Three highlights

For Chinese executive Max Zhou, taking part in an executive leadership program at The University of Queensland was a life long dream.

The moment I arrived home in China in April this year, I began missing Brisbane. Now, I will share the story of how my dream came true – and what made the biggest impressions on me during my six-month leadership program at UQ.

Studying abroad was my dream when I was in college, but when I finally landed a job with HBIS Group in Shijiazhuang (one of China’s largest steel companies), English was not part of it. Four years later, the company accelerated its globalisation and started collaborating with a worldwide steel making company. And I noticed more and more foreigners in the company. Shortly after, I got a chance to go to Europe on a business trip where HBIS acquired a steel company, which was the start of my international life.  To improve the company’s innovation abilities and global competitiveness, HBIS implemented a talent program for 22 young managers and sent them to UQ to take part in a number of executive education courses over six months. The program was designed in collaboration with Business School Executive Education. Luckily, I was chosen, and for me, this proves that something you really desire will spring up in your life one day.

The UQ executive leadership program included strategic marketing, international HR management, leadership styles and practice, innovation leadership, English language skills etc. Before going to Australia, I had made big plans that included improving my English and learning more about international HR management. And I certainly got far more out of this trip than I expected.

The thing I miss most is the teachers

We were so lucky to have distinguished professors who were all knowledgeable, fun and easy-going. This was the first time we had experienced Western education after many years of Chinese education, so we had to get used to not just listening, but also participating and discussing issues with the class. We gradually fell in love with this way of teaching, as it helped us to learn more.

We had a number of teachers during the program and they were very different in personality but had one thing in common; they never just gave a lecture. There was also a combination of theory and practice in each course. When we were taught “experience marketing”, Professors Janet McKoll-Kennedy and David Solnet brought us to Apple and T2 to experience their services after class. This has changed my method of leading a team– and even the way I bring up my son.

The most useful thing I learned is the change of mindset and methodology

At the end of each course, the teachers asked us: “What are the points that you could take back and apply to your jobs?" I have adopted at least 20 tools and theories, but I think the most important aspect for me is how I have changed my mindset. To give an example; after I returned to my job, my first task was to organise a lecture where experts would share their knowledge and experience. In the UQ public relations course, we had touched upon the idea of stakeholders, which means you have to consider different stakeholders’ interests in a specific task or topic. So I identified and classified the stakeholders – experts, young technicians, factory directors – and my event plan was approved by the top managers straight away.

I most enjoyed the environment and culture

Brisbane has clean air, beautiful beaches, and a lot of parks. I started exercising – running in the morning and swimming in the evening - and lost seven kilograms. I really miss the Brisbane Botanic Gardens where I would go running almost every day.

I also began to check out the local society. I chose three or four events a week on the Meetup groups app, which allowed me to explore different interests. This was another amazing part of my stay abroad, giving me a chance to experience Western culture. Not only did I make some new friends, I also became more open, tolerant and diversified.

To wrap up my story, I want to quote my favourite model from the UQ studies: the “70:20:10 Learning & Development Model".

It says that 70 per cent of ability comes from practice, 20 per cent from communication and 10 per cent from formal study.

Even though the formal study only accounts for 10 per cent, for me it is the beginning and source of the remaining 90 – and illustrates well my experience at UQ.

It was a short stay, but its influence will be lifelong.