How studying in Scotland helped me start my own business
Sponsored by the University of Strathclyde
Located in the northern third of the UK, Scotland is a thriving business hub. Scotland’s cities offer excellent transport links and great infrastructure but come with a lower cost of living than some other European cities. This makes them very attractive to international businesses looking to expand overseas, and many international companies choose to have offices in Scotland.
Scotland is also home to 19 universities, including the University of Strathclyde: a leading technological and research-focused university located in the heart of Glasgow.
TopUniversities spoke to University of Strathclyde alumna Zelda Li, who moved to Scotland to study an MSc in Applied Economics after earning an undergraduate degree in mainland China. Since gaining her master’s, Zelda has returned to China to start her online career coaching business.
Zelda told TopUniversities how studying in Scotland helped her start her business.
Why did you decide to study economics at the University of Strathclyde?
I chose to study a master’s in economics at the University of Strathclyde because it has one of the most prestigious business schools and applied economics degrees in the UK. The school has an excellent reputation and is spoken of very highly in mainland China.
The University of Strathclyde define itself as the place of useful learning, which I liked as it showed me the degree would be practical.
Another reason for choosing the University of Strathclyde was that I love Scotland. The people are very friendly, nice and speak straight to the point. I’m from northern China and have a similar personality to this, so I really resonated with the Scottish personality. I felt very welcome. I also loved the historical buildings, the opportunities to go hiking and the castles.
Could you tell me a bit about your career so far?
Before starting my master’s at Strathclyde, I had 10 years of experience working in China. I worked as a recruiter for about five years, and my last job was covering Beijing and San Francisco office recruiting.
While I was in the UK, I interviewed with companies in the UK, such as JP Morgan, Uber and Amazon. I got an offer from JP Morgan in Glasgow. However, I declined the job offer as I wanted to go back to China to start my own business. I have a social media channel in China that has 13,000 followers, so I wanted to work on my social media channel start-up.
However, initially the start-up didn’t generate too much profit. Someone in London reached out to me and asked me if I would work for them for four hours a day as a part time independent contractor. So now in the mornings I focus on my social media start-up and in the afternoons I work as a part-time headhunter for a London-based firm.
After graduating you decided to start your own business. Please could you explain what your business does?
Initially I wanted to start a career coaching channel because I used to be a recruiter so I could share my expertise. I shared my experience of interviewing with JP Morgan and Bloomberg on my channel. My followers loved that so I thought, ‘why not start my own career channel?’.
I am still adjusting the direction of my business, but it will be about building a career, job hunting and interviewing in the Western world.
Why did you decide to start your business?
When I was in the final stage of my master’s, writing my dissertation, I got really stressed and I used my social media channel to connect to other students who were doing their dissertation while job hunting. Lots of people resonated with it and that’s why my channel started to attract more followers.
My target audience was primarily Mandarin-speaking. I thought if I then went back to China after graduating, I would be able to develop much more relevant content for my target audience.
Looking forward, if everything goes well, I might move back to London to work. The company I’m working with part-time has offered me a potential position if I do decide to move back.
How do you think studying at Strathclyde prepared you for entrepreneurship? What skills did you learn in your degree that helped you build and run your business?
Doing an applied economics degree at the University of Strathclyde definitely helped me to think more systematically.
If you want to start your own business, you cannot rely solely on passion. You have to systematically prepare for it. You need to do your research and understand what your target audience wants. Analyse the situations and understand the potential challenges you may encounter, as well as any costs.
Since studying my master’s at Strathclyde, I feel like I’m doing things in a much more productive and efficient way and I have the ability to tackle much more complex and sophisticated problems. I am also much more confident than I was before. I know that there are going to be problems, but I also know that I can come up with solutions.
How did the University of Strathclyde support you in your career?
The University of Strathclyde really supported me when I was searching for jobs in the UK. The University of Strathclyde’s career services helped me with the interview process, with adjusting my CV and understanding how to effectively job hunt.
I also had a conversation with the careers services to find out and understand the many differences between interviews in the UK and in the US.
Are there any non-academic things that you experienced while studying in Scotland that have helped you in your career so far?
This is the first time that I have worked so closely with people from different countries and different cultures.
In the past I’ve found that when you’re working with somebody, you don’t usually work directly with them on a project. For example, as a recruiter I often have calls or face-to-face meetings, but these only last for around 30 to 45 minutes. However, in my master’s study, I got the chance to closely work with lots of different students on projects and presentations. I think working this closely with people enriches the way you communicate and understand others.
This has helped me in my career, as it helped me to better understand how people communicate and how they handle things.
Overall, would you recommend studying abroad in Scotland?
Of course! I loved studying in Glasgow. Scotland is really beautiful and a great place to be a student and the people are all so friendly.
When I wasn’t studying, I would go hiking in the natural parks, see movies, travel around Scotland’s cities. There are also festivals, such as the Edinburgh festival, which has music, markets and lots of handcrafts. I would definitely recommend studying in Scotland.
This article was originally published in February 2023 . It was last updated in September 2023