Ashwin Pillay

Ashwin Pillay

Senior Digital Executive, RedFern Digital, Shanghai, China
Bachelor of Business in International Business and Marketing

He knew fairly early on that he didn’t want to limit his career to New Zealand, says AUT business alumnus Ashwin Pillay who now lives and works in Shanghai.

“After completing my first year of study at AUT, I decided to take a gap year before deciding which major to pursue upon my return. Travelling abroad alone for the first time was one of the most unique and exciting experiences of my life, and it gave me a lot of time to plan for the future. I developed a strong ambition towards career opportunities abroad.”

Going on a student exchange in the final year of his degree confirmed that Shanghai was the perfect place to start his international business career.

“In my final semester at AUT, I went on a student exchange to the ESSCA School of Management in Shanghai, supported by a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia. It didn’t take long for me to realise that Shanghai was the place where I wanted to start my career – it’s a cultural melting pot in China, one of the world’s fastest growing economies and New Zealand’s largest trading partner.”

Helping brands navigate China
Since completing his Bachelor of Business, Ashwin has returned to Shanghai and now works as a senior digital executive for RedFern Digital.

“RedFern Digital is a full-service digital marketing agency that helps brands navigate the China digital ecosystem, increase their brand awareness and help convert that awareness into sales. What I love most about my role is working with different brands and categories from all over the world to achieve growth and success in one of the most difficult consumer markets there is.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in human behaviour and it intrigues me how brands around the world have adopted commercial strategies to take advantage of the way we consume and behave. Today, brands use an enormous number of tools, data and research methodologies to figure out how to better engage with their target consumers and drive growth. I find that super interesting.”

In addition to his busy role, Ashwin is also a member of the New Zealand Business Roundtable in China; a regular forum for New Zealand businesses in China to share ideas, opportunities and challenges they face. Becoming part of the New Zealand Business Roundtable is one of the achievements he is especially proud of in his career so far.

Advice for other students
Ashwin, who graduated in 2016, has some great advice for other students.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, guidance or support. The support network that AUT offers its student is fantastic in terms of personal and career development. So many students neglect to use these resources, and I will admit that I was one of those fools.”

Don’t forget to make the most of the opportunities available to students, he adds.

“Explore that potential internship opportunity that pops up in your marketing lecture, go to that workshop about a topic you know nothing about and join a club for something you’ve never done before. Through pushing yourself out of your comfort zone at AUT, you’ll be better prepared for when you begin your career in whatever field or specialisation that may be.”