From China and Vietnam to Working with Trudeau, Meet Chris Zhou

As a proud JTC Ambassador on the 2017 Mission to China, Chris partnered with the Province of PEI and delivered key contacts to the Premier for the integration of UnionPay financial services into the Province’s tourism sector. Chris also worked with Global Affairs Canada to pitch Canada’s investment opportunities at the 2017 APEC CEO Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Chris has become an alumnus of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, which he joined prior to embarking on his GV journey, and was offered a Global Expansion Consultant position with Invest Ottawa through his Global Vision network. Chris is currently studying Health Sciences at McMaster University and will soon be embarking on an exchange to Tsinghua University in Beijing.

We sat down with Chris to learn more about his experience with Global Vision and in the global marketplace.

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You’ve been involved with Global Vision in many ways. How would you describe your experience  — from the Round Table Series and NYAC, to the Mission to China and APEC Vietnam?

It was a blast! I met so many fantastic people and learned so many important skills. Besides the hard work that all ambassadors put in towards advancing Canada's presence in world trade, we also had lots of fun. One particularly memorable moment was in Vietnam when our delegation was on our way to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Due to the typhoon, our side of the road was blocked. To our surprise, the driver of the government bus (which had disco lights...obviously) swerved into the incoming traffic and stuck his hand on the horn. So there we were, prepping our meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau in a disco bus, honking through a sea of incoming traffic. Don't try this at home. 

Given your work ethic and success in China, you were given the opportunity to travel to Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit shortly afterwards. Can you tell us a bit about your experience interacting with world leaders?

Trump is more orange than I expected...

For the past two years, you served as a Member on Prime Minister Trudeau’s Youth Council. What did your role consist of and what did you enjoy most?

My role on the PM's Youth Council was to provide non-partisan policy advice to the PM and to other senior government officials. It was a great opportunity for me to share my experiences and values with top decision-makers; simultaneously, it was also a marvellous way for me to learn about policy and politics. I enjoyed exploring topics such as reconciliation, the struggles of Phoenix, and the art of networking with important people. 

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Have you been able to transfer any of the skills that you’ve developed with Global Vision to this national scale?

Absolutely! One of the most important skills I learned through Global Vision was networking. Starting from my first Round Table in Toronto, GV encouraged me to network with complete strangers. From entrepreneurs in Chengdu to CEOs at APEC, GV gave me unique opportunities to practice my networking skills on a global scale. When it comes to advocating for policy, talking to the right people is surprisingly important. Luckily, GV taught me how to navigate my way around the complex networks of policy makers and have meaningful conversations with them. 

While your involvement with the Youth Council is quite demanding, you are also a Global Expansion Consultant for Invest Ottawa. How have your ties with Global Vision fuelled this opportunity?

At the start of May, I was panicking — despite my good looks and charm, no one wanted to hire me. Then I randomly came across a Facebook notification from the (legendary) Adam Dewar in the GV Grad group. His organisation was looking for a business development manager. I messaged him about my experiences with GV in China and APEC and asked if he had a summer position available. I must have done something right in a past life, because Adam introduced me to the VP of Global Expansion who, after an interview, offered me a consultant position. So that's how I ended up at Invest Ottawa — through the GV family. 

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You mentioned that you’re about to embark on a full-year exchange with McMaster to Tsinghua University in Beijing. Why did you decide to return to China, rather than exploring a new country?

I originally had no plans to return to China, nor to do an exchange at all. But the JTC Trade Missions opened my eyes to the incredible opportunities that are out there. Chatting with accomplished youth from other APEC countries inspired me to study abroad, and networking with top Chinese business executives convinced me that understanding the Chinese business environment will open the most doors. 

Do you have any advice for incoming Ambassadors?

The advice I always give to young professionals is "ask and you shall receive". There are many opportunities out there, but you have to actively go and pursue them. I would never have been offered my job with Invest Ottawa if I hadn't randomly messaged another GV grad. When you see an opportunity, even if you don’t think you're qualified, go for it! The worst thing that can happen is adding another HR manager to your growing network.