Interning in Shanghai this summer was not only going to allow me to continue living in Shanghai, experiencing the culture, and practicing my Mandarin skills, but also to give me the change to get a taste of the working environment in China. When I decided to apply for the Summer Internship Program, I was looking to expand my understanding of what I may want to do post-graduation and whether I could see myself working in Shanghai, or abroad in general, after my four years at Lafayette.
I started interning on Monday, June 25th and my last day will be on Thursday, August 2nd. I work Monday - Thursday every week from 9:00AM - 6:00PM. When I was originally told my hours, I was a little overwhelmed. Working nine hours a day as an unpaid intern seemed like a lot. However, after two weeks have already come and go, I’ve enjoyed being able to really immerse myself in the work environment, observe my office culture, and get a better understanding of my company. Since my first day on the job, I’ve already learned a lot more about what my company actually does and the goals and expectations the CEO has for himself, his coworkers, and the future of the business.
MindSpan is an established company in Greater China. Their leadership coaching and consulting services are extremely successful as they partner with Fortune 500 companies and Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) to provide coaching for employees at these large companies. Coaching has just started to become more popular within Chinese businesses, as companies are trying to elevate the leadership and capability of their employees, individually and as a team, to improve their business as a whole. Our boss explained that in the past, Chinese businesspeople were mainly focused on “saving face” so they were afraid to show their weaknesses or make it known that there were significant gaps within their company. However, overtime, coaching has become more accepted as a way to increase business performance and success.
If a company identifies a gap in their talent base, they contact MindSpan to share their worries and needs. MindSpan then takes this information and creates a profile for the company outlining the goals and 1-2 coaches that might be a good fit for their needs based on previous experience, language spoken, location, and other factors. After compiling this data, the client is then presented with this information, and once a client-coach pair is identified, coaching can begin. Coaching sessions usually occur over a 7-month period, including post-coaching follow-ups and alignment sessions with the nominator to make sure that the program goals align with the vision of the company. Each coach has a different style of teaching, but sessions tend to target the client’s relevant needs in order to help refine the employee into a stronger leader, giving them techniques to improve their efficiency, creativity, communication, and other leadership skills. Given the nature of one-on-one coaching, it’s easy to tailor each session to the client and increase the effectiveness of the coaching. MindSpan also supports other leadership coaching programs and workshops that aim to target the team instead of just the individual.
As an intern, I’m working on a break-off project that MindSpan is developing called 4th Space. MindSpan’s dream is that 4th Space will mature into an app available for download in the app store. Through this app, MindSpan is looking to provide easy ways to find consulting services as well as a library of content related to leadership coaching via highly regarded authors in this field (citing their works with their consent).
So far in my internship, I have been researching books and journals published on different leadership topics to gather resources that users of 4th Space can view in addition to the consulting services. I have also had the opportunity to sit in on conference calls, sales team meetings, and presentations to learn more about how MindSpan functions on a daily basis, the breakup of their sales, and the action requirements that each employee creates for themselves in order to work towards gradually accomplishing their end goal.
After work hours, I have also had the opportunity to speak with my boss’ mentor, an independent consultant from Canada who has been operating out of Shanghai for the past ten years. I was able to talk with him about the vision for 4th Space, what I’ve been doing as an intern, what my role is in the company right now, and other relevant topics. He shared his personal experience as a leadership coach, how he ended up in Shanghai, what he did before coming to China, and why he became a coach in the first place. It was great to learn more about the leadership coaching field in general and to hear a Westerner’s view on the importance of coaching, business culture in China, and Chinese leadership.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when starting my internship in Shanghai, and there have definitely been some surprises and frustrations along the way due to the differences in business culture between Eastern and Western ways of leadership, however, I’m excited to see all that I can continue learning from this company in the coming weeks.