When it comes to a destination in Asia for international exposure and career opportunities, it goes without saying that Shanghai has topped the list as Australians’ preferable choice.
Jack Brady is one of the Aussies who has keen interest to explore Shanghai, and not only he landed a job in the city, but he’s also fortifying the social fabric of the Australian expat and business community and keeping them connected locally and globally.
Jack is the CEO and Executive Director at AustCham Shanghai, an organisation that has serviced the expat community since 1994.
We talk to the University of Sydney graduate about his unforgettable Shanghai journey and the exciting project happening next for AustCham Shanghai.
Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications & Digital Manager, Advance.
What brought you to Shanghai? And how long have you been living there?
I’ve been interested in China for a long time and moved to Shanghai from Sydney four years ago to get closer to the growth story. Initially I was studying Mandarin Chinese but with the intention of staying for a compelling work opportunity.
What were you first impressions of Shanghai?
Hot. I took an overnight 19-hour slow train up from Hong Kong in the middle of summer four years ago and arrived in Shanghai with three suitcases and a set of golf clubs(!). I got off the train to a brutal Shanghai summer’s day, didn’t know where I was, and had to start unveiling my mediocre language skills. It was an unforgettable experience later seeing the skyline for the first time and breathing in the heat and the crowds as I battled my way around. The Chinese have a term, ‘renao’, to describe this noisy and exciting scene, so this was my first impression.
How did your experience at GRACosway prepare you for your work at AustCham Shanghai?
In my previous role in government relations and corporate communications I was lucky to work with some large businesses and assist them in understanding the public policy process and media landscape. Our Chamber helps individual Australian companies enter, and grow in China and brings together the community of Australians in Shanghai, so I often draw on that experience. We sit between both business and government, so I think my background has been helpful to engage with a variety of stakeholders and provide advice to members about their China operations.
What’s the most challenging part of running a member based organistion?
We have a diverse membership, a very active calendar of events, and we assist them in the most dynamic and fast-moving market in the world!
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as CEO at AustCham Shanghai?
I’ve learned a lot, particularly in focusing my time and sticking to our strategy. It really is easy to get distracted and simply ‘busy’, especially in China where there is a lot of opportunity. Focus is important.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
Without a doubt our current Australia House by AustCham Shanghai project has been our most exciting undertaking to date. Shanghai is China’s marquee city and gateway to the mainland and it also has the largest concentration of Australian business. With our role to create communities, explain China, and celebrate business success we got to thinking how we could do that physically in the Chamber’s 25th year. So, we are developing a 7 storey 5,300 sqm building dedicated for Australia-China business in downtown Shanghai. We will have Australian organisations co-located with us, events facilities, co-working space, and food and beverage options on the ground floor. The project is a partnership with Anken Group, an innovative Australian property company in Shanghai, and a long-term AustCham Shanghai member as well. There is a lot that Australian organisations can learn from each other, and their local partners. Having a destination to centre activity will be a great way to bring it altogether, and a great way to round out 2019 when we open.
How has your study at the University of Sydney helped to advance your professional development?
I sometimes look back on my honours year in particular at USYD – that really helped me hone some research, analytical and writing skills that I think have helped me in the work place. Being able to quickly digest and convey information I think means I work more efficiently!
What do you like most and least about your Shanghai experience? What surprised you most?
Like: I’m fascinated by China’s development and its role in the world and connection to Australia so seeing things firsthand on the ground and getting an unfiltered perspective is what I love the most. This is something you miss back home. Being able to constantly talk with different Australian and Chinese businesses is a real privilege.
Dislike: I grew up near the beach, so I miss the outdoor Australian lifestyle!
Surprise: Only four years ago I used to take home a spare suitcase to fill up with Australian produce, daily essentials, even some fresh products and the odd bottle of wine that was harder to come by here! I no longer do that. I’m still surprised about the growth Australian F&B has witnessed in the past few years and the penetration of our great brands in the China market, not just in Shanghai.
If you hadn’t chosen to base yourself in Shanghai, where would you go?
Great question but I would have to say Beijing. It was always China for me as a country to spend some time and really understand a new culture and learn some new skills. Shanghai made commercial sense, but Beijing has a special allure. It is different to Shanghai in so many ways.
Your recommendation for good (Australian) coffee in Shanghai?
As my team will attest, I’m a big fan of my friend Jackie Yun and her team at Wagas and what they do bringing Australian flavours to China. They recently partnered with my hometown Sydney favourite and top speciality Australian coffee roasters Campos to roast beans here in China. It has taken their coffee to a whole new level.