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Camille Hamel is a jewellery designer and masters in management student at the Suzhou, China campus of Skema Business School. She grew up in France, where she studied until moving to Shanghai.
During a gap year, Ms Hamel worked as a marketing executive for a French ready-to-wear company called Façonnable, helping with their move to China. At the same time, she started designing jewellery and launched her own brand, called ANA. She now sells her pieces in Shanghai and for her masters degree has chosen to specialise in fashion and luxury management.
1. What is an average day like?
My day usually starts very early and ends pretty late. As a student, I attend class every weekday and deal with my homework obligations. My jewellery company takes up quite a lot of time seeing as my boyfriend and I are responsible for everything from design to sale. When I feel creative, I spend my evenings playing with materials and textures to find new pieces to add to my collection. My weekends are taken up purchasing raw materials or selling my pieces. Twice a week, I teach French to young Chinese students. My schedule seems busy, but I always manage to make time for the things that I care about. This includes my friends — both Chinese and European — whom I spend a lot of time with.
2. What academic achievement are you most proud of to date?
I am really proud to have learnt Chinese, which is an endless process that requires regularity and persistence. Everybody told me it was nearly impossible, which only motivated me even more. Speaking Chinese enables you to break the cultural barrier with Chinese people, exchanging with them on a deeper level. This is the greatest reward I could ever get from an academic achievement.
3. How do you deal with pressure?
I try to change pressure into energy because I know that I work quite efficiently when I am under pressure. I force myself to be very organised and when the deadline is close, I actually give the best of myself. The funny thing is that I tend to be more stressed about small details and less important things but quite comfortable with big projects with lots of responsibilities.
4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
The best advice I received is from my mum, who is actually a teacher. She told me to picture life as a card game where each card is an asset. The trick is to never run out of cards to play. Observe and learn new things so as to be able to gain new assets and use them at the right moment.
5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
Never depend on anybody else but yourself. Independence gives such a feeling of empowerment and pride that I would not change it for anything else. It makes you realise that when you put enough effort into doing something, there is always a way you can achieve it. I never give up on something I really want and if people try to convince me otherwise, it just makes me want to fight harder.
6. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
I would change the way people study because I realise how important it is for students to have a comfortable working environment and adequate support for teaching. I really think that people can be much more efficient when they feel interested in what they do and when they know that the environment is made for them to feel at ease.
7. What do you hope women in business will achieve?
Beyond status equality in the business world, I hope women will soon reach a point where they will no longer have to justify their career choices and achievements. In today’s business world, women tend to either lack credibility in comparison to men or are more tested when occupying powerful positions. For this, living in China is very interesting because here women tend to occupy many of the top executive positions and have the same rights in companies as men.
8. What is your favourite business book?
I recently started to read Tim Ferriss’ book The 4 Hour Workweek, which I found very interesting. It is full of advice and ideas and just makes me want to wake up early to work on a project, keep studying Chinese and start learning Russian. It is also about how to make money in a different way, automate your income and increase the amount of money you make per hour.
9. What are your future plans?
After my exchange semester in Mexico, I would like to come back to Shanghai to find a job in project management, marketing or event planning. I hope I will find a job where I can speak both Chinese and English and where I have the opportunity to express my creativity and my ideas.
10. What is your plan B?
Before entering business school, I wanted to be a teacher but my parents — both teachers — told me that I should find a “better option” because of the salary. Today, I’m teaching French to Chinese students as a part-time job and I really enjoy it. Next year I will prepare the exam to get the diploma to teach French to non-native speakers. I would just like to obtain this diploma as a back-up which will allow me to teach French in almost every country.