School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Going Global: Queen’s Alumni in boardrooms across China

“I am a kind of a person who has a dream”
Henry Naijie Wu, Master of Urban and Regional Planning, 1992

December, 2015
By Dalia Thamin

Alumnist - Henry Wu

Alumnus - Henry Wu in 1988

Henry Naijie Wu is the managing director of planning, China region, for one of the largest consulting design firms and engineering professional services in the world. The multinational company, WSP I Parsons Brinckerhoff, has 500 offices in 39 countries and employees about 31,000 people around the world. So how did Mr. Wu end up with a job that many Queen’s graduate students in the fields of urban planning or business would dream of having someday?

Mr. Wu took me through his 30 year career journey. He started working locally in China and then expanded to working globally with top multinationals. He also founded several companies in Canada and China along the way. From his office in Shanghai Mr. Wu recounted on the phone the beginning of his career in China. He got his Bachelor of Urban & Regional Planning from Zhejiang University, in 1982. He then worked with the municipal government in the Hangzhou Urban Planning Bureau, for five years.

The next chapter of his life began when he moved to Kingston, Ontario to start his Master of Urban and Regional planning at Queen’s University, in 1988.

 

Why Queen’s?

Queen’s was the only Canadian university Mr. Wu’s heard of back in the 80s, before the internet, he explains. “It was the only Canadian university I applied for… it was very simple just go to Queens because that’s the only choice I had at the time,” says Mr. Wu.

Mr. Wu got a job in Vancouver with a land development company after spending two years working on his master's at Queen’s. “I was in charge of one of the largest residential development projects in whole lower mainland in great Vancouver area,” says Mr.Wu. The land owner was Taiwanese “so needed someone who can speak Mandarin, English and has planning background,” says Mr.Wu. He finished his master's thesis while working in Vancouver and returned backto Queen’s for his convocation.

Mr. Wu credits his graduate degree from Queen’s for opening the doors of the North American job market. “It really helped me especially for my first job in Vancouver,” says Mr. Wu. He explains that even though he had five years of work experience in China, “Canada was a different culture, different country, different level of development,” says Mr. Wu.

CV Snapshot

It is difficult to sum up Mr. Wu’s career journey that spans over three decades. He has worked in China, Canada and the US. Over the years, he took on executive positions with several top multinational companies working in Asia. Mr. Wu also started four businesses: one in the Fast food industry (China based), investment consulting (Canada based), an internet startup related to tourism in China (Canada based), and a company focusing on wind energy (Canada/China).

Perhaps his food industry venture, his first entrepreneurial attempt, stands out in his CV because it’s different from his general area of specialization.  Mr. Wu explained that in 1993 “China has just opened the door, so I thought that is great there is a huge market potential.” Mr. Wu set up a fish and chips restaurant chain called Boston Fish in China. “Because at that time KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) was making you know big fortune over there,” says Mr. Wu. He designed a franchise business model.  “We were competing with KFC,” says Mr. Wu.His business was successful for the first several years and then closed down in 1998.

Mr. Wu eventually went back to working with multinationals in his profession, after spending 13 years as an entrepreneur.  He landed the regional manager job in China with a British company, Atkins, in 2007. Three years later Parsons Brinckerhoff approached him to take on his current job as managing director, planning, China region. The company recently merged with another giant in the field WSP.

Innovation

After talking to Mr. Wu for an hour it was clear that he is strongly passionate about the work he does. “I am a kind of a person who has a dream, and also I will work hard trying to realize my dream,” says Mr. Wu. He enjoys finding ways to quickly develop ideas. He adds: “My past business experience help me to come up with an idea and put it into a business plan and execute it as well.” Mr. Wu says China is growing every day… it’s rapid and dramatic.” Mr. Wu says that innovation is the buzz word in China.    “Everybody in China is talking about innovation, innovation is the key, always think about being innovative,” says Mr. Wu.

Staying Connected

Mr. Wu comes across Queen’s graduates who are working in related fields in China, during his business dealings. On the Social level, he connected with other Queen’s alumni in China on social media and they formed a group on “Wechat”. Last year, he was also part of a group of Queen’s alumni in China who hosted Queen’s officials and dignitaries. “We are really proud of Queens,”says Mr. Wu.

Henry Wu Collage

(Left to Right) 1. Henry with Queen's Provost; 2. Boston Fish (fast food franchise) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province China 1994; 3. Henry with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and other Queen's Alum

 

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