Clarence Kwan, National Managing Partner, Chinese Services Group, Deloitte LLP, was the Weissman Center’s 90th Mitsui USA Lunch-Time Forum guest speaker. Mr. Kwan assists U.S. companies that invest or operate in China, as well as Chinese companies seeking to access U.S. markets. Mr. Kwan has worked in China, Houston, New York and Taipei since joining Deloitte in 1978.
The Weissman Center recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Kwan about his career, his education, and about tips for students who wish to enter an international business field.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in getting involved in international business and trying to break into the field?
You have to look at it from several angles. One is the readiness of the individual. Do you have the background, the language skills and the exposure that would be deemed necessary by the employer. During your studies you need to take some courses related to international business and international finance. You need to pay more attention to changes in the globalization of businesses and in the economy. In addition, you must be able to position yourself for those opportunities. You should participate in extracurricular activities that will provide you with the exposure and the opportunity to network with people in international business. I think that is important. And, of course, getting internship opportunities during school in the field of international business is essential. It will give confidence and experience.
What resources were you able to use when you were in college? What do you think helped you most in launching your career?
When I first joined the firm, it was 1978; that was a long time ago. The environment has actually changed quite a bit. The choice of your first job is very important. You want to make sure you get into a situation where the opportunity for growth is quite broad.
What do you like most about your job? What keeps you passionate about what you do?
Seeing things happen and being a part of what is going on in the world. Helping U.S. companies invest in China and seeing them become successful based on your advice. Helping Chinese companies come over here and navigating a new business environment. When you’re sitting in the middle, you have a unique vantage point.
As part of your job you get to travel a lot and between the U.S. and China. What is happening in China?
When you have an economy like China, which is growing 8 to 11 percent a year – things change very quickly. I have to try and keep up with the changes there. Otherwise things get outdated. In a fast growing market you can become obsolete. Most people make a mistake in a fast growing market because they hold onto the same mindsets that they had five years ago. To me, to be able to play in an emerging market, the key thing is to stay up-to-date and to be able to unlearn what you have learned in class. Keep an open eye and respond to change. Always keep an open mind and absorb as much as you can so you can make informed decisions.
If there was one book that you would recommend to Undergraduate and Graduate students to build knowledge on international business, what would it be?
It’s a very old book called “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge, founder of the Center for Organizational Learning at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. It’s about how a corporation can become a learning organization. In a globalized world we need to keep on learning. Although it’s an old book, the way Peter Senge presents his ideas challenges our thought process.