LONDON - In this Cocoon Networks Community Series blogpost Cocoon Networks London is pleased to introduce the company CareerFrog. In this series we speak to innovative and expanding businesses as they reveal their highlights and challenges, in addition to providing some top tips for success. This series features the stories of bright thinkers who leveraged their creativity to revolutionise the world as we know it.
CareerFrog is a leading integrated career coaching platform that has trained more than ten thousands students around the world. In doing so, it has successfully helped excellent candidates enter high-end industries, including consulting, investment banking, PE/VC, amongst others. Now, some of them already earn 6-figure annual salaries. CareerFrog collaborates with more than 1,000 companies and coached more than 10,000 students.
How has CareerFrog started?
I’m not the founder of CareerFrog, our founder was actually here at our opening event last month. One of the reasons why we started this company was because ten years ago our co-founder was one of the very few that got an offer from McKinsey as a Chinese. At that time McKinsey had only 10 positions open in the whole of China. This gave our founders the idea of helping other Chinese people receive job offer from top consulting firms. We created a forum called BBS in 2004 helping Chinese gaining access to the industry. The hiring process of such companies can be analysed and prepared; if you’re taught about it, you’ll have better chances of getting an offer. The exchanges happening on the forum gave people the tools to ace their job interviews. Later on the forum’s focus broadened to include other industries, as well as consulting. It expanded to include the big four and banking too. The forum turned out to be a success. Our founder had then the idea to use the information gathered in the forum to start offline classes to help people enter the industry. We travelled to carry out offline classes in London, the US and Australia. Those classes were very small, with around 20 students. We later realised that offline classes were too costly and it became difficult to fit the classes in the schedules of the mentors – those working for the consulting firms or in the industry of interest. This persuaded our founder and CEO to start online classes. This was our third phase: we transformed our offline classes into content for an online platform. About three years ago we started our training courses online. With time we expanded the number of industries for which we provided training from 3 to52. Now we provide training not only in the big four, banking and consulting, but also in the pharmaceuticals industry, amongst others.
What was CareerFrog's biggest challenge?
Given my role, I believe I should talk about the challenges of opening an office here in London. We are quite developed in China and for this reason we decided to open our first overseas office. In Shanghai we have almost 200 employees and last year we became the best performing company in the industry in China. Although it’s just a new office we somehow feel like we’re a startup company. It’s a new country and a new market and all the processes we had developed at our Chinese office do not apply here. This is the reason why I believe this to be a whole new start. Opening this new office involved a lot of hardship and effort. We are getting to know how everything works here in the UK, in terms of laws and policy for example. In addition to that, it’s about getting accustomed to the local approach to work. For example, in China it is common to contact co-workers or suppliers after the end of the working day. Here in the UK I feel there is a clearer separation between work and life outside the office. In a way I feel, as I am getting used to a new environment, that everything slowed down since I arrived here. To put it simply, comprehending this new culture is the challenge.
What have you learned form the process?
I improved my time management skills. At times I feel like I am working 15 hours per day because I am working under 2 time zones. The time differences have certainly led me to improve the way I manage my time at work.
Is there anything CareerFrog is proud of in particular?
When you start a company - if things go well - you can feel fulfilled, very fast. You can see your company develop and your team expand over just a few months. This pace and these changes are rewarding, and they make workers feel like their actions are making a difference. Compared to other co-workers I am a newcomer, as I joined the company only 6 months ago. When I talk to the co-workers who have been working at Careerfrog since the very beginning, I can see they are immensely proud because, in a way, they grew with their company. Their personal development was parallel to the expansion of the business.
How has Cocoon Networks eased your move to the UK?
As I mentioned, this is an overseas office. When you open an office in another country, you feel like a complete outsider. Personally, Cocoon Networks made me feel like I was at home. I see a lot of Chinese people around here and sometimes we communicate in Mandarin. In addition we receive a lot of support from staff. This made our entry in the UK a lot smoother and easier. We were not as afraid as one would have expected us to be. In addition, Cocoon Networks has many connections to the Chinese government we can benefit from. Last but not least, Cocoon Networks is the perfect Sino-British environment, a Chinese company in the very heart of London.
What advice would you give to other China-based companies like yours?
Before you send someone here, do your homework. Research the market, local policy and rules. Don’t recklessly buy an office here, you can just find a co-working space first. This can lower your costs and give you enough time to get to know the UK market better. A co-working space is the perfect place for a company to have a transitional period before expanding in size.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to get this strategy up to speed and understand this market better. After that we’ll expand our team in London and potentially open more offices around the UK. I would say our next country would be America. The US and the UK are in fact the two countries that welcome more Chinese students that any other in the world.