In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” BU Today brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their fields, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations.
They talk about how they got to be where they are and what they’ve learned from their mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.
This week, our featured alum is Haidong Pan (ENG’04), founder and chairman of Baike.com, China’s largest wiki site.
After earning a PhD at Boston University in 2004, Pan returned to China to start his own business. Baike.com (formerly Hudong.com), now with 16 million pages and 380 employees, provides its several hundred million Chinese-language users with a free platform for sharing information. Pan was formerly CIO of AsiaEC.com (later acquired by Office Depot).
In addition to being chosen for the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan, Pan has been honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, is a council member of China’s Western Returned Scholars Association, and is the president of the Boston University Alumni Network in China.
BU Today: When you were working on a PhD at BU in systems engineering, did you know what you wanted to do for a career?
Pan: I had a very clear idea that I’d go back to China to do something in the internet industry.
How did you come to work in this field, and why?
Foreign students like me have some difficulty in accurately understanding English’s specialized vocabulary. I searched a lot of terminology on Wikipedia when I was working on my PhD dissertation, because it is not easy to get accurate explanations on search engines like Google.com. I was thinking, what if I develop a similar application in China since there are a lot more college students, researchers, and professionals and the Chinese search engines were in need of this good stuff.
Are there mistakes you’ve made during your career, and if so, what lessons have you learned from them?
My career is a journey full of different mistakes in areas like strategic decisions, budget control, and team recruiting. The lessons I’ve learned are to do things right, but try your best to be in the game to make the next mistake.
What is your favorite question to ask during an interview?
What will you do if you make a fortune by selling your stock options in your late 20s?
Are there certain mistakes that young job candidates tend to make?
Speaking too much on things they don’t really understand.
What are the qualities you look for in the people you hire? What are the deal breakers?
The quality I’m looking for is the ability to execute. A deal breaker is frequent job-hopping.
What expectations do you have for new employees?
The first four working years determines your future. Don’t ask how much a company can pay—ask how much you can learn.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and why?
Jack Ma, founder and chairman of the Alibaba Group. He is not my teacher, mentor, boss, or a family member, so why him?
I had been working with Harvard China Review (HCR) during weekends and served as copresident for one year when I was a PhD candidate at BU. HCR is a nonprofit organization based at Harvard but covers Chinese students and scholars in the New England area and all over the United States. We just had the HCR 20th anniversary celebration event in Beijing in early 2017.
Jack Ma was invited to speak at the HCR annual conference in 2001. He spoke with strong self-confidence about how China’s e-commerce would grow quickly to a stage that we could not then imagine. It was right after the internet bubble and Alibaba was undergoing a tough but quick cost-cutting process. This impressed me a lot, and showed me how a strong entrepreneur should deal with all kinds of challenges and get things moving forward.
You founded Baike.com in 2005 and it now has approximately 16 million articles. What advice do you have for someone interested in entrepreneurship?
It’s not easy at all for us to build up a huge knowledge platform with 16 million articles that are contributed by the community and get peer-reviewed. For those who’d like to do start-ups, I’d like to say: entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, which is an all-in attitude with lights on 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you like this and enjoy it, just do it.
Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for BU Today’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read other stories in our “Jump-start Your Job Search” series here.
December 11, 2019
November 25, 2019
October 21, 2019