Discover a Global Saskatchewan
through Chang Li
Manager of International Operations & Business Processes, 3Twenty Solutions
What are your responsibilities at 3twenty Solutions?
I oversee international operations and business planning, which involves travelling to different countries and meeting people.
How long have you held that that position?
About a year and a half.
What does your company gain by being international?
3twenty gains a lot from being international. We can bring the Canadian brand on the global stage, as well as expertise in the international market and the ability to expand our business with partnerships and joint partnerships overseas.
What other positions have you held that had an international focus?
Before this, I worked in materials and chemical products trading, including buying and selling.
What first interested you in international business and how did you first get involved?
I’m originally from China, and I came to study in Canada six years ago. I’ve always been interested in “connecting the dots” globally, and I know it’s important not to just stay in one place. Globalization was also an important factor. My previous work experience in China was my first step.
What kind of training or degree does your job require? Is there any training you wish you would have had?
I graduated as a management major from the Edwards School of Business, and this degree was definitely required for this position! The Edwards School of Business gave the knowledge and experience of how to do business in Canada, as I already had experience of doing business in China. You learn about your position as you work; you’re always learning. The skills we learn in school are useful, but you never know what you might need to learn next!
What skills have you picked up abroad that have been the most useful in your business career?
Well in China, I learned about negotiation. When we met the state-owned enterprise in China, we had to negotiate with them. It’s a very tough thing to do! In Canada, I learned how to work in the business culture here. It’s totally different than China, with a lower power distance. You have more freedom and the opportunity to be creative, as well as the opportunity for everyone to help one another.
What countries have you travelled to for business?
Just Canada and China at the moment.
What are the biggest communications barriers you’ve encountered while doing business abroad?
We didn’t encounter any communication barriers in China, as I speak both English and Mandarin and understand both cultures. Had I not been there however, things like gift exchanges and expectations, behavior and manners, business dinner etiquette (including how much you should drink and when to stop!) as well as toasting, would have been difficult. Cultural differences affect how you interpret people, and good first impressions are hard to make if you don’t understand the culture of the people you’re dealing with.
What has been the longest time you have spent abroad for business?
About 2 weeks.
When traveling for business, do you prefer to travel directly in-and-out, or do you take your time? Why?
It depends. If we’re travelling just to negotiate, we prefer to go directly in-and-out. We don’t want to seem indecisive. However, when we’re establishing operations or launching a product, we like to take our time, as it helps us build working relationships with partners and employees, as well as allowing us to supervise projects and operations.
What can Saskatchewan businesses and businesspeople do to continue to make Saskatchewan an international business centre?
Saskatchewan has opened up quite a lot in the last few years. The Chamber of Commerce‘s efforts to allow more foreign workers to come to Saskatchewan have done a good job of raising the province’s international recognition. However, the province could still use more promotion of the energy sector and the province itself. We should also be promoting the Saskatchewan lifestyle, especially the summertime! Winter recreational activities can draw people here as well.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in international business?
Have an open mind. Networking is important, so you should meet the right decision maker from your foreign counter-party or partner. Also, don’t judge anything too quickly, and always get a second opinion on new things. The two of you may understand things differently.
What opportunities are currently available to those who want to pursue a career in international business?
Agriculture is still important. The agricultural trade between North America and Asia is already strong but it’s still growing, as well as between North and South America. In addition, China still needs more North American agricultural products and equipment. Other opportunities include the energy sectors and any import/export trading.
Which countries are your favorites to do business in?
Definitely Canada at the moment.
What has been your best experience or adventure abroad?
Having authentic Chinese food again! I didn’t like Canadian food when I first came here, but I can’t live without it now.
What do you miss most about Saskatchewan while abroad?
I miss Saskatchewan’s environment and the space; it’s a beautiful land! I miss the competitiveness of China though. There, you’re always working, and if you’re not working, you’re falling behind. I don’t like slowing down!
What is your favorite souvenir from abroad?
I like to bring back rice wine and expensive alcohol!
What is your absolute favorite travel destination?
In China, I like Shanghai definitely, and in Canada, I like Vancouver. Toronto is okay too, it reminds me of China
What is your favorite way to travel?
I don’t like flying at all! I like the high-speed trains in China. If we had trains like these in Canada, the trip from Saskatoon to Toronto would be just a few hours; Saskatoon to Calgary would be less than an hour!
Are you a window or aisle person?
When I first started travelling, I was a window person. I’m scared of flying and I wanted to see out the window to make sure everything was okay. Now I’m an aisle person, because it’s easier to get out and move around.
On an airplane, do you chat with your neighbors or are you quiet?
I like to chat, but only if the other person want to too. It’s always interesting to learn where the other person is from, and where they’re going. I’ve actually made a few friends doing this!
What is your favorite pastime while travelling?
If I’m on a train, I like to think. I find the high speed helps me think fast. If I’m on an airplane, I like to watch the in-flight movies, so I can catch-up on all the new releases.
What is your packing philosophy?
Go empty come back full!
If we opened up your carry-on luggage, what might we find?
My computer; I always have my laptop, my notebook and my business cards.
What is one item you never travel without?
My cell phone and the charger.
In a few words, how would you describe Saskatchewan's international trade success?
We’ve seen fast growth and an increase of opportunities, but also the potential for a lot more of both.
Although it appears to be a recent development, most people are unaware that Saskatchewan has been a significant global exporter for decades. Why do you think this has been largely unknown?
We don’t promote our accomplishments enough. However, by introducing the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP), the province has made it easier foreign workers to come to Saskatchewan to work, and this has really increased awareness, inside and outside the province. More programs similar to this would help Saskatchewan, as the SINP is very well known to new Canadian arrivals.
How important is getting your name out there and building a professional network globally to a career in international business?
It’s very important! An experienced background gives a lot of credibility in the international market. If I’m evaluating someone in China, I consider whether they have international experience. Have they done business elsewhere? That is very important.