Difei Guo has always believed in pushing herself out of her comfort zone.
“If I face a choice, I always choose the one that's more difficult,” Difei says. “Whenever you feel uncomfortable, that’s when you grow.”
She switched comfort for a new challenge when she left China, her home country, to study her bachelor’s in the UK. All set to establish a career in marketing after she graduated, she instead opted to further challenge herself by heading to France to study a master’s degree.
In the end, her decision to enrol at EDHEC Business School’s dual master's degree program, combining a Master’s in Management and MSc in Strategy, Organisation & Consulting, has led her to working at Amazon Pay in Luxembourg.
From China to a job at the world’s biggest company, via a master’s, here’s how Difei’s desire to continually challenge herself paid off.
From marketing specialist to generalist
After her bachelor’s degree, Difei was confident in her abilities to embark on a career in marketing. She’d already gained marketing work experience at L’Oreal and global hotel chain Accor.
But this felt a little too close to her comfort zone. She knew that she’d be successful in marketing, but hadn’t tried out enough alternatives in business to know what else she enjoyed.
“I wanted to try something relevant to my current assets, but also add to what I had.”
She knew a master’s degree would expand her business knowledge, while also exploring other topic areas and gain work experience that could help her map out her career. Most programs she found, however, were only one year of studying, which she felt would leave her in the same position as she was after her bachelor’s.
EDHEC’s double degree master’s offered an ideal alternative. They offer a three year program: a generalist program in the first year, a gap year in the middle to gain work experience, and an opportunity in the third year to study a specialist degree.
“I knew that, after three years with a gap year, I would know a lot more about myself,” Difei says.
A jam-packed three years at EDHEC
Difei was keen to make the most of her time at EDHEC. With a primary goal of figuring out where she wanted her career to end up, she made sure to explore as many possible avenues and try as many new things as possible.
During her work experience gap year, she sought out companies that complemented her existing experience.
The first six months were spent working at Spiren, a brand consulting startup based in France. She brought her own unique knowledge of the Asian market, helping advise brand strategies for anti-aging innovations aiming to expand into Asia.
Then she moved to global technology company Criteo, where she interned as a global creative communications specialist. The combination of these two internships really bolstered her confidence when it came to applying for jobs in France.
“After the gap year, I feel that I proved to myself that I can work in France, and I had a lot more confidence to target bigger companies.”
The combination of this work experience helped her reflect on her own skill set, and moreover, what she had to learn. With her marketing experience, she was very design and detail oriented, but was somewhat lacking on the strategy side.
This is why, in her third year, she opted for the MSc in Strategy, Organisation & Consulting.
It was another step outside of her comfort zone, but one that was ultimately rewarding and helped her grow. “It’s very different from what I used to do. The mindset is very different. [Strategy consultants] want to figure out what is the real issue, and what you need to do to solve the issue.”
Landing a job at Amazon
Difei believes that landing her current job at Amazon was the result of two important experiences on her master’s.
First, the Amazon Innovation Challenge. University students from around the world compete to offer a solution for one of Amazon’s real goals, a supply chain ambition to eliminate carbon emissions. Difei’s team (pictured above) finished first in France, presenting in front of Amazon’s VP for supply chain in France.
At the same time, she was working on a consulting project for her MSc, strategizing a digital payments system. The combination of these two projects was intense, and at times, she felt like giving up on one.
“If I had given up, I probably wouldn't have ended up with my current job. It showed me how important it is to focus on what’s in front of you, and give it your maximum effort.”
She now works at Amazon Pay, the digital payments side of the e-commerce giant, as a support specialist. She’s been at the business for just over six months, working almost entirely remotely, although has received great support from her team and colleagues.
And as ever, Difei’s always looking for new challenges. She hopes to continue to expand her experience across Europe and establish herself in another market in the future.