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Four Years After CBS: Harder, better, faster, stronger and a little bit of Baijiu

Travelling to China about five years ago is a decision that Stig Thorlacius Bondrup has never regretted. (Private photo)

As a student, he wrote his master’s thesis while working fulltime for A.P. Møller Mærsk in China. Now, four years after CBS, Stig Thorlacius Bondrup lives in Shanghai, speaks Mandarin and is responsible for the day-to-day running and development of six different companies spread across different cities in the Greater China Region.

Four years after CBS |   11. Mar 2020

Kasper Christensen


Stig Thorlacius Bondrup is a hard-working global citizen. Although he has his own apartment in Shanghai, he travels around China and other countries in the world every Monday to Thursday managing operations at seven separate firms as Head of Finance and Business Development at AVK Valves.

So, when CBS WIRE finally gets in contact with him, he is in Australia, the country farthest from Denmark, and he has been working in Adelaide since the beginning of January. Understandably enough, he is quite satisfied with his job assignment away from “home” at the moment.

“It is very interesting being in Australia and helping to implement some of the work procedures that we have in China. That said, it was also great timing in relation to the coronavirus outbreak. So right now, I’m hoping to get back home to China within a couple of weeks or so. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

But waiting does not seem to be one of Stig Thorlacius Bondrup favorite pastimes. At least, that is not the impression one gets when talking to him about what he has been doing since leaving CBS.

Hard work, business and social life 24/7

Stig Thorlacius Bondrup started studying for a BSc in International Business at CBS back in 2010. And although he thinks there are various prejudices about this education, it suited him perfectly.

“I know some people think it’s rather a snobbish education, but it was perfect for me because the competitive environment constantly makes students push themselves to the limits to keep up with each other. So International Business is a great education, I think.”

Afterwards, Stig Thorlacius Bondrup took an MSc in Finance and Strategic Management, which was a kind of natural next step to add to his bachelor. And although he was also content with studying his master’s degree, he was already determined about where to go and establish his career.

The adventure abroad began early on during an exchange stay while studying for his bachelor’s degree. Whereas most of his fellow students chose to go to the USA, he preferred to go somewhere else that was new to him. Therefore, he chose Singapore.

“Going on an exchange in Singapore was a real eye-opening experience for me. Things were humming with activity and there were a lot of interesting people. So, this was when my interest in Asia – and especially China – really evolved, because China and the Chinese culture have a major influence on Singapore,” he says.

Stig Thorlacius Bondrup’s newfound interest in China also dispelled any doubts about the choice of destination for his second exchange stay while studying for his master’s degree.

“I had to go to Shanghai. Because there it’s a full-speed cycle of hard work, business and social life 24/7, which is perfect for me,” he says.

And especially full speed and hard work both seem to be essential elements of Stig Thorlacius Bondrup’s personality. In May 2015, while writing his master’s thesis back home in Denmark, he got a job as a Sourcing Manager for A.P. Møller Mærsk and returned to China.

“I spent all my nights and weekends on writing my thesis, while working fulltime for Mærsk. So those six months were pretty busy,” he says on the phone with a smile in his voice.

“I feel like China is made for me”

Travelling to China about five years ago is a decision that Stig Thorlacius Bondrup has never regretted. There are many reasons for that, but essentially Shanghai, and the local people there, seem to possess the same level of speed and willpower as himself.

“In Shanghai, there’s this energy-fueled culture where people want to get on in the world and do so fast. And that inspired me to push myself and work harder in order to accomplish more. So, in many ways, I feel like the city is made for me,” Stig Thorlacius Bondrup says.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the social life in Shanghai. People go out to bars and restaurants, and participate in sports events all the time, and there’s a strong unity among people in general,” Stig Thorlacius Bondrup says. (Private photo)

Besides inspiring him to work harder, China in general also interests Stig Thorlacius Bondrup because the business environment dares to take risks in a way that is uncommon among Danish companies.

“In China there are a lot of great business opportunities. This means that Chinese companies are more willing to take risks. Whereas you almost have to be in the middle of your forties and have an impressive CV to get a high-profile job in Denmark, China is more willing to take chances and hire young people such as myself,” he says and gives an example:

“When I was hired by Mærsk, I had only been in Shanghai for around nine days when I was suddenly sent to Northern China to negotiate some contracts with a railway firm and some shipping companies. So I was kind of thrown in at the deep end with no lifebelt, which I think is very characteristic of the way the business community works in China.”

Stig Thorlacius Bondrup is clearly a very career-minded person. But that does not mean he is a boring worker bee with no room in his calendar for engaging with other people.

In fact, over the last couple of years, he has built up a far-flung network of friends and colleagues from his work team and enjoys going out and having fun with them. And Shanghai is also the perfect place for fun.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the social life in Shanghai. People go out to bars and restaurants, and participate in sports events all the time, and there’s a strong unity among people in general,” he says and continues:

“I mean, it’s an enormous city with nearly 23,400,000 residents, including international people like myself. So, there are plenty of opportunities for going out with friends, meeting new people and having a glass or two of Baijiu,” he says, referring to a famous Chinese distilled liquor.

The bigger the challenges, the more the motivation

Just as he thinks of China as a place that is made for him, Stig Thorlacius Bondrup seems custom-made for China. And one of the major reasons for that is his insatiable level of energy.

“I have a lot of energy. There’s always a lot going on in my life, and I’m always busy. Even when I’m on vacation, I have to go out diving, climbing a mountain or riding a mountain bike,” he says and goes on:

“So, I think the foundation of who I am is based on a considerable amount of energy, which I channel and use on travelling, having fun with other people and working a lot.”

“If people tell me something’s impossible, I always have to check for myself that it’s actually true,” Stig Thorlacius Bondrup says. (Private photo)

In addition to being an unstoppable Duracell bunny, he is also a pretty competitive and determined individual, which might stem from his interest in sports in general. And these features might be the underlying reasons why he is so motivated by challenges.

“For me, the bigger the challenge, the more the motivation. When I first came to China, I was told that I didn’t have to speak Chinese to work in China. I was also told that it was an impossible language to learn,” says Stig Thorlacius Bondrup and continues:

“But I discovered that the only way I would be able to land a job promotion in the country back then was to learn the language. So, I enrolled in a Mandarin course and today I’m very happy I did that.”

“If people tell me something’s impossible, I always have to check for myself that it’s actually true,” he says laughing.


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