Alesca people vol.6 / I want my son to be proud of me."子供に誇れる仕事をする"

I’m more of a doer, I take proud in creating solution and I want my son to be proud of me.
And that’s why I joined Alesca.

―Janell(China Business Development)

What makes a good conversation

Before I joined Alesca, I had mostly worked in banks. I worked at the Westpac Bank in New Zealand for a few years and then MUFJ Bank in Beijing after I came back to China in 2012. The most helpful thing I learned from working at these banks is to have good work ethic and it helps you in every aspect of life, way beyond your work. To explain this in a understandable way, create good working habit: take ownership, follow things through, always respond in a timely manner and respond as promised regardless you have a solution or not. A prompt response is respect and if you show respect, people will show respect and understanding in return.

However because all these banks are large organizations, what I learned and was able to apply in jobs are quite superficial compare to my experience at Alesca. Alesca provides me more room to grow and let me see more of my potential. Take the ‘follow work through’ as an example, because we are a small company, this “follow through” process is way more complicated and difficult than working in a big company because sometimes you literally are the only person working on a task alone, and that requires a lot of patience, taking initiatives, multi-task skills and time management skills, and very important: learn to talk to people in their own way because you will not just sit in the chair and talk to your peer or corporate clients.

At Alesca I cover mainland China business development and customer relationship management. Right now we are in the process of launching a flagship project in a city of Western China, and we work with second tier city government officials a lot. These cities are very eager to improve their infrastructure and agriculture industry so parts of China’s Smart City initiatives. Compare to the more developed first tier cities such as Beijing or Shanghai, these second or third tier city governments are actually under more pressure to make the right investment decision because their personal connections with local residents are closer and their decisions affect the local communities more, so the government officials of these cities tend to be more conservative and cautious. To convince them has always been challenging, luckily, we have strong partners that are very well connected with these local governments so we had the privilege to host many government officials to visit our lab in Beijing to showcase and impress them, and ‘to speak in their way” also help us to build rapport with them, which means to have a conversation with them in SOE style (very polite, start the conversation with compliments, be very attentive. etc)

We’re all on the same page

Our Beijing team includes 4 small self-managing teams: hardware development, grow operations, business development and administrations. We have two container sized labs and 3 small labs in our office growing leafy greens, edible flowers, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. Grow team harvest these vegetables once or twice a week and every time is the happy “the best vegetables for dinner” time for all the staffs. Our company is growing, our team is expanding and hopefully we can find a bigger place that can sit in more people and build more labs inside the fourth ring of Beijing soon.

In terms of the company structure, we're flat structured. Each team has one manager to manage, mostly assist team members, and the management team has weekly meetings to discuss updates, challenges and future developments. We don’t micro-manage people, the relationships are built on trust because most of our staffs have been with us for more than 5 years. Everyone is friendly, there are heated moments but it’s never for anything else except people have different views on how to achieve the goal better.

Having worked in a very traditional Japanese bank where I felt strong organizational hierarchy, Alesca definitely fits my personality the best which is one of the most important factors when I think of a job.

Growth and sustainability

My most memorable job was how we started working with many high-end hotels in Beijing and what we have learned from working with them.

At that time I was trying to promote our T-Fresh indoor grow system to F&B industry, and I reached out to the one of the F&B Director. He replied me quickly and told me they happen to have an internal event coming up soon that we could exhibit our grow system, because the theme of the event is about Green and Sustainability. That was very surprising and exciting, so I had meetings with him to finalize the details and visited the hotel several times to do onsite measurement making sure the smooth delivery of our system; the distance from the loading zone to the event room, the height of the elevator and each door that the system will go through, check the power and water source of the event room, the best driving route between our office and the hotel… And it has become a habit of me that every indoor system installation we had with these hotels in Beijing, I always go down there to measure everything to avoid surprises in the last minute.

And on the actual day, I got there in the morning with our mechanics to set up the systems, I wore my winter jacket indoor, so my dress for the night won’t get dirty. The room temperature was like 26 Celsius, I think there were 3 of us to set up the two systems and grow team came later to bring the vegetables. Our early T-Fresh system weighs 120kg and it’s glass structured, we can’t just push it to the event room from loading zone outside the hotel, we had to take it apart and brought all the parts to the event room and re-assemble onsite. I was sweating pretty bad and had to redo my hair in the toilet before the event starts.

Our systems received so much attention and complements on that night. One of the executive chef almost immediately expressed his great interests in having our indoor grow system in his restaurant right after he saw our system, so I followed through, and very soon we had four indoor grow systems displayed in a prestigious Chinese restaurant in his Hotel.

We received so many inquiries about our systems but due to our logistic limit at that time, we could only work with nearby hotels. This project helped us to test the market and understand customer’s needs better for our later improvements. The restaurants customers could wear gloves and harvest vegetables themselves and a few minutes later it’d be served on their table, it’s the real “Farm to Table” experience and people love it so much.

Unfortunately we had to suspend all hotel business since the beginning the pandemic, but the interests for our indoor systems and vegetables from these high-end hotels have never gotten worn off, it’s such a honor to be so highly praised by these industry leaders.

Something that I'm truly passionate about

I have always been an active supporter of environment protection and animal rights. I worked as an Executive Assistant to the founder of an environment protection NGO for a few months before I joined Alesca, as much as I appreciate this experience, I feel the fundamental solution to fix global warming should start in bigger scale and start from the basics. Agriculture uses large amount of freshwater globally. We all feel sad when we hear about those forest fires, people give water to dehydrated koala in Australia, or boney polar bear dying in Arctic; and on the other hand, agriculture being the most survival-relying industry for our human, not only the speed of its development is extremely slow compare to other high tech industry, the overuse of pesticide have even made food safety a number one safety issue in many countries and damaged arable land.

I’m more of a doer, I take proud in creating solution and I want my son to be proud of me. And that’s why I joined Alesca.

Our precision farming system is sustainable (we received awards in 3 consecutive years from WEF for our sustainable and innovative technology), food growing in our system is of the best quality, our food production volume provides a real solution to world hunger. I’m very proud of what we have achieved and I’m more proud of what we are going to accomplish.

Alesca people vol.6

This is the first interview with the global team, we talked to Janell from Beijing team.
You may meet Janel at the Beijing office as Alesca has a chance to make a business trip to oversea.
Thank you so much, Janell!

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