Meet the XJTLU alumni forging careers at retail giant Alibaba

November 19, 2018

A number of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University alumni, who now work for Chinese multinational company Alibaba Group, have returned to their alma mater to share their stories with current students.

With operations in more than 200 countries and territories, Alibaba is the world's largest retailer and one of the largest internet and artificial intelligence companies.

More than 400 students came to the event to hear the alumni discuss a range of topics, from the transition from campus to the workplace, to the benefits of getting internships before graduation.

“I care more about what I can contribute to this industry than who I want to be.”

Jiazhe Wang, 2009 BSc Information and Computing Science graduate, now works in the department of experience technology at Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate company of Alibaba. He leads a team responsible for the visualisation development and technology management of intelligent data.

Data visualisation refers to the presentation of data through easily understood means such as charts and diagrams, while intelligent data visualisation can apply different algorithms to data sets, improving the efficiency of processing and displaying large amounts of data.

Jiazhe’s team is called AntV and represents the visual brand of Ant Financial. The tools and content created by the team not only serve engineers inside Alibaba, but are also shared with engineers in the field of intelligent data visualisation around the world as an open source.

“Based on this open source, other engineers can develop new technologies, so together we can address challenges in the industry and solve difficult problems for both engineers and users,” Jiazhe said.

“That is the true value of our work. If we can play a role in pushing the industry a little bit further – that can be very fulfilling.”

“No one can anticipate where life will lead you, so just do what you enjoy.”

Ru Jia, 2012 BEng Architecture graduate, is now an interaction designer at Ant Financial Services Group.

An interaction designer’s work is to assess a product in operation, receive feedback from users and then apply the findings to product design.

“Interaction designers bridge the gap between products in operation and in the design and development stage. It is essential they have strong empathy and logic,” Ru said.

“Empathy is about the designer’s ability to consider problems at the heart of the user experience to better understand a user’s demands, while logic is indispensable in the product design period.”

Ru has only been in the position for four months but she has already learned a lot from her experiences in a fast-paced workplace.

“For example, when you make proposals during a meeting, it is inevitable that your suggestions might be criticized and sometimes you doubt yourself,” she said.

“But it is those experiences that build my resilience and make me a better designer.”

“When you gain enough experience, you will feel at ease wherever you go.”

Yiyu Wang, 2011 BA English and International Business graduate, is now working in community management for Freshhema, a new retail platform affiliated with Alibaba. Freshhema sets up stores in densely populated areas that deliver goods to customers’ homes.

The community management team are responsible for bringing people from the same community together into an online group, and strengthening customer loyalty through various promotional activities.

Yiyu often shares lifestyle tips, recipes and food recommendations in the group as well as liaising with users online and offline.

She said internships during her undergraduate degree helped her get a head start in her career. Despite her major not exactly matching her present role, she gained important skills and experience by interning as a student.

“The transition to work was easier as I already felt comfortable in a real work environment,” she said.

“Work itself might not always be fun, but through work you can meet many interesting people.”

Yue Wang, 2011 BSc Information Management and Information Systems, now works as a front-end developer for Ant Financial Services Group.

Yue said it was important to continue learning in the workplace to meet the changing demands of the job. He highlighted learning from his peers as one of the most rewarding aspects of the workplace.

“My company holds hackathon events, where we initiate our own projects, write code and have the opportunity to get promoted,” he said.

“In these types of events, you get to know different people who you can learn from and brainstorm new ideas together.

“If the colleagues around you are hardworking and interesting, you are motivated to improve yourself and contribute more to the company.”

The ‘XJTLUers in Alibaba’ event was organised by the Alumni Affairs Team of the Student Admissions and Career Development Office at XJTLU.

By Qiuchen Hu and Fangyuan Liu, translation by Boqiang Xiao, edited by Rosanna Galvin

Photos by Yimin Lin, other photos from Yiyu Wang and shutterstock

November 19, 2018