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Conquering China

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Jowell See has become a sought-after advertising executive in China and proves that Filipinos have what it takes to outperform other foreign workers in the mainland.

Jowell SeeAs big multinational companies fall over themselves scrambling for a piece of the action in China, advertisers and marketers are just as frantic to capture the attention of billions of Chinese consumers. One of the busiest advertising executives making waves in the mainland is Jowell See, a Filipino, who handles various ad and marketing campaigns for such world-renowned brands as Dell, Intel, and Volvo.

Today, See is the youngest executive partner at Euro RSCG, a global firm recognized as one of the top five agencies in Beijing. (He is the only Filipino among Euro RSCG’s 250 employees.) The title is given to Euro’s senior staffers in China who have helped the outfit grow. He was also one of 16 recipients of the first Euro RSCG Star Performance award.

When he completes his eight year stint with Euro, See will soon transfer to Enfatico* as general manager of its Beijing office. ChinaBiz catches up with Jowell See in this interview.

ChinaBusiness: How did you end up going to China?

See: In 1997, China was not the place to be. My brother, Jeffrey, had a friend, who was working in China and he was looking for someone who spoke English fluently and who would be comfortable to work with.

There was an advertising job initially offered to my brother, but since he was not prepared to leave his business behind, he convinced me instead to give it a try.

I was and barely a year out of college and I considered the prospect of living abroad a novel and exciting idea. I went to the interview and got accepted. I’ve been living in China for 10 years now.

What are the advantages of living and working in China?

China, being one of the biggest and fastest growing economies in the world, presents a very ideal setting for learning and growth. Opportunities are vast and practically limitless, as long as you are determined and willing to work hard.

In my line of work, I meet people from different backgrounds and schools of thought, which makes for a very stimulating and challenging environment. Of course, the perks are considerably higher, too.

And the disadvantages?
Being away from family and friends is not easy. Manila will always be home to me. I’ve missed out on so many family gatherings and celebrations, but that is the price of working abroad.

The foreign work culture can sometimes be a major obstacle and a cause of stress. To get things done, you have to be flexible and bend to a different work style; you must adapt.

What are your responsibilities as an executive partner for Euro RSCG?

I oversee and manage the marketing communication needs, interactive marketing, and customer relations management business of Volvo, Dell, and other companies in China. I’ve always worked under the following principles: client satisfaction, account revenue generation, and employee retention. I will do the same with my new responsibility.

Tell us some of the challenges you’ve encountered in your work.

The differences between our work culture and theirs always come to mind. These posed some difficulties at the start, but I’ve simply coped the best way I knew how. Now, I’ve pretty much adjusted. As to communication, I manage to get by with my Mandarin, though it’s far from impeccable.

There are many successful Filipino professionals abroad. Where do you attribute this?

I think Filipinos are, by nature, flexible and have an easier time adjusting to other cultures. Maybe, the fact that we were colonized by western powers in the past and our deep exposure to their culture makes for a more open and east-meets-west thinking.

What do you think Filipinos should do to improve themselves and compete with other professionals abroad?

Avoid being satisfied with mediocrity. The drive for excellence is just not there. The “puwede na” (“this will do”) attitude still prevails among many Filipinos. Competition is tough out there, especially in China. There is no room for complacency and mediocrity if you wish to succeed and go far.

Discipline should also come from within. We sometimes wonder how Filipinos can be so disciplined in a foreign land with strict rules and penalties, but not in their own country; we often say, “Kaya naman pala.” (“It can be done, after all.”) There are no doubts about our abilities; it’s our will and determination that are often questioned.

What other pieces of advice can you give to other Filipinos working abroad?

Work hard; save harder. Spend within your means and try to put away at least 35%, if not more, of your income.

Try to understand the history and culture of your destination country. It will help you appreciate and understand the people better and enjoy living in your host country.

print ed: 08/08


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