More frequently now, US-based (mostly Silicon Valley) tech and business professionals are contacting me, asking how to find work in China. The business people usually want to get paid US salary to stay in the US and do some BD work for a US or Chinese company. The technology people usually want to find work in China.
For the most part, it’s very hard to find work which requires that you stay in the US paid at US salary. I have never heard of a Chinese company hiring someone on the recommendation of a senior recruiter without first meeting senior and executive management over a period of time. I know of one VP in a gaming company who came back to China, was hired and worked in China for nearly a year, and was then sent to open up their new US west coast office. Of course, a job like this requires working with a very Chinese company, which means that you need to know Chinese. And you need to prove yourself in the home office before you will be sent to the US. So, it is not easy…
For technology pros with 10+ years’ experience, my advice is that they take a few months off to come to China, and network as much as possible. Paul Graham puts it very well in this article about web startups. Beijing is a very vibrant startup hub and its tech grads from Tsinghua University offer the cream of the crop; generally speaking people are very friendly and open about what they are doing.
Shanghai is a more western style city, and the mentalities of the people are very different from Beijing. A rough analogy would be to say that Beijing is like Silicon Valley + Washington DC, and Shanghai is like Los Angeles or New York when it comes to mainstream media.
If you are a tech pro with 10+ years working in Silicon Valley, you really should be thinking more in terms of startup than about joining a company as an employee. There is an upfront sacrifice in terms of time, but in the end you will be happier, and at least you will own a piece of a company. If you are younger, you can afford to make a few mistakes in your early startups; if you are older, you want to choose more carefully. The good thing about doing a startup is that even if it fails, you are likely to make excellent acquaintances which will help you in the future.
One reader of my previous article Is It Possible For A Western-Managed Company to Succeed In China? mentioned that I made it sound very hard for a westerner to succeed in China. Well, yes and no.
Over the weekend, I came across an interesting announcement on Danwei from Praxis Language, the parent company of Chinesepod, an online Chinese-language learning program. The company is based in Shanghai and is headed by Ken Carroll. I met Ken in 2005 at the first Chinese blogger conference, which was held in November of that year in Shanghai. I have never used Chinesepod, but I have heard many favorable comments about it from westerners who want to learn Chinese.
The announcement, which is on Ken’s blog, mentioned that the Chinese government agency in charge of the government-operated Confucius Institutes, had approached his company about partnering to create an online presence for their institutes and helping to teach Chinese to non-Chinese using the Internet.
Think about it. The Chinese government partners with a non-Chinese headed company in Shanghai which knows something about language teaching online to help them promote the teaching of Chinese online around the world.
So, if you are good in your field, of course there are opportunities for western-owned startups in China.