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Huanyu from China, VP of communications at MasterCard

Wu Huanyu and Ellie Buchdahl at the Education UK Career Development Workshop 2014

Education UK met Mr Wu Huanyu from China, associate vice president of communications at MasterCard – and former MA Media and Communications student at the London School of Economics. Find out how he went from studying diplomacy to one of the biggest financial PR jobs in the world!

Favourite UK...

Food: Fish and chips – I eat it as soon as I arrive every time!
Drink: English breakfast tea
Song: Not so much a song, but I love the musical Les Misérables and seeing it in the West End is one of the best experiences
Film: Love Actually – I love the songs in it – or the James Bond films
TV programme: The Graham Norton Show

What is your role?

I am currently head of public relations at MasterCard for the British-China region, covering all communications activity between China and the UK. My role is maintaining media and social media relations, including some areas of government relations.

You look very young to be a vice president! How did you get the job?

I’m 34 – I came to study in the UK when I was 21 then went straight to work for public relations company Weber Shandwick, where I was serving MasterCard on one job. When MasterCard needed someone to do public relations they asked me if I would be interested. I’d been on the agency side for several years, so I decided to change to the in-house, client side.

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

My major in China was in diplomacy and most of my classmates were training to be diplomats, but I didn’t think that was what I wanted to be, so I decided to spend some time overseas. I looked at universities in Australia too, but I particularly wanted to go to the UK because of the UK’s great history of academic studies, and the fact that it is one of the leading economies in the world.

I also heard from alumni that they had had a really good experience, and found out from them about the postgraduate programme in media and communications at LSE. I applied for that course and they accepted me.

Was the course everything you had hoped?

The course was inspirational. I learned a lot that I could never have learned in China. In the UK, you don’t just write down what teachers say and then recite that in exams. The professors try to encourage you to have your own thoughts about a lot of concepts.

Media communications is very developed as a subject, and there are a lot of books and courses about it. I also got to listen to speeches by famous people who came to the university.

The Education UK team meets Wu Huanyu at the Brighter Future Career Development Workshop 2014

Did you find it easy to settle in to life in the UK?

Yes. People are friendly and they are quite familiar with international citizens. They understand if your English isn’t perfect and they like to help you.

I did have a shock on my first Sunday, though. I decided to go shopping on Oxford Street (one of the main shopping streets in central London) and I got up really early because I was still jetlagged – but everything was shut! That’s very different from China! I had to walk up and down all morning until at least one restaurant opened and I could get some food in my stomach. But soon I wasn’t finding it difficult to find shops or something to eat!

What aspect of your UK education do you find most useful in your career?

It’s not the courses you take that help you; it’s more the experience you have in the UK and the international outlook you get here.

A lot of Chinese students worry what their future will be like if they don’t go to one of the top UK universities. My answer is that your experience in the UK is more important to employers, especially in Chinese companies, than the name of the university. There still aren’t many graduates in China who have studied overseas. China is trying to build its presence internationally, so it needs people with an understanding of the outside world.


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Can you give an example of that international outlook helping you in your work?

It helps you to see that people’s mindsets can be very different in different parts of the world. Some of their strategies, how they speak and how they want you to speak – all these things are very different.

In my job, I often have to negotiate with foreign companies and clients. Only with this international experience can someone properly understand the needs of a foreign client, and only with international experience can someone have outstanding, out-of-the-box ideas and strategies to provide to the client.

How can students make the most out of studying in the UK?

In my experience, some students spend all their time with Chinese friends and only study what their professors told them to study. One of the things the UK can provide is flexibility. You can choose courses from other departments, and there are a lot of opportunities to experience different skills or join university societies. This means it’s possible to study management, for example, but still gain the skills to join a marketing company.

All these things help you get ready for a future career in China; you just need to understand what’s needed for a future job, and try to study and experience whatever you can.

What’s your best memory from the UK?

I’m a very curious person who really wants to explore. When I was studying in London, the British Museum was just around the corner, which was perfect for someone like me. I spent a lot of time there. I particularly liked the clock room – I was really amazed by the small gadgets! That’s not something you can see in other cities.

Would you encourage your child to study in the UK?

Yes! My little son is just one year old, so he’s a bit young for university right now! But I really hope he can have the same experience as I had.

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