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My Chinese adventure....

Sat 08 October 2011

, Lydia Duijvestijn


In September of this year I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Beijing to teach a class of twenty-two Chinese IT Architects, including five (5!!) women. I was very excited about this trip as it would be my first visit to China and I had many questions regarding the difference in culture, the professional level of the students and the language difficulties. Wolfgang, my German co-teacher and I had several phone-calls in advance of the class to discuss all practical matters and make sure we would be well-prepared. Everything has worked out fine and I must say that every minute of my stay in Beijing has turned out to be fully worth its while. This great and rich country has absolutely fascinated me...

My company is investing heavily in the growth markets. An encompassing education program is being run this year to help technical professionals to progress in their careers faster than usual. The program for IT Architects is not only limited to technical education, but also pays attention to strategic initiatives, personal development and leaves room for active professional mentoring. Students are invited by their management to participate in the program. As a teachers you are also a mentor.Before the class Wolfgang and I had divided the group into four teams teams of five to six. By accident three of the five women ended up in one team. We had not meant to put them in the same team, but we had difficulties distinguishing the female and male Chinese names. This "accident" however turned out to be a lucky hit! The three women and one men formed an excellent team - they came up with very fast and creative solutions to all excercises and were well matched to the best performing male team.

The may of working was different than in the Netherlands. When we asked the whole group in the morning if they had some questions left regarding yesterday's class, nobody would come up with any questions. However, when we asked a named individual, e.g. Dong Li, if they had any remarks, they would come up with an extensive and mostly valuable reflection on yesterday's materials. Quite different from the Netherlands, none of the students was testing the teachers. They all were sincerely interested to learn something (although some of them gave priority to customer meetings once in a while). When asked to do an excercise, they would be silently reading for 10 minutes and just as I was wondering if they understood the question, they would start drawing up the solution.

The fact alone that there were five women in an IT Architect class amazed me (in IBM The Netherlands there are only three certified female IT Architects!). Could this mean that a technical profession is more accepted for women in China than in The Netherlands? Maybe this is the case - the shopping mall next to my hotel had at least ten Barbie-I-can-be-computer-engineer dolls (see my blog dd. 21-03-2010 ) on sale, a doll that is very hard to find in Dutch toy shops. On the other hand, one of the guest speakers made a remark about the unusual high number of women in this class...

Anyway I hope that my five bright pupils (and of course the men as well) won't give up and will make the progress that they are now given the chance to make. I know it's not going to be easy. Chinese women have children and parents to attend to just like we do and there are other inhibitors. Still I am proud to have been their teacher and mentor for two weeks!

(photo taken opposite to the forbidden city shows two giggling Chinese girls dressed in traditional clothes over their normal outfit)



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Comments (1)


Erica Van Ooyen

Mon 10 Oct 2011 22:19:28

Wow Lydia - what a great experience - good for you & x for sharing!
Would the New World be different for women? And if so, what could we learn?