Thanks to this PHBS alumna, the world’s best coding school is now in Shenzhen.
The first day I met Markey Tan was International Women’s Day. A diverse crowd had gathered at Le Wagon Shenzhen, the third Chinese branch of the renowned international coding school. Markey co-founded the branch in 2018.
Two young, talented, and vibrant lady tech experts guided us through the skills of their trade. We tested keyboards for an exercise on executing user experience research with an analyst from Microsoft. And later reviewed mini-program usability with a designer from Tencent. As an exchange student who had only recently arrived in Shenzhen, it felt like the city was a high-speed train and I wanted to join the ride.
The event was just another small part of Markey’s vision of entrepreneurship and empowerment coming to life.
What Markey Brings to Shenzhen
Markey Tan, also known as 谭美维 (Tán Měi Wéi), is a Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS) alumna with a bright professional path in technology startup ecosystems. Originally from Bangkok, Thailand, she appreciates the fast-pace of Shenzhen. Here she finds countless ways to test herself and grow. As a coder herself, Markey treats life here like her own game, where all of the day’s tasks add to a skill set and bring her closer to the next level. She has applied her skills and knowledge to community building, event planning, and entrepreneurship as co-founder of Le Wagon Shenzhen.
Le Wagon was founded in Paris in 2013 with the mission of bringing technical skills to creative people. Its slogan: Change your life, learn to code. Accordingly, their specialty became 9-week coding boot camps, where with no technical background students gained the skills to build their own sophisticated programs. This efficiency is what has made Le Wagon unique and so highly appreciated. In just more than five years, it has expanded to 34 cities around the world and been ranked as the best coding school in the world for the last 3 years.
How Markey Got Here
Markey may have found such a fitting home at this promising startup because of her own extensive international experience. She grew up in Thailand but has since received much of her education abroad.
She spent 3 years in a high school in Florida, USA. At the time, expressing herself in English, a language she now uses every day with ease, was difficult. Facing this challenge, however, allowed her to make the most of her stay abroad. Most importantly, she made new friends, gained global knowledge, and developed a critical eye to understand the world more clearly.
This depth of experience allowed her to stand out from her peers early on. A few years later, the Thai Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) in Shanghai offered her an internship. In order to sharpen her understanding of China and deliver quality work, she decided to precede her internship with a tour of the big Chinese cities from least to most developed.
She was surprised to discover that even her first destinations, considered to be underdeveloped, had the potential of big cities back in Thailand. “There is something happening here,” she thought. At the end of her trip, she landed in Shanghai. It felt like the cherry on top. “Shanghai was mind blowing. I knew I needed to come back.” After touring China she had finally reached the center of commerce, style, and entrepreneurship—and things would never be the same for her.
Making Shenzhen Her City
Back in Thailand but determined to return to the sleepless city of Shanghai, Markey began looking at master’s degree programs in Shanghai when finishing her bachelor’s degree. However, China had another surprise in store for her. Due to the timing of the year, she found the best opportunities were in places she hadn’t previously considered. She was devising a Plan B, which would soon become the source of her greatest opportunity.
She turned to PKU Shenzhen for a master’s degree in Business Administration and Management at PHBS. During her studies, she got involved in Youth Entrepreneur and Student Unions. As such, she continued to stand out as a student leader and was the recipient of an Excellence Scholarship.
The longer she stayed in Shenzhen, the more places she found to network, grow, and apply her skills. In contrast to Shanghai, where expats were looking very hard for opportunities and were all trying to build a name for themselves, in Shenzhen, everything was new and ideas and projects were more welcomed. She realized Shenzhen had an ecosystem where if you work hard, you can find or create what you are looking for.
Finding the Right Teammate
One evening, after finishing classes for the day, she attended an event on WeChat marketing by Matthew Brennan. She was a regular conference attendee, but this was the first time she actually paid for attending one. She felt like WeChat marketing was the future for retail and commerce in China and possibly many other parts of the world. If that was the case, this would be well worth it.
After the event, she reached out to Matthew to talk to him about a crazy idea his talk sparked in her mind. She wanted to organize these WeChat marketing talks in 3 provinces in Thailand. When she asked if he was on board, he agreed without hesitation. Against all odds, considering that this kind of conference had never been previously done, the events were a success, attracting more than 150 attendees. Along the way, she came to appreciate Matthew’s skills, knowledge, and connections even more. She saw how highly respected he was in the industry for his analysis and expertise. Likewise, Matthew was surprised by her ease and entrepreneurial spirit at such a young age. They both sensed that they made a great team.
When Matthew then suggested they team up again—this time in Shanghai—she immediately replied, “Why not? This time it was her turn to not hesitate for a moment. Together, they developed China Channel, a “consulting and research company for organizations wishing to understand and build their strategy for WeChat and China’s digital ecosystem.” China Channel has rapidly become the organizer of the largest WeChat marketing conference series for international organizations.
After organizing the successful conference in Shanghai, it seemed that a new direction for her was forming. Her efforts now all revolved around the tech world. Furthermore, she was also passionate about education. The next chapter of her life unfolded as she then started to teach workshops and give talks both in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. These later led her to her co-founding the coding school Le Wagon Shenzhen.
What’s next on her bucket list? She is now working on the opening of a Hong Kong branch of Le Wagon, as well as the planning of the Greater Bay Sharing Forum taking place on May 4 and 5. But who knows the other projects that are simmering in the mind of this talented young entrepreneur?
Wisdom On The Go – Lessons she learned as an expat entrepreneur in China
- Startups fail because they don’t have the knowledge of local people. They apply the same recipe they would back home. But China is unique—and in order to get ahead, you have to make sure that your company targets the Chinese client, not any client.
- As an entrepreneur in China, it is better to have a niche market. Otherwise, your competitors have more assets and money to invest to make sure they stay ahead (and that you don’t). A little part of that big pie can still be very tasty.
- Lastly, creating an event is more impactful than what one might think. It is an amazing way to broaden your worldview and to learn from others who have similar interests.