Jessica Lam ’19, Aaron Castillo ’19, and Kissondial Ram ’19, students of the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer, were named the 2018 Geneen Fellows in International Responsible Management, allowing them the opportunity to spend five weeks of their summer in China studying and researching international corporate social responsibility for IBM executives in Beijing and Shanghai.

Today, the students reflect on the experiences they had as Geneen Fellows, an opportunity provided by the Harold S. Geneen Charitable Trust to help advance its mission to foster the education of young people and promote responsible corporate management.

1. Why did you apply for the fellowship?

Lam: I thought it would be a good experience to travel abroad and broaden my horizons by experiencing the culture in China, as well as learn about new topics by researching different markets.

Castillo: I applied for the scholarship after I heard about it in Professor Susan Freeman’s class. I thought the experience could be life-changing. The length of the trip allowed me to experience China as well as come back and enjoy time at home before heading back to school.

Ram: I wanted to have the opportunity to do research for IBM in new technology, visit Beijing, and experience the culture there.

2. What was the most rewarding thing you worked on during your time abroad and why?

Lam: Both my research about the smart manufacturing industry and my translation work. I was able to research and learn a lot about the smart manufacturing industry such as market trends, ecosystems, platforms, and rising technologies. Furthermore, I explored the smart home, smart health care, and 3D printing markets, and created case studies on the key players. For my translation work, I translated a PowerPoint from English to Chinese about the changing landscape of business for CIOs and their roles. This translation work allowed me to further polish my Chinese skills.

Castillo: A case study about startups and established companies in the fintech industry in America. It gave me an inside look at what financial problems Americans are facing and how the combination of banking knowledge and technological advancements is helping to solve those problems. I learned how new of an industry fintech is and its potential for growth and development.

Ram: My research on fintech and techfin. One of the most rewarding experiences was learning about how data intermediaries rely heavily on large datasets and business analytics as their main business model. Learning about the role of data and how businesses leverage that data to gain consumer trust was also rewarding.

3. What is one important lesson you learned as a Geneen Fellow?

Lam: You have to be flexible and manage your time wisely. But after that, hard work and determination will lead you to success.

Castillo: I learned how extensive and supportive the Rensselaer network is. Not only did RPI allow me to visit China and work with IBM, but I also received extensive help from professors, administrators, and students. I met an alumnus who played football and we sat and talked about how RPI changed us, football, and what we were doing in China. This experience taught me what connections I have as a student at Rensselaer.

Ram: As a Geneen Fellow, I learned how to be independent and step out of my comfort zone. While traveling around Beijing and experiencing an entirely different culture, I learned that stepping out of your comfort zone allows you to learn new things and grow as a person.

4. What advice do you have for future Geneen Fellows or for students considering applying for the fellowship?

Lam: Definitely apply because it is 100 percent worth it. You will learn and experience a lot of different things and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and submit your applications as early as possible. Be open to experiencing new things and plan as much in your trip as you can. In your research, be flexible, organized, and manage your time. Learning a little of the language before you leave always helps as well!

Castillo: Be open to the opportunity of working in China and be prepared to experience new ways of life. When applying, be honest and truthful about why you are interested in going and how the fellowship can help you grow.

Ram: Consider applying, because it was one of the best experiences of my life. Complete the application early and have multiple people review it. When you are accepted, start the visa process early and research Beijing before you travel. Also, make sure you download a VPN before leaving!

5. What is your favorite memory from your summer in China and why?

Lam: Traveling around Beijing and exploring new places, such as the Beihai Park or the Summer Palace, as well as around the Wudaokou area that we resided in. It was fun to walk around the neighborhood and inside the mall. The shopping was fun and the food was really delicious.

Castillo: Meeting a Rensselaer alumnus and former football player was definitely a highlight of my trip but my favorite memory is walking the Great Wall. Prior to reaching the wall, I learned about its history and importance. I took a cable car to the wall and then walked to the top by myself, allowing me to take time to appreciate its design and structure. The wall was built high into the mountains and the combination of nature and one of man’s most famous creations made for a memory I will never forget.

Ram: Visiting the hutongs with Jessica. The hutongs are the heart and soul of Beijing. I was able to see the old architecture of the city and experience Beijing’s street life. I saw the locals shopping, living their daily lives, and it was exciting to take part in that.