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Pathways to success

Pathways to success

11 December 2017

Fangzhou Jiang is nearing the end of his four years of study at ANU, and is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Advanced Computing (R&D).

His experience at ANU has been an unusual one though, as he’s juggled his uni study with the demands of being involved in a start-up.

Before he came to ANU, Fangzhou was already working hard to establish Crimson, an education service provider he started with a couple of friends. 

Fangzhou met co-founders Sharndre Kushor and Jamie Beaton after graduating high school in Auckland, New Zealand in 2013. They founded edu-tech start up Crimson Education, to ‘help students achieve their potential’.

Since then Crimson has experienced exponential growth, and today the company employs over 120 full-time employees across 13 offices in 11 countries.  

We took five minutes with Fangzhou to chat about how the knowledge he’s gained through his study has helped him in his work with Crimson.

Tell us about your role at Crimson?

“My official title is Chief Financial Officer. I was heavily involved in the finance side, especially in the early stage, like capital raising and investor relations and so on. Gradually my role has evolved a little bit and I now wear multiple hats.

“One of my roles is as Head of Global Sales and Business Development, so I basically work with various teams around different offices to facilitate our expansion. I also work with our Australian team, and pretty much oversee our Australian operation.

What problem is Crimson trying to solve for students?

“Some students want to go abroad, expand their horizons, experience the American college experience, or they want to have a liberal arts education, so a lot of people have that aspiration.

“The problem is a lot of people don’t know how to [apply]. In high schools here, school counsellors only specialise in getting people into local universities, they don’t really look at how to get into Cambridge or Harvard. Students don’t have access to that kind of information.

“In Australia and New Zealand the process is incredibly simple and straight forward, whereas when you apply to a top university in the US, they care about your school academics, and you have to take additional entrance exams called the SAT’s. You also have to demonstrate your leadership and extracurricular activities, you have to write essays, you have to attend interviews, you have to get recommendation letters and so on.

“We’re trying to help people to navigate through the application process, to really position themselves strongly.”

During your time at ANU you took part in the ANU Vice-Chancellors Student Leadership Program. Can you tell us about that?

“The program is led by Richard Baker, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Student Experience, and it’s a semester long program. You do a lot of theoretical learning about what makes a good leader, and do workshops. Basically it’s learning techniques to make us better leaders in whatever we do.

“Within Crimson I’m quite young, and it’s an incredibly complex environment, with different employees from different backgrounds and countries and cultures. Leadership became incredibly important for me, and a lot of what I learned has been very relevant. When I had difficulties managing a team or a person, I’d take the issue back to the [Student Leadership Program] group and discuss and get some feedback and advice.”

How has your study at ANU helped you in your work with Crimson?

“I think there are a few things that have been tremendously helpful.

“I do two degrees – Commerce at CBE and I also do Computer Science with minors in Applied Statistics and Mathematics.

“In my Commerce degree I’ve studied accounting, and I’m the CFO of a company, so a lot of the things I study are directly relevant and useful to what I do. Sometimes I learn something in the morning in the classroom, and then in the afternoon I have to actually apply it.

“Also at Crimson we have a huge focus on tech. One third of our employees are software engineers with advanced computer science skills. So having a technical background has been very helpful because then I can work with our tech team to build products, to give them feedback. So the theoretical knowledge and real life practice, I think that’s a huge help.

“I think that it’s also all about the networks. I’ve met a lot of people here who are very aspirational, and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I’ve made a lot of friends.”

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Updated:   14 December 2017 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team