Nicole Li | China
1. Firstly, can you tell us what attracted you to study in Ireland and specifically in UCD?
I had a strong desire to travel to Ireland, going back to when I was a high school student. I think what really attracted me was the beautiful scenery and I always sensed Ireland would have a lovely atmosphere. When the time came to choose a university for my masters programme, I had no hesitation about choosing Smurfit Business School due in part to their Triple Crown Certification. The entire application process went so smoothly, I knew I was destined for UCD.
2. What was your UCD experience like?
Studying in UCD played a huge part in my academic, professional and social growth. I adapted quickly to Ireland and its culture. I also loved my course, working on assignments with different classmates, all of whom have become good friends. I also got involved with campus life and spent time with my classmates on the weekends too. We still keep in touch, even though we are scattered in different parts of the world.
3. How did you end up in your current area of work?
I studied accounting and business administration for my undergraduate degree, which was the beginning of my exploration of the business world.I had also been involved in business-related disciplines during my undergraduate internships. I have always had a great interest in marketing and wanted to understand the work of marketing practitioners – everything from their professional habits to personal style.
4. You work for Enterprise Ireland in China; did you make a conscious decision to work for an Irish company or was it a happy coincidence?
I had actually made up my mind to work in Ireland after graduation, so when I applied for the role in Enterprise Ireland, I was pleasantly surprised with an unexpected assignment in Shanghai! I really am delighted that things worked out like this as now I have the best of both worlds – this job is a good combination of my dream career, an organisation that still connects me to Ireland and I am now working in my favourite city – Shanghai.
5. What interests you the most about your job?
No two days are the same. I enjoy the daily strategic and executive aspects of my work and being able to learn new things every single day. I am also pleasantly surprised by the variety of skills I learn in achieving my work goals, including delivery of written reports, presentations and communication, organisation and negotiation.
6. What is the proudest moment of your career to date?
Working for a government agency always makes me feel so proud. After gaining broad experiences of life and education in Ireland, I am now in a position to promote Ireland to the world. I feel such a strong connection to Ireland and promoting Ireland and Irish interests in China is such an honour.
7. You are still in the early part of your career, what professional aspirations do you have for the next 10 years?
I love my job now and feel endless possibilities every day. My role involves trade, business and political science, which encourages me to constantly gain knowledge and understand more. Such a career start is exactly what I was looking forward to. I want to continue down this path and hope that in future I will become even more efficient in my work and strive towards a management/leadership role, allowing me to make a real impact.
8. Who are the most interesting or helpful mentors or advisors that you have had?
In my experience of studying and job hunting, I have met many mentors who have been very helpful to me. The most memorable ones are the mentors from the Smurfit career office, who gave me such good advice and were so helpful when I was applying for jobs. Support from career mentors helped open the first doors for me when I was job hunting. They helped with everything from resumé modifications, unique interview techniques for different companies, and psychological counselling. They were like a beam of light and filled me with so much hope for my future career.
9. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Say yes to every opportunity, also don’t be afraid to learn by doing.
10. What failures have you learnt from?
There are always countless failures before success, and I have come to realise that failure isn’t always a bad thing. There is a Chinese proverb that says “misfortune might be a blessing in disguise”. As long as there is perseverance towards your goal and you make an effort – success will always be ahead.
11. Shanghai is such a huge and busy city, what is life like there?
Life in Shanghai is full of excitement! Beyond working life – as you would expect there are always plenty of activities and events happening. We are also extremely fortunate that there are many beautiful cities in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces around Shanghai city, which can be reached in 1-2 hours by high-speed rail. I occasionally spend weekends in these nearby cities to take a break and enjoy the Jiangnan scenery.
12. Do you have any insider tips for visitors to Shanghai?
Apart from, of course, sampling the delicious local food, I recommend immersing yourself in the culture – connect with the locals where you can, they will help you understand the city. There are so many fantastic cultural events on but they sell out fast so book tickets in advance!
13. Finally, what do you miss the most about Ireland?
I miss everything about Ireland, but what I miss most is the peaceful atmosphere of the countryside.