Jul 28, 2020

Interview with Dulwich College Shanghai Director of Community Wellbeing Pete Rogers

Recently, I had a chat with my friend and former colleague Pete Rogers, who is now the Director of Community Wellbeing at Dulwich College Shanghai. He answered 5 questions about his expat experience in China and shared unique insights about the best communication skill to successfully interact with a Chinese business partner or colleague. 

Jing Yan: What made you decide to come to China as an expat?  

Pete Rogers: Personally, it was an easy decision for me. I had a wonderful career in Higher Education in the United States but felt like I had done all that I could do in that industry. Hence, I wanted a new adventure and when a company recruited me I took the opportunity to think to myself "How often does an International Company offer to move you to Shanghai, China?" I moved and it's been an amazing six years. The best decision I've made in my adult life, really. The kinds of wonderful opportunities I've had, the incredibly talented people, the atmosphere, the food, all have blown my mind. 


What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps? 


1. Leave your expectations at the door. 
China will be different than you can ever imagine it to be. Be prepared to stretch...emotionally, cognitively, and professionally. 
 
2. Be open! 
China is a 5,000-year-old society and they have a dramatically different set of values than those of the West. There are also some areas of compliment to Western values so be open to what you can learn here. 

3. Learn some Chinese, even if it's just for the taxi! 
If you can speak even a little Chinese people will open up to you and you will be hungrier for more learning, so that's a win/win! 

"Learn some Chinese, even if it's just for the taxi!  If you can speak even a little Chinese people will open up to you and you will be hungrier for more learning, so that's a win/win!" 

4. Tell your friends and family at home that you will have less contact with them (because you will). 
I stay in contact with my large family and many friends, but it's on a different scale and timetable. If you expect that your ability to be in contact with loved ones will change, you'll be less anxious when you're not keeping up with all the news back home. They'll be less anxious as well. Oh, tell them to get WeChat! HUGE help!

5. Don't spend all your free time traveling. 
Yes, certain times of the year are made for traveling but so many expats travel every weekend and they miss the depth of China. Some travel is wonderful...but I've met many expats who jump from city to city and never really experience anything other than surface-level China. 

How’s your business or career affected after Corona virus? 


I'm now working in an International School so I don't have private clients any longer so my life is quite stable as far as business goes.  


What do you think is the key to succeed in business and career in China?


The key is being able to adapt. There are incredible opportunities in China and also some incredible frustrations and you need to be prepared for both. Also, know that relationships matter here and are, arguably, the most important skills you need to cultivate. Being able to build and sustain committed relationships with your business partners or potential business partners will lead to your success. No matter how smart you are, how talented you are, how committed you are, if you do not cultivate relationships your ceiling for success will be very low. 


What is the best communication skill when speaking with a Chinese business partner or colleague?


I think the most helpful communication skill to have when speaking with Chinese business partners and colleagues is to be authentically curious. What I mean by that is if you spend more time thinking, or asking, "Wow, I really want to learn more about that", or "I wonder what I'm missing here that could be helpful" I think you'll be better off. I made mistakes when I first arrived and many of them were preventable if I had only adopted the mentality of "I need to LEARN" as opposed to "I need to teach." Even as a consultant and teacher I always need to be learning and listening. 


"I think the most helpful communication skill to have when speaking with Chinese business partners and colleagues is to be authentically curious."