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Rising Star: Amy Coghlan, Business Development Manager, China International Duty Free

Building a truly international career, Amy Coghlan has dovetailed her studies with learning Mandarin and working with a major international Chinese retailer. She talks about the benefits of thinking globally when it comes to your career.

Employer China International Duty Free

Degree Business, Economics and Social Studies (TCD); Business and Chinese (Tongji University Shanghai); MBS Asian Business Scholarship (UCC); Business strategy in Asia (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Language Chinese (Mandarin)

An international career

I had always wanted to have an international career so I chose to study Business, Economics and Social Studies (BESS) in Trinity, as I knew there was an opportunity to study abroad in third year. By the time third year came around, I was fascinated by what was happening to the Chinese economy, and was very happy to take the opportunity to go to Shanghai on a year abroad. It was only then I started learning Mandarin in the university there. When I returned to Ireland, I continued practicing my language skills through the Chinese Society at Trinity and the Confucius Centre in UCD.

Opportunities in Asia

After a few years of working in an international research role in Dublin, I was happy to get a place on the Farmleigh Fellowship. My position gave me the opportunity to study for a masters degree in Asian Business in UCC and in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The Farmleigh Fellowship also matched me with a company called China
International Duty Free, with whom I was placed in Shanghai during my masters programme.
After the Farmleigh Fellowship, I was very pleased to take a full-time role with China International Duty Free. Currently
I am the Business Development Manager. We distribute and market Chinese brands in the international duty free market.
My job requires a thorough understanding of Chinese products and brands, Chinese consumer behaviour, and the intercultural skills to deal effectively with Chinese suppliers.
I help devise strategies and marketing initiatives to reach the audience of Chinese travellers in duty-free shops all around
the world.

It’s not just about the language

I think my knowledge of Mandarin opens up a lot of doors for me. In Chinese culture, relationships are extremely important. Knowing the language has helped me build these relationships. It also allows me to keep up with trends in China and potential business opportunities that may not be otherwise reported in English. I can understand more about
Chinese culture which is an important aspect of consumer behaviour. I enjoy being a liaison between the Chinese and
others. From what I have seen in emerging markets, relationships seem to be very important, perhaps because they help compensate for the lack of infrastructure and institutions that we take for granted in developed countries.
Language skills really help build those relationships.
People may see how many Chinese, Russian and Indians now speak such good English and think that there is no point learning those languages. However, it’s a very different thing to have a Western mindset and speak one of those languages compared with, for instance, a Chinese mindset and speak English. Both profiles are needed in the international workforce. There are far fewer of the former.
I think it’s about developing a curiosity for these different countries and cultures and then the desire to learn the languages will follow. Exchange programmes, in my opinion, are the best way to do so.
Having more than one language means you can look further afield for the right opportunities. A language allows you to be a link between two cultures which is very important for an international workforce.
There are so many international firms clambering to succeed in China. In those firms there is an advantage to having the ‘Western’ mindset and also being able to speak Chinese. There are also a number of great graduate programs such as the Farmleigh Fellowship, which helps link graduates to companies who are looking for key people with language skills to be on the ground in Asia.

Amy Coghlan was interviewed for the gradireland Your Career With Languages sector guide