10 tips on how I survived in Alibaba

From constantly asking questions to hitting the ground running, TARANDIP KAUR shares 10 tips on how to thrive in a large corporation

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Tarandip Kaur
By Tarandip Kaur | EXPERIENCE |

Working at Alibaba has been quite the unique experience – not something I’ve ever encountered before. Even though I had some experience in e-commerce working at Shopee, I’ve never worked for a Chinese tech giant in China.

But, I was up for that challenge… till COVID-19 hit. My plans to move to Hangzhou, where Alibaba’s headquarters are, went out the window. My relocation date was moved multiple times, till eventually I was on-boarded remotely and worked from Singapore for about 6 months waiting for travel to China to open up. Working remotely was chaotic but once I got to the campus, that’s when things really sped up in all directions.

From COVID-19 to remote working, relocating and working onsite, it’s been a challenging year filled with multiple lessons. Here are just 10 from these wild 12 months.

1. Stay ready for change 

“Change is the only constant.” No truer words have ever been spoken and in Alibaba, change is always right around the corner. If you’re not ready, you’d probably feel like a million bricks just blocked your path. What I’ve learnt is to always have an agile mindset and move with the flow – even if things are not 100% sorted out.

2. Ask, ask and ask again 

No question is silly. When I joined, I was asking questions all.the.time, and to everyone. It’s never easy to learn the ropes when you join a new company so instead of staying in the dark, ask any question that pops to your mind. The sooner you clear your doubts, the easier it’ll be in the months ahead. This should really become a mantra. No matter how long you’ve been in the company, you’ll never run out of questions.

3. Communication is key 

In such a large company, it’s easy to get your wires crossed when multiple stakeholders are involved. Add language barriers to the mix and that rate of miscommunication shoots up drastically. I’ve found it’s much better when I speak to stakeholders face to face or through a video call because I’m better able to communicate project requirements and clarify doubts – rather than over messages.

4. Hit the ground running

Things move quickly here. So there’s not going to be time for team mates to hold your hands and show you the ropes. Instead, get ready to hit the ground running and learn as you attempt various tasks independently. I made plenty of mistakes initially but with each mistake, I learned something new.

5. Speed is of the essence 

Since things move quickly, speed in completing projects or launching products is valued. You’ll often be faced with tough turnaround times. Instead of fine-tuning your work to perfection (if that is even possible), focus on executing and testing – kinks can be worked out along the way. The key is to get comfortable with speed.

6. Prioritisation is an art 

Typically, there are multiple projects running at any one time so it’s easy to get lost in a storm of tasks. That’s where the art of prioritisation comes in. Once I learnt to negotiate deadlines based on project scale or impact to the business, I was better able to breathe and got more done. Similarly, not every instant message needs to be dealt with immediately. At Alibaba, you’ll pick up fantastic project management skills!

7. Channel your inner zen

Prevent burnout and feelings of frustration by constantly staying calm, grounded and level-headed. Instead of complaining about tight deadlines, it’s far better to take things in your stride and spend that energy getting things done in a collected manner. It’s equally important to set timely reminders to take a break and breathe as well.

8. Unearth the opportunity you desire

Alibaba runs like an agile start up company with multiple business units under its umbrella, which means there’s always something to explore and a new field to delve into. There’s an opportunity waiting at every corner, as long you look for it. Interested in AI content? You’ll find it. Interested in SEO? You’ll find it. Interested in language quality frameworks? You’ll find it.

9. Be open to cultural differences

Working in a Chinese company will come with its fair share of cultural differences. While it will take some time to get accustomed to them, always show that you’re open and willing to learn. From joining gatherings to asking about their culture, you’ll forge a lot more relationships, and these people will likely become your absolute best allies. I’ve also tried using my minimal Mandarin skills to connect where possible – it’s gotten me many nods of approval!

10. Enjoy the crazy ride

As with anything that’s challenging, it’s important to enjoy the experience and appreciate where you’re at. With tons to learn and amazing opportunities to explore, it’s exciting being at the center of a tech giant as it ventures into internationalisation. 1 year in and I’m thrilled to say it’s the wildest work ride I’ve had so far – one I’ll remember for years!

Eager to jump on this ride with me? We’re hiring for more Content Strategy Experts to join the team in Alibaba’s HQ! Drop me a message if you’re keen.

Tarandip Kaur is part of the AliExpress global content strategy team. She first posted this article, entitled ‘I survived 12 months in Alibaba…’, at her LinkedIn page.

 

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