HSE Professor of Practice Sergei Kolesnichenko on Teaching at HSE and Working in Asia
One of the advantages of the Master's programme in 'Business and Politics in Modern Asia' is that many faculty members have experience working in business in Asia. One of these highly qualified specialists, senior lecturer and professor of practice of the Department of Political Science, Sergey A. Kolesnichenko, speaks about his experience working with Chinese companies and gives advice about how to find a job in China.
– Sergey Alekseevich, how did you get interested in China and start doing business there?
– I started to visit and work in China in 2001. At the beginning, I visited China as a tourist, and in 2007, I began to work as a Sales Director for one of the biggest Russian steelmaking manufactures. We sold a lot of equipment to China; therefore, I went to China several times to learn how to negotiate with the Chinese, and especially how to sell to China. That was one of the greatest experiences. Then I worked as a Director of the representative office for Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works. My task was to organize purchasing and sourcing. That gave me the opposite experience – how to buy from the Chinese.
– You lived and worked in China for several years. What was the biggest challenge for you?
– I came to China without knowing any Chinese. Therefore, the first six months, when I started to learn Chinese, were the most difficult for me. The pronunciation and tones were quite challenging. Furthermore, I was not a student or even a young man by that point, so I had to study constantly, even during my business trips. The second challenge was understanding how the Chinese negotiate and how to see eye to eye with them. This is essential when you are buying from China and need to understand your own profits and losses in these deals.
– You are a professional in business, and you have been teaching in the Master Programme 'Business and Politics in Modern Asia' for several years as well. Why are you interested in working with students?
– First, I like to share my experience with young people, pass on practical knowledge, and explain how to avoid mistakes and problems they might encounter in the future. Secondly, I would like to understand how young people perceive the possibilities and opportunities of the future. What is important for them? As an employer, I have to learn how to find a common language with younger people as potential employees for my company.
– During your presentations, you mention quite often that it is better to work for several years for a company before entering an MA Programme and continuing one’s education. Could you please elaborate on this?
– Why do students have to have more experience between their bachelor's and master's studies? I think that you should gain some practical experience and knowledge before entering the master programme, because you cannot be an effective master's student without it. That is why I highly recommend taking a 2-5-year break before continuing your education at the master's level.
– You often invite business professionals to your seminars. Is it important for students to interact with professionals and is it worthwhile to start working with future employers before graduation?
– My aim is to explain from different perspectives what kinds of companies are looking for specialists like those that we produce in our programme in 'Business and Politics in Modern Asia'. I am eager to give the students an understanding of how to start working in these companies, how to create an effective CV, and how to get an internship.
– Could you please provide advice to young professionals on how to find a proper internship related to Asia?
– The best way is to find a company that is working and dealing with Asia. It can be Russian, Asian, or even an international company. It can be located in Russia or even in China. For instance, you can search for internships on the website of the European Chamber of Commerce in Asian cities such as Shanghai.
– What are the main opportunities for Russian students in Asia? Have things changed there over the years?
– Nowadays thousands of Chinese university graduates, who have gotten their education in the USA, Australia, Great Britain, and other countries, return to China. All of them speak English fluently. It means that there is high competition between Russian students, who speak Chinese and English, and Chinese, who speak English or Russian language. It was very easy to come as an expat without knowledge of Chinese language and work there with the help of interpreters fifteen years ago. Now, it is almost impossible to work in China without speaking Chinese. As for some other changes, I should mention new opportunities in growing Chinese markets and aggressive Chinese businesses that want to do business outside China.
– What kind of knowledge do you think will help students find an interesting job after graduation?
– What is most important is understanding what job is interesting for you personally. If you know, it will become the greatest motivation for you to gain more experience in the sphere you are interested in. In addition, you will be prepared for all the requirements for the position you want to receive.
– What is more important: to find a well-paying job or an interesting one?
– Every job grants a salary, but you have to be two or three times more the professional compared to the average employee to get a good salary. All in all, a well-paying job and an interesting job are completely different targets. From the short-term perspective, it is easy to find a well-paying job, but from the long-term perspective, you will earn much more money if you are interested in your job.
We thank Julia Kutepova, a 2nd-year student of the Master's programme 'Business and Politics in Modern Asia' for conducting this interview.