5/8 Huawei and VIP Kid

Today we visited the first companies on the trip, starting with Huawei, a major telecom firm, and VIP Kid, an online education startup that connects kids in China with English teachers in America. Before we even left the bus, Huawei set the bar for our future company visits extremely high. Beijing is an arid region so grass does not grow easily, but Huawei’s campus was decked out with a lush lawn and verdant trees that must be expensive to maintain. Immediately as we walked through the doors I was dumbstruck by the vast expanse of marble and pristine red carpets that composed the front hall, not to mention the massive crystal chandelier suspended from the high ceiling. Huawei representatives from the customer relations and marketing departments lead us through a strikingly beautiful exposition, a blend of both art and substance that detailed Huawei’s business and seemingly-impossible innovations alongside several hands-on exhibits, each one more impressive than the last. I remember comparing the feeling I had during the exhibition to how Charlie must have felt touring through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I was particularly interested in huawei’s 5G technology because I have done extensive research on the topic for Panther Equity, an investment club at Pitt. We ended the tour in another sprawling marble room with a brief powerpoint and Q&A session complete with decadent refreshments. As we prepared to leave the representatives gifted us with Huawei labeled pens and stationary as well as a gift bag that included a free book written by the creator of Huawei and a framed photo of a group picture we had taken just an hour or two before. Even though I loved our time at Huawei, I couldn’t help but feel like we were missing what the company was actually about. The only workers we saw were our group leaders and the assistants that served us, there were no engineers to be seen. The visit was essentially the most extravagant commercial I have ever seen.  

While Huawei did their best to flex on our group, the next company we visited, VIP Kid, seemed much more genuine. VIP Kid is a software company that acts as the middleman between English teachers in America with young students in China. Once we arrived we were lead on a brief tour through the company before settling into a conference room. On the tour we walked by all the workers in the office, getting a good view of their work space and what life in a tech startup is like. The man who lead our tour was a Pitt Alumni so we compared our time at Pitt with his for a bit on the tour. He told us about the company’s short history and answered our questions very well. On the visit I learned that the average Chinese first grader already know enough English that the teachers VIP Kid hire do not need to know any Mandarin to teach the students English. This concept is totally new to me, as every language teacher I have ever had has been able to speak English and the language they are teaching.

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