Conor Mitchell, Chinese Studies alum, takes us through his experience with the Swire Management Programme, including the projects he has been involved in, the skills he has learned, and the opportunity to explore East Asia
I joined the Swire Management Programme straight out of university in 2018, and have since been based in Xiamen and Taipei. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to gain skills across a wide range of challenging roles, including marketing, sales, and logistics, as well as honing other soft skills such as leadership and my Chinese language.
While I had always thought about working abroad, it was during my year in the Chinese Mainland, as part of my degree, that I really started to think seriously about doing so. I wanted to keep using my Chinese after I graduated, while also starting a professional career in business. I wasn’t sure exactly what specific job or industry I wanted to work in, so I was also looking for trainee schemes which would give me the opportunity to gain varied experiences.
You will have the opportunity to work across multiple geographies, divisions and functions throughout your career at Swire, which was big selling point for me.
When I found the Swire Management Programme, I knew immediately it would be perfect for helping me achieve this
I was fortunate and excited to be selected to join the programme and my first posting was to Swire Coca-Cola. I specifically asked to join Swire Coca-Cola at interview, but there are a lot of companies you can be seconded to, including Swire Properties, Swire Shipping and Cathay Pacific. You will have the opportunity to work across multiple geographies, divisions and functions throughout your career at Swire, which was big selling point for me.
Swire Coca-Cola is one of the Coca-Cola bottlers. Coca-Cola bottlers are a network of companies that help manufacture, market and distribute Coca-Cola products around the world. Swire Coca-Cola is among the top five largest bottlers in the world.
After a comprehensive induction in Hong Kong, I took up my first role in Xiamen, a city of five million in the coastal Chinese province of Fujian. It was the perfect chance to keep working on my Chinese, as, at the time, the only other person in the office who could speak English was the General Manager. It was slight baptism of fire, but a welcome one. I started out in the Marketing department, and then had further rotations in Sales and Logistics. The longest role I had in Xiamen was in frontline sales, where I was responsible for two hundred customers for a period of six months, ranging from tiny corner shops through to a small supermarket chain. It was an amazing chance to learn all about the business on the ground and to get to know the customers which help the company grow. This also involved a lot of drinking tea with the business owners, and a fair amount of Baijiu (a 50% rice liquor) and karaoke in the evenings!
Apart from the great opportunities to develop my career, the programme has also given me the chance to travel extensively across Asia, and, in particular, across the Chinese Mainland
In 2019, I moved to Taipei, where I’ve been based since
My first role here was in the Channel Strategy team. Our team was responsible for the annual review and strategy planning for the sales and marketing department, as well as other strategic projects that would help the business grow over the long-term. It was a great department to join, as it gave me the chance to work across a wide variety of projects. For example, I got to lead a smart drinks dispenser project, where we were looking at how we could add digital functions, like automated data tracking and direct consumer interaction, to our drinks machines (i.e. the kind you see in restaurants).
I then moved to the Key Account team, and was made responsible for two convenience store chains. According to some estimates, Taiwan has the second largest number of convenience stores in the world, so they’re an integral part of Swire Coca-Cola’s business here. In 2021, I was promoted to Key Account Supervisor. Shortly afterwards, I took over the customer management role for 7-Eleven Taiwan, which generates over $50M USD per year in revenue. It’s been a big step up from managing small customers in Xiamen to our biggest one in Taiwan, and it has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of our business functions across different regions and at different levels.
Apart from the great opportunities to develop my career, the programme has also given me the chance to travel extensively across Asia, and, in particular, across the Chinese Mainland. While the pandemic has made things difficult, it has meant that I’ve spent a lot of time exploring Taiwan, seeing places I never would have otherwise.
If you’re looking to work abroad straight out of university, excited about a diverse career and aspire to become a business leader at a global conglomerate, you should definitely consider applying to this unique scheme.