Teddy Zhang and Da Dong Ma: Two of China’s most prominent industry leaders

October 29, 2014

The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) brings prominent industry professionals to speak at SHA most Fridays during the fall semester. For 2014, students work in pairs each week to research, meet, and profile featured speakers, and then guest-blog here about the experience.

This week’s student authors are Sean Lee ’15 and Robert Wie ’15.

As class assistants in HADM 4100: Hospitality Management Seminar, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Teddy Zhang and Mr. Da Dong Ma — two of China’s most famous industry leaders — and learning from their experiences.

Mr. Zhang is chairman and CEO of HUBS1 Interactive Corporation, the leading global distribution system (GDS) in China, and is regarded as one of the most successful School of Hotel Administration alumni in his country.

Mr. Ma, president of the Shanghai Gui Yin Real Estate Company, has dedicated his life to preserving and upholding ancient Chinese culture through the relocation of thousand-year-old trees and dynastic homes.

Ma-Zhang-1As both guests were visiting from China, we prepared ourselves to accommodate them professionally and courteously. We would like to share two important lessons we took away from our preparations for their arrival.

Before their visit, we prepared a research packet covering their biographies, companies’ information, and achievements. In addition to the research conducted by the two dean’s assistants, EJ and Isabella, we had to find more details to add to the packet. We did not have any issues updating Mr. Zhang’s profile due to his active involvement in global projects and media.

Mr. Ma’s profile proved to be slightly more difficult as his activities are not covered by western media. We were able to find some information on his business, but unfortunately, it was written in Chinese. Fortunately, he sent additional details about himself and his company to Ms. Kandace Van Gorder, the dean’s executive assistant, which helped us complete his research packet. This experience taught us not to rely completely on online sources and that occasionally extra effort may be required to fulfill our duties.

The dinner at Banfi was a great opportunity to converse with industry leaders, including Mr. Michael Johnson, dean of the School of Hotel Administration; Mr. Leland Pillsbury, CEO of Thayer Lodging Group; and the two guest speakers. In addition to the great food and wine, we enjoyed extremely insightful conversation on topics from personal background to industry expertise.

Ma-Zhang-2Mr. Pillsbury and Mr. Zhang shared their experiences of working on hotel development projects together, which we found especially astounding, considering our personal aspirations in the industry. Mr. Ma spoke of the magic of how his company planned and executed the relocation of 10,000 ancient camphor trees from the Jiangxi province to Shanghai. Occasionally, we had slight trouble communicating due to some language and cultural barriers.

As SHA continues to expand its global network, we assume more international guests will visit our school to deliver speeches, inspiring the future leaders of the hospitality industry. We believe it is important for the school, including class assistants, to understand the needs of our guests and be well prepared to accommodate them. It is our responsibility to ensure these guests enjoy their experiences at Cornell.

Ma-Zhang-3We truly enjoyed spending the past two weeks preparing for Mr. Zhang’s and Mr. Ma’s visit. It was a unique opportunity to interact with these industry leaders at a personal level and be influenced by their words of wisdom. This experience would not have been possible without the school’s efforts and resources. Hospitality Management Seminar, available only at SHA, offers exceptional and valuable experiences to junior and senior Hotelies. We look forward to meeting the next guest speakers.

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