Alumnus discusses the impact of the HNC on his consulting career in China

Alumnus discusses the impact of the HNC on his consulting career in China

William Stockton works in Shanghai, China as an Account Manager at Kantar, a data, insights and consulting company. He attended the Hopkins-Nanjing Center as a Master’s in International Studies student from 2019 to 2021 concentrating in International Economics. He wrote his master’s thesis on The US-China Trade War’s Impact on China’s New Energy Private Vehicle Market.

William at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

Tell us a bit more about your career and your current role.

I work as an account manager in the qualitative research department at an insights, consulting, and brand strategy firm. We do deep dives into consumers’ habits, creative testing, and concept testing. I help global companies with their marketing and consumer insight problems in China. I work with a lot of different industries, from e-commerce, to fashion apparel, to food beverage, auto industry, technology—it’s a little bit of everything. We provide clients with implications to help their marketing and business strategy teams to choose the best next steps.

Before the HNC, I worked at a huge food and beverage company in financial services, carrying out a lot of auditing, data analysis, and troubleshooting for sales reporting. 

How often do you use Chinese in your current position and/or other skills you gained while studying at the HNC?

My first semester at the Hopkins-Nanjing, I met a lot of friends, both foreign and Chinese. After many students didn’t return to China because of the pandemic, most of my classmates were Chinese, so I only spoke Chinese. My Chinese is self-taught, so being with Chinese classmates helped me to write more properly and learn specialized language related to my specialization, International Economics.

In my current role, I use my language skills a lot. I don't handwrite in Chinese but I use heavily for communication with coworkers, local clients and during research and fieldwork for projects. It’s a lot of speaking, listening, reading—more than I thought I could handle. The HNC really helped me prepare for this.

What is a favorite memory of yours from your time at the HNC?

I can only narrow it down to two. The Halloween party was my most fun night on campus. Seeing all the teachers and everyone get in the spirit of the holiday was very fun. We prepared everything as a class—I thought that was really nice because it highlighted that this was a school community. Especially going to graduate school as an adult, this party made me feel like I was back in my college days. We were all in China by ourselves—together. 

One very specific moment in class stuck out for me. I was in Yang Liu’s Film, Culture, and Society in Contemporary China course and we had to film movies for our final. My group sort of butted heads in the beginning but ended up filming and actually won the “film contest” that the professor organized in the class. This experience was really enjoyable because we had to speak Chinese and English while working as a team.

What is one piece of advice you have for current or future HNC students?

I have academic advice and personal advice. First, if you’re an international student, don’t beat yourself up on your language skills. You’ll always find a challenge in learning Chinese, no matter how many years down the road. I put a lot of pressure and criticism on myself, especially reading very slowly. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t get yourself down, just push through it. 

Do as many things as you can with your classmates. This sounds generic, but the pandemic made me realize that I took for granted all of the experiences that the Hopkins-Nanjing Center offers. I can get sort of antisocial or “hermit-y”. I did push myself to participate in activities, but I wish I had pushed harder. Remember, these are your future alumni. The job I got was because I networked with an alumnus who knew another alumnus. That also does matter. 

What do you see as the value of the HNC in the future?

William and colleagues at a corporate event in Shanghai

Of course, the HNC is a bridge between the China and the US—this has been said before. One that I found very special was Chinese students being put in a more Western situation in a classroom where they can be pushed to speak their mind and open up. I found this to be interesting and a juxtaposition between the two cultures in the classroom. Especially in the Interdisciplinary Studies Tutorial (a required class for the Master’s in International Studies (MAIS) degree)—you primarily see the international students raising their hands and participating in the beginning, but towards the end of the semester, participation comes from everyone. For foreign students, it’s valuable to be put in our classmates’ shoes as well. The pressure is on when you’re writing Chinese or interacting with Chinese professors. You get a taste of each other’s academic worlds. It’s not easy but it’s valuable—there’s no other school in China that is set up like this.

Written by Alec Nash, MAIS Class of 2024