Cindy Gottinger: What the rest of the world can learn from China"

Cindy Gottinger .jpeg

Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance 

“Shanghai, a metropolis full of energy and a lifestyle many liken to big international cities like New York. Shanghai is a fascinating mix of East and West, prevalent in the city's architecture, culinary offerings and culture. There is never a dull moment in this city.”

Cindy Gottinger moved to Shanghai to start her role as Industry Lead at Google, where she helps Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) MNCs leverage existing and emerging technologies to digitalise and transform their marketing operations.

With over fifteen years’ involvement in the Australia China community, Cindy continues to be actively involved both in Australia and China. Serving as the Executive Director of Australia China Young Professional Initiative (ACYPI) in Greater China, she successfully established a platform for young professionals to engage in bilateral discussions and exchange.

Cindy spoke to Advance about how Australia-China relations are important to keep Australia forward-moving and agile, her involvement with the ACYPI, and what the rest of the world can learn from China.

How long have you been based in Shanghai? What took you there?

I’ve been based in Shanghai for two and a half years. Shanghai is the headquarters for many FMCG companies and also the centre of the advertising industry where many creative, media and event agencies are based. I was also looking to experience a new side of China after spending almost four years in Beijing where I worked as a Brand Manager for Volkswagen Group China. 

Why Shanghai and not another Chinese city?

My career brought me to Shanghai, however if given the option I would have chosen Shanghai as my next base. Both cities have their charm. Beijing is the cultural capital of China – I use to live near the Forbidden City, and it was incredible to think I'd go for mornings jogs around a UNESCO Heritage-listed site built in the 15th century. Then there's Shanghai, a metropolis full of energy and a lifestyle which many liken to big international cities like New York. Shanghai is a fascinating mix of East and West, prevalent in the city's architecture, culinary offering and culture. There is never a dull moment in this city. 

What career opportunities have been presented to you in Shanghai that you otherwise may have not been granted in Australia?  

A number of leadership opportunities have been presented to me as a result of certain core skills I have cultivated while working in China. One of the core skills is the ability to influence and collaborate with a diverse group of individuals that have come from different parts of China and abroad in search of opportunities. We all have different cultural backgrounds and have different ways of doing things, and as a result each offer a unique perspective on how to approach a business problem. 

How has your Australian upbringing influenced your life in China?

Australia’s laid back culture has been incredibly helpful in dealing with challenges of living in a developing country. Sometimes plans don’t always work out as expected for multiple factors outside my control. I don't allow these mishaps to faze me, instead I turn them into opportunities. 

The Australian "give it a go" attitude means I often find myself saying yes to a variety of opportunities that come my way. There is no perfect timing to take on new challenges. Saying yes leads to more doors opening and you never know what will present itself. 

Can you tell us about your involvement with the ACYPI and why you think this is important?

Australia China Young Professional Initiative (ACYPI) was established in 2011 and I was one of the founding committee members in Melbourne. ACYPI is a platform for young professionals to engage with the Australia-China bilateral relationship. We have chapters in all capital cities around Australia and in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.  

Through events in Australia and China we connect young professionals to significant commercial, political and academic leaders and provide networking opportunities across sectors. In order to develop the next generation leaders of the Australia-China relationship its important develop a deep understanding of issues facing business in Australia and China. 

How important are Australia-China relations to keep Australia forward-moving and agile?

2017 marks 45 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and China. As we've seen over the decades, these bilateral relations have been a strong foundation for Australian economic growth and stability, particularly during global economic downturn. Milestones like the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) lay the foundations for the next phase of Australia and China's economic relationship and stimulate the competitiveness of Australian companies.

What advice would you give to young Australian professionals moving to Shanghai?

Embrace the local people, culture and market. It is very easy to settle into an expat life in Shanghai and limit yourself to boundaries you are familiar with. Before you know it, you’ve spent five years in China, don’t speak a word of Chinese and don’t have a deep understand of the local market. Invest time in understanding the market conditions beyond what's on the surface and spend time getting to know Chinese, you'll soon realise the similarities you share. 

Is China a leader in the evolving technology trends?

China is making strong advancements in technology including in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and 3D printing. One technology trend I have experience firsthand as a consumer is eCommerce. Companies like Tmall, Taobao and JD have turned online shopping into a pastime, and with the introduction of their live streaming channel, a form of entertainment.  

According to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report, China’s eCommerce growth increased 24% year over year in 2016 and 71% of eCommerce spending came from mobile devices. This habit to engage in eCommerce is support by China’s mobile payment solutions led by AliPay and Wechat whereby consumers are able to complete a transaction within a few taps. 

What can the rest of the world learn from China?

China is quick to bring products and services to the market. As a result, they are able to test and iterate at a speed that gives them a competitive advantage.

WeChat, China's messaging and social media app founded in 2012 has evolved into an entire ecosystem which includes features like paying utility fees, a taxi booking service, food delivery, rail and flight booking, a fitness tracker, just to name a few functionalities. 

While their product wasn't perfect when it was first released they were able to test and iterate their features and drive adoption. Today Wechat has 889 million active users who use the app for both personal and social purposes.