Riding into the future

Updated 2017-08-17 12:19:42 China Daily
Alibaba associates ride camels in the Gobi Desert in Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu province in June, during a visit to Mogao Grottoes which was on the ancient Silk Road trading route. PROVIDED TO China Daily

Alibaba "associates" ride camels in the Gobi Desert in Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu province in June, during a visit to Mogao Grottoes which was on the ancient Silk Road trading route. PROVIDED TO China Daily

The 32-member elite AGLA group is comprised of candidates from 14 countries. Most of them graduated from the world's leading universities, including Harvard and Cambridge. HE GUANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

The 32-member elite AGLA group is comprised of candidates from 14 countries. Most of them graduated from the world's leading universities, including Harvard and Cambridge. HE GUANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Alibaba's one-year program aims to train the brightest and the best from across the world to become future leaders, and champions of globalization

They are young, gifted and digging deep into the cultural history of the old Silk Road.

In a visit to the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province, a group of Alibaba "associates" explored the oasis town, which was the epicenter of an ancient trading route.

Many would consider this a sightseeing tour. But not the 32-strong party from Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd's Global Leadership Academy or AGLA.

This was serious business for the culturally-diverse group as being aware of the past is crucial for them to understand the future, and the link to China's modern-day multinational project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

"Our program was created to train the future leaders for globalization," said Brian Wong, vice-president of the e-commerce behemoth.

During the five-day course, the associates, as the company calls them, need to attend leadership classes, work with a local company to give them practical advice, ride camels and camp in the desert overnight.

Literally a creme de la creme group, they have been selected from thousands of applicants to work for Alibaba for a certain period of time and are on the fast track to the top.

Understanding the Belt and Road vision is just part of the 12-month journey in a series of learning experiences about Chinese history, arts and trade as the company expands globally.

"Through this one-year program, we offer experiential and academic learning, as well as immersing them in businesses to help them become the leaders in the new economy," Wong said.

This elite group from 14 countries was selected from more than 3,000 applicants and started the program in October, 2016.

Most are from the world's leading universities, such as Harvard and Yale in the United States, and Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom. All of them will work in various Alibaba departments and offshoots.

Gary Topp, 31, comes from the UK and feels working for the sprawling tech company is a unique opportunity, a "fascinating" choice.

"I believe I have the potential to play a bridging role in a company that is exceptionally successful in its home market but wants to seek growth outside China," said Topp, who worked for international ratings agency Moody's in London and New York before getting an MBA at the University of Chicago.

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