Our third day in Beijing was spent visiting several companies who had offices in the area. The first was Cheetah Mobile, a relatively new software company that focuses on developing apps aimed at smartphone users.
After a brief bus ride through Beijing traffic, we arrived at the Cheetah Mobile campus. An expansive lawn, dotted with modern sculptures and life size cartoon cheetah figures, surrounds their office. Stepping inside, I felt as if I had been transported from the clutter and bustle of Beijing, and into the carefully planned spontaneity of Silicon Valley. Their office was designed to capture the work-hard play-hard atmosphere of a startup, but with all the amenities of a major corporation such as Apple or Google. It featured a rock-climbing wall, a slide, daycare, Ping-Pong tables, and even a room where you could go to play with cats. After a tour of their facilities, we listened to a talk by one of their representatives, who talked about how their company was interested in generating revenue globally, rather than just in China. Leaving the conference room, I had the bad luck of stepping in a koi pond that was built into the floor of the office. Luckily, no fish were harmed.
The other site we visited was Microsoft’s research center. Their focus was on how to collect and analyze large amounts of data in order to solve problems relevant to businesses and governments, such as predicting traffic patterns in Beijing. Some of the other tools they were developing were to help enable multinational collaboration, such as a live conferencing tool with a built in translation feature. It seemed like most of their products were targeted at entrepreneurs trying to set up businesses in China, rather than consumers directly, and the aesthetics of the office definitely reflected that. The area we toured was set up as an “experience center” for potential buyers, rather than the actual office we saw at Cheetah mobile.
After the scheduled activities for the day were over, me and a few other students took the subway to visit Tsinghua University with Francis, a student who was paired with our tour group. Tsinghua is one of the most well known universities in China, and is focused on science and engineering. Their campus was massive—after walking around for a couple hours, we had only seen a fraction of it. Academic buildings were mixed in with traditional gardens, and there was even a lake. Definitely felt different from Pitt, where the campus is more integrated within the city itself, rather than enclosed in its own atmosphere. One thing I recommend to anyone who gets the chance to visit is to have a meal in the dining hall; it was hands down the best cafeteria food I’ve ever had, and cost a fraction of what I usually pay for a meal swipe.