in a way to your choice of career. Alibaba is supposed to go public soon by the way (Alibaba actually went public a few weeks after this interview), but I’m sure you know much more than I do on this subject (laughter). To change a little bit of topic, do you have any project today, besides work?
Jingqi: I do, I want to write a novel in English where I could share my observations about people. I love to observe human beings, to try to figure out what they think, how they feel, and how people from different cultural backgrounds interact with each other. I would like to write a kind of fiction based on my personal experiences, but it will take time and I need more practice, taking small steps to make it happen. I actually already wrote about my trip to Xinjiang.
Olivier: If you get it published, don’t forget to share it with the FACES community, I am sure most of us would love to read it! Talking about traveling, I remember you told me that you spent some time in America, right?
Jingqi: Right, I spent half a year studying at Berkeley, on a scholarship provided by the Lingnan Foundation, an American foundation that promotes education in China. They sent students like me to UCLA and Berkeley, to study there and intern with non-profit organizations while living among American families.
These were truly life-changing experiences for me. Every day, we spent almost two hours talking during dinner. Most host mom was very involved in social work, and our conversations were often about politics, social issues, etc…
And it was a unique context back then: there were elections in the US. What I found really interesting was the political campaign materials sent to the house, and how my host family would read it discuss it, analyze each candidate, etc… They relied on their own critical thinking to make a rational decision, and see through some of the lies contained in these political materials.
Olivier: Really fascinating! We’ve talked a lot today, and I would like to ask you a last question: what advice would you give to the current and future members of the FACES community?
Jingqi: I would quote North Face (laughter): “Never stop exploring.”
Olivier: Thank you very much for this great exchange.
Jingqi: Thank you.