Alumnus in Asia Offers Helping Hand to Students

William Bao Bean ’95 skypes in from China to chat with Bowdoin students

William Bao Bean’s first rule is “work your ass off.”

Bean ’95, co-head of the networking group Bowdoin Club of Asia, has an impeccable record of finding employment for students who follow his rules. If you want it, “he will get you a job or internship,” said Bowdoin Career Planning advisor Sean Sullivan ’08 to the crowd of fifteen students that gathered for a recent Skype call with Bean to talk about the possibility of working in Asia.

The Bowdoin Club of Asia runs an internship and job placement program, and has placed close to 90 students over the last six years. During the Skype call, Bean discussed his path from Bowdoin, experience in Asia and involvement in undergraduate job placement.

Why Work in Asia?
Alithea McFarlane ‘14: “I have studied Japanese since high school…and I’ve been taking it here. … Since I have this language, I’m trying to find a useful avenue to use it and to take this knowledge and experience that I’ve built up over the years.”

Hannah Sherman ‘15: “I was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and I lived in Hong Kong for a year and then came to the States and I have never been back… I’m really interested in economic development and possibly teaching, as well, and so this would be a way for me to get back to Asia.”

Bean emphasized that one of the most important types of connection in China is the “schoolmate” connection. With the one-child policy, extended families are small or nonexistent, he said. He cited the Bowdoin Club of Asia, now about 250 strong on Facebook, as an important auxiliary network.

In 2007, Bean made the switch from investment banking to venture capital and currently works in Shanghai as managing director at Singtel Innov8, a strategic investment fund backed by Singtel Group and focused on the technology, media and telecom sectors. He has connected students of all language abilities to opportunities at both large companies and Internet start-ups. Bean does not promise students a career, but rather a “stepping stone to get that first job experience.”

Bean pointed to Bowdoin’s internship subsidies and Bowdoin Club of Asia’s new philanthropy arm as means to help fund students’ travels to Asia for internships. However, one can live in China for a reasonable rate, he said, “if you’re eating a lot of noodles.”

Though offering a helping hand to student interns, Bean enforces strict rules: “The people who came before you worked their ass off so you could have this chance as well,” he said, segueing to his second rule: “Don’t do anything stupid or embarrassing more than once… Everybody makes a mistake, but don’t do it twice.” For his third stipulation, he referenced Corleone in The Godfather, who says famously: “Some day… I will call upon you to do a service for me.” He explained that he hopes the people he helps break into the job market will one day help another student to find his or her footing.

Of his placement program, Bean reiterated: “This is an opportunity, it’s a stepping stone, it’s a bridge to help you get from Brunswick, Maine, which is in the middle of nowhere, to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and to some extent Tokyo and Beijing.”

Story by Melissa Wiley ’13

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