Zenan He was an adult when she left China for the first time. Born in the capital, Beijing, Zenan’s first international experience was an exchange semester in South Korea during her undergraduate degree.
After graduating with a bachelor’s from one of China’s top law universities, Zenan decided to pursue a career in business. She felt a master’s degree would give her the platform for success.
Despite her limited international experience, Zenan was eager to seize the opportunity to study abroad. She enrolled in the Master in Management (MiM) at ESCP Business School, a top French institution which has six campuses spread across Europe.
The two-year degree gave Zenan a wealth of international experience and helped develop her business acumen. Now, she has launched a high-flying career in Paris with leading luxury fashion house, Christian Dior.
From Beijing to business school
Zenan was always passionate about beauty and fashion: “I have a thing about the beauty industry,” she says, “that’s basically the reason why I did an exchange in South Korea because I like the Korean idea and concept of beauty.”
While an undergrad at China University of Political Science and Law, she didn’t dream she could pursue her passion as a career. However Zenan did discover her preference for business over law during her joint bachelor’s. A keen writer, she particularly enjoyed marketing, where she could develop her copywriting skills.
“I felt like I started to fall in love with what I was learning there, and that’s why I decided to pursue a career in business,” she says.
To build her experience, Zenan undertook internships at public relations firms, working with clients such as the manufacturer, Ingersoll Rand, and Italian tyre company, Pirelli.
After graduating from her bachelor’s she felt studying a master’s at an established business school would give her the best chance of successfully landing a role with a top company.
READ: Master In Management: USA Vs Europe
Studying a Master’s degree in France
Keen to experience a culture outside of mainland China, Zenan looked abroad for study destinations and chose Europe, where business schools are typically cheaper than the US.
After researching top programs and speaking with connections she’d made on her internships, she decided France was the best place to take the next step in her career.
“I knew French business schools are super famous among all the European schools, they really stood out among all of the countries there,” she says.
Embarking on a new journey in a foreign country, Zenan was keen to enroll in a two-year program. This would mean she could immerse herself in the local culture and would also offer the opportunity to gain internship experience while studying.
Coming from a city of over 20 million people, Zenan also wanted a similar experience. At ESCP, a top-ranked school which offers campuses across Paris, Madrid, and London—to name a few—she felt confident she’d have the opportunity to broaden her horizons.
A Master in Management: Preparing for Dior
Regions across the globe typically have different approaches to business. While studying her Master in Management, Zenan enjoyed learning about business from a French perspective.
“It was really different from what I learned in China. Courses were very practical—sometimes professors came directly from companies or a full-time professor would invite friends who worked at certain companies to give lectures,” she explains.
Masters in Management are generalist business degrees, teaching fundamentals ranging from finance to organizational strategy. The broad ESCP MiM curriculum gave Zenan an understanding of the various key aspects of business she’d need to know in her career.
“It helped me make that bridge between student life and working at a company,” she says.
Landing a top job with Dior
With the opportunity to undertake internships available during the program, Zenan took on two experiences in the beauty industry that would build the foundations for her career.
Working with Parisian company, L’Oreal, she spent six months as a social media and customer relationship assistant, before a second internship with the business analytics and operational marketing team.
While key in furthering her career, they were challenging experiences: “all the other interns were French speakers, so I was the only one who couldn’t speak fluent French,” she says.
This made building relationships with her fellow interns and adapting to a new working environment difficult. Looking back, she feels the experience forced her to become adaptable and capable of dealing with adversity.
“I really enjoyed what I did at L’Oreal. I liked the team, the manager—I think I learned a lot in terms of hard skills and soft skills.”
The internships proved vital in preparing Zenan for her job with Dior. With help from the ESCP careers team and various MiM alumni, she secured the role shortly after graduation. While not fluent in French, her experiences also taught her how to navigate a working environment where people speak multiple languages.
Zenan now works as a data and reporting project manager in Paris, responsible for Dior’s digital marketing projects, managing in-house systems, and leading the company’s digital innovation drive.
She spends her days exploring creative digital solutions ranging from NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) to the Metaverse and even Instagram filters. That’s alongside coordinating a team of programmers and consultants to build and deliver projects.
“Especially within the digital innovation element, there are new topics for everyone so I’m still in the process of learning,” she says. “I really like what I’m doing and I like Dior, so I plan to stay here for several years.”
Working at a top beauty firm, Zenan has successfully landed a role where she can channel her passion. It’s a far cry from the career she imagined while studying at law school.
“I feel more confident if I wear nice makeup or I dress in fashionable clothes. Working in this industry I have the ability to try to bring that happiness and energy to more people.”
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