This is part two of our interview with Charles Li ’12. In our first installment, he spoke about EF (Education First), a leading private education company.
In today’s installment Charles, who is part of the EF360 Global Management Trainee program, explains how Dartmouth prepared him for his work at EF and why he likes his job.
1. How did your Dartmouth Education prepare you for the work at EF?
I learned everything from economics to drawing to skeet shooting at Dartmouth. Overall, I learned three things both inside and outside the classroom that I put to work every single day:
- How to work in a team,
- How to creatively solve problems, and
- How to become a leader.
My group projects were invaluable. My out-of-class experience in a fraternity was also helpful. Even in college before I worked in mobile, I was always buying the latest phone. I think I went through seven different phones in one year. My economic studies got me interested in the business of this particular industry.
2. What’s the most challenging aspect of your current position?
There is not a huge amount of structure inside EF, which is sometimes challenging. It’s up to everyone on the team (34,000 people around the world) to take a great deal of initiative to find solutions to the business challenges they face. You have a mentor you can ask for advice when you need it, but it’s up to you to make things happen.
3. What are the tangible results or rewards of the work that you do?
In addition to seeing progress on the products we’re creating, it is exceptionally rewarding to see the team come together since we’re building it from the ground up. I also really appreciate the opportunity to support a company with a mission to break down barriers of education, language and culture. EF’s mission is particularly meaningful to me as my parents worked in education.
4. What are you working on right now?
I am currently recruiting a mobile development team that will bring programmers and designers together to work on new initiatives. As a global society, we are increasingly using mobile technologies over traditional desktop PCs and mobile usage is expected to overtake desktop usage by 2015. Our mission is to break down barriers of culture, geography and language.
5. What’s been the most interesting project you’ve worked on at EF?
My current project with mobile applications is the most interesting one I have worked on in my five months at EF. I get to brainstorm ideas for apps and then hire the people to make it happen. I’m learning a lot about management, hiring, and product development; essentially I’m learning how to transform ideas into tangible user experiences, and then bringing those ideas to life.
6. Where have you traveled?
In the past five months, I have been to London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Shanghai. I am exceptionally grateful for these opportunities. You definitely want to have a passport before you apply to EF. At EF, experiential learning and travel is an essential component of education.
7. In your opinion, what’s the most important thing that students can do as undergraduates if they are interested in working in the consulting field?
Use your time at Dartmouth to find opportunities to solve problems creatively. My position is all about coming up with creative solutions – and implementing them! Sometimes this skill is easier gained in the real world, through internships or by launching some sort of initiative that is meaningful to you, rather than in the classroom. My advice would be to get out there and see the world, learn about education, and always attempt to find ways to hone your creative problem solving skills.
8. What’s the one question that most people don’t ask you that they really should?
What are your hobbies? I am an audiophile. I am obsessed with music. I am now obsessed with technology. I keep on buying and selling phones because they fascinate me. I use them, I explore them, and I sell them when I have learned how they do and don’t work. Now I get to do this as part of my work, too.
9. Any parting advice in two sentences or less?
When you look at jobs, make sure the mission speaks to you – and where you can see your role as helping to drive that mission forward.