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Alumni Stories | Alex Zhu: Embracing the Best of Times

December 9, 2021

Alex Zhu, an alumnus of the Guanghua-Kellogg Executive MBA program (GK04, Class of 2019), was recently recognized as the “2021 China’s Communication Person of the Year” (2021中国传播年度人物), the youngest recipient of this award. He has spent 15 years in marketing and communications, having started in a different industry before switching careers. He then worked his way up to the CEO of AcrossChina Communications, one of the largest event marketing companies, before founding Vista Creation. In just over a year, the company became the top 3 in event marketing in China and a leader in promoting New Energy Vehicles. While this would be a great achievement in the eyes of many, Alex simply views it as “embracing the trend”.

Entering the Communications Field in Its Prime

Alex joined CA Technology, the world's largest IT management company after graduating from university. While his career was normal at first, he never hesitated to take on new challenges and refused to let conventional limits restrict his development. Consequently, when a new opportunity presented itself, he didn’t hesitate to make the jump to the Marketing Communications industry.

Changing industries is no simple task, requiring you to start afresh and reorientate your mindset. However, rather than regretting his decision, Alex saw it as an opportunity to use the lessons learned in his previous industry, drawing inspiration particularly in the application of technology.

Alex believes he entered the Marketing Communications industry in its prime, joining the first generation of "professional managers" in China's event marketing industry. This is both a great honor and a heavy burden: managers need to be more perceptive and responsive, and must also keep learning so that they can respond more quickly to technological changes and shifting audiences.

With this in mind, Alex chose to join the Guanghua-Kellogg EMBA Program at Peking University without hesitation. "With its unique curriculum, abundant opportunities for networking and state-of-the-art teaching methods, I believe I will benefit a great deal, develop more open thinking, and acquire practical knowledge from an international perspective."

Alex was especially impressed by one module lectured by Professor Nicholas Pearce of Kellogg Business School and Professor JIANG Guohua of Guanghua School of Management. He found that the English learning environment and intensive knowledge prompted him to reflect on what he learned in class in the evenings. "During my time at the program, I had to review what I learned in the day every night, students would have in-depth discussions in class ... No wonder the GK EMBA is nicknamed 'Gaokao'” (China's notoriously difficult university entrance exams). He also immensely enjoyed being able to return back to campus after a long time working.

Turning the Pandemic Into an Opportunity

After graduating from the GK EMBA program in 2019, Alex co-founded Vista Creations (henceforth referred to as Vista), completing his transition from a professional manager to a corporate leader. For him, it was a dream come true. His time in the communications field has also convinced him of the industry’s endless possibilities. In the future, he believes that technological innovation and the ongoing trend of global competition and cooperation will give rise to a new business model, advising that, "If you want to enter the market, you have to start now!"

With the formation of his new company, Alex received generous help from his peers in the GK EMBA community in setting up his company, determining its equity structure, and formulating new business models. "They are outstanding individuals from investment banks, securities brokers and law firms, etc.. Their wisdom gave Vista a huge boost right from its establishment."

However, in early 2020, the newly formed company faced a major challenge from the pandemic. "There was no turning back", Alex remarked. Vista’s fight for survival drove those at the company, regardless of position or rank, to commit themselves to their work, developing business plans exploring various possibilities.

After the pandemic stabilized in China, Vista, took advantage of numerous opportunities and held events including the “Voyah Strategy Press Conference", "NIO Day", and the "HiPhi Z Global Debut film”. In less than 15 months after the outbreak, Vista had already completed 15 large-scale press conferences and brand events worth more than 10 million RMB, many of which used new innovative formats including virtual events and other internationally-focus formats.

Reaping the Rewards of Internationalization

The pandemic not only made Vista’s team more appreciative of their current achievements, but also encouraged them to try new activities. Vista has now set up an office in London, established the European Creative Design Center, and has several independent projects in the works.

“Looking forwards, we have made forecasts and positioned ourselves to take advantage of China’s new energy vehicle strategy.” Crediting this change to the program, Alex remarked, “Whether you’re in Chicago, Miami, or Cottbus, immersing yourself and holding deep discussions with professors or local experts, the internationally-focused courses make us approach management with a more imaginative and open mindset. Vista’s rapid growth despite the pandemic has shown the effectiveness of this global management approach.”

Although marketing communications is already well established, personal creativity and experience are valued, which is the key reason why Alex loves his industry. In considering Vista’s future, Alex feels that his experience in the GK EMBA program has helped him in three crucial ways:

First of all, in terms of core business and enterprise positioning, the training of the program had molded his approach and helped him embrace technology to break the "unreplicable" service limitations of the event industry. Vista invested much more in the development of core event products and experience-enhancing technology than traditional event companies which Alex believes will bring a qualitative leap in the near future.

Second, Alex feels that the international learning environment of the program has continually influenced his thinking. The internationalization of Chinese brands is the inevitable trend of the era, and teams familiar with Chinese branding culture, with international professional level and communication knowledge and practices, will remain at the forefront of this development. With this philosophy in mind, Vista has taken the lead in overseas markets and become a pioneer in the industry.

Third, studying in the GK EMBA program also made Alex understand the value and power of capital more rationally. In Vista's long-term vision, he will also focus on leveraging capital to create more creative and valuable products and services in the future.

As society develops, these changes have been reflected in the progression of the marketing communication industry. A beneficiary of these great times, Alex consistently emphasizes the importance of taking actions that can bring long-term benefits to all stakeholders. Vista, under Alex’s leadership, is committed to developing ways to elevate premium brands with creative services. We hope that the Guanghua-Kellogg EMBA program will continue to empower him to achieve results, give back to society, and shoulder the sense of purpose given to entrepreneurs by the era.