The Challenge (And Sheer Excitement) of Making The Move to Shanghai: My Interview with Blair Hildahl
The clock is ticking past 7:30am. I’m in a hotel room in Shanghai. All-nighter. Flight to Hong Kong leaves this afternoon. Breakfast is at 9:00am. Meeting with Bill Morrow tonight. Why did I push myself to stay up? Simple. I couldn’t wait to bring you this interview that I did a few days ago here in Shanghai.
Specifically, because it’s a quick story of someone who dropped everything and moved to China to be a part of the stratospheric business growth happening here. Also, because we both shared a couple of experiences that took us by serious surprise here in China. Oh, and how awesome is the Shanghai skyline? Take a look at this:
So, the man I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing is Blair Hildahl. Blair is the Director of Operations in Asia for X-nth. His story is complex. Initially he worked for Ground Floor Engineering, a company based in Orlando, Florida. During the financial crisis in 2008, the company’s founder had to let 29 of his 30 employees go. He kept one. He kept Blair.
Blair and his boss built the company back up until getting acquired by X-nth, an international consulting and engineering design firm servicing building industries in the US, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. In December 2009, X-nth merged with Trow Global. Integrating multiple companies post-merger is a very difficult process. And since the corporation has engineers all around the world, cultural and communication differences are a major challenge in that process.
Just 2 months ago in September, X-nth asked Blair to move to Shanghai. Blair was already married and had just moved back to his hometown in Wisconsin. X-nth wanted him to come to Asia to bridge the gap between the internationally disparate companies that Trow had merged with in the past few years.
The struggle to learn Chinese (Mandarin) is no easy task, and Blair admitted that he was far from fluent. Nevertheless, he took the challenge head on and made the decision to move (in fact, his wife took a job with X-nth as well!). In this interview, I asked him about the difficulties he’s faced since moving here and also about the ‘worksharing’ concept he’s helping to inject throughout the company.
QUESTION: What do you think about making the move to Shanghai or somewhere else in China?
[March 7, 2011 UPDATE]: Unfortunately, I just had to remove the video of our interview. I’m really sorry. It was a fun conversation, however I shared most of the lessons in this post. If you’d like to know more about what we discussed in the video, leave a comment or send me a tweet!