3 takeaways from our visit to Ctrip’s headquarters

On being a woman in authority, to posses a global mindset, and to seize opportunities in the most vibrant city within a flourishing industry.

Written by: Lim Ying Xuan (NUS School of Business Y4)

In June this year, we had the opportunity to meet Ms Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip on our visit to its headquarters in Shanghai. The visit was organized by NUS Overseas Colleges as part of an entrepreneurship and leadership learning journey.

Founded with a mission to create world peace, Ctrip is currently the largest Chinese provider of travel services. On this visit, we gained invaluable insights into how Ctrip achieved international success. We also took away personal advice from Ms Sun herself, as a woman leading the world’s second largest online travel tech company.

Touring Ctrip’s premises

Touring the Premises

Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by two members of Ctrip. As we toured the premises, we were in awe of the magnificent architecture of the offices designed to represent the iconic high speed trains of China. Cafes, convenience stores and facilities dotted the area, while people strolled the premises, proudly wearing their employee lanyards.

Posing in front of Ctrip’s iconic building

We were then brought to a room called the Network Operation Centre (NOC). One of the staff explained that this room gathers all the data pulled from every Ctrip users globally. On the computer panel that stretched across the entire room, we could see live transactions processed in real-time in every geographical region, as well as important information such as the most popular inbound city.

Ctrip’s Network Operation Centre

After the tour, we were ushered into the boardroom to await Ms Sun’s arrival. It was not long before a bright and cheery Jane walked in, clad in a smart pink blazer with her hair pulled back in a sleek ponytail. She greeted us with a wide smile.

Ms Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip

Below are 3 pointers she stressed in her sharing.

1. We are more similar than we think we are

This struck me especially hard when the first thing Jane asked was, “How many of you here have a changed impression of China after living here for a period of time?”

Almost everyone raised their hands.

She explained that foreigners often have a pre-conceived notion of what China is while looking in from the outside. Having only equipped with knowledge from the media, words that we would have previously used to describe China included ‘disorderly’, ‘rude’, ‘copy-cat’ and more.

Prior to living in Shanghai for a year, I unjustifiably held biased opinions. It wasn’t only until I had lived in Shanghai and interacted with the people that I fell in love with the city. In that moment, I realized that every country has its own unique culture, practices and beliefs. Yet, because of certain obvious differences, we often judge those that are different by their stereotypes.

If people could travel more and be immersed in different cultures, wouldn’t empathy bring the world a little closer than it is today?

2. Being a woman leader

Jane also shared about her personal journey as a woman leader balancing work and family. While there are many “gender-equal” articles widely available online today, Jane feels that one should recognize our differences so that we can take a targeted approach to solve them. “We are women, we give birth, and we want to take care of our children. It’s innate.” As a mother of two, Jane understood a mother’s needs. Hence, as a woman leader, she would do what she can for her female employees.

In Ctrip, all female (pregnant) employees are well taken care of with maternity bonuses and benefits such as free taxi rides and generous maternity leave. “If your employees are treated well, their loyalty and sense of belonging in the company increases,” she explained.

“So how do you balance your personal family and your career at the same time?”

Jane smiled and replied: “I reach the office between 7–8am every morning to clear my work, reply my emails and prepare for my meetings. From 9am-6pm, my day is extremely packed with back to back meetings. After 6pm, I will leave the office to spend at least 1–2 hours with my family over a meal. That time is always dedicated to them. After dinner, I will tuck my girls in to bed, before continuing work again from 9pm-12am, because that is when the New York stock market opens. I work around 15 hours every day.”

Hearing a figure of strength speak passionately about what she believes in, I was deeply moved. At that moment, my roommate and I exchanged nods of agreement. Finding the right balance between family and career will always be a hurdle that women have to face when they get pregnant and embrace motherhood, but hearing her testimony gave us the assurance that it is feasible.

3. Possessing a global mindset, pick the fastest growing industry, and the right city to be.

Lastly, Jane shared valuable advice on what to look out for in our career. She mentioned that it is crucial to pick a high-growth industry with a steep learning curve which can open up immense opportunities. It is also important to pick the fastest growing market to be in. One example is the Chinese market that showed tremendous GDP growth in recent years.

She also encouraged us to travel more and see the world, because it is only through experience that we can empathize with others and be inspired.

All in all…

I have always been skeptical about the effectiveness and goals of tech tourism. However, this visit to Ctrip’s headquarter in Shanghai has opened my eyes to endless possibilities, and I am excited about what the future brings. I would like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to Ms Jane Sun for being an inspiration, and to NUS Overseas Colleges for providing us this precious opportunity!

Till next time,

X.