Alibaba: what’s it really like? An AGLA insider view from Ryan

Jack Ma belting out rock songs at an international cloud computing conference — not surprising.

A midnight phone call announcing a sudden change in team direction to capitalize on a new opportunity — completely normal.

It has been three months since I started my journey as an Alibaba Global Leadership Associate.  Arriving on campus for my first day, I never expected that Jack Ma would address our class.  Anticipating words of encouragement, inspiration, or motivation — I was taken aback at the advice from the iconic Chinese leader.  Wearing a simple blue t-shirt and scuffed shoes, Jack looked at us and said “don’t just tell the world all the good things about Alibaba, be honest, tell them what it’s really like”.

So what is life really like at Alibaba?  My recent attendance at the 2017 Alibaba Cloud Computing conference sheds light on the day-to-day experience of an AGLA associate and Alibaba’s unique culture.

It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle

Arriving at the conference, attendees were greeted by AGLA associates handing out badges, giving directions, and checking-in VIP’s.  Walking further into the expo, an AGLA associate could be seen escorting a delegation from Germany through the maze of cutting-edge technology and interactive demonstrations.  Arriving at the media booth, an AGLA associate reports live to millions of viewers through the internet.  As the conference closes, several AGLA folks share a taxi to attend the birthday party of another associate in the city center.

Life as an AGLA associate is much more than the daily interactions with our assigned business unit.  We’re often called upon to help out with conferences, live streams, VIP delegations, or even collaborating with other business units on special projects.  Outside of Alibaba, we’re a close-knit group of friends who enjoy discovering Hangzhou together.  Our lives revolve around Alibaba.  And while that means personal time is limited, we’re fortunate to have unprecedented access into the world’s most exciting internet company.

Picasso could paint Alibaba

As Picasso redefined the western standard of beauty in art, Alibaba Cloud is redefining the technological boundaries of computing.  Alibaba Chief Technology Officer, Jeff Zhang, announced the launch of a $15 billion global research program dedicated to developing next generation technology and increasing technological collaboration.  Beyond the conference’s flagship announcement, attendees were able to interact with innovative technology.  From a high-tech mirror that lets you try on clothes from TMall’s shopping platform to the latest advances in drone technology, the conference was a testament to how Alibaba continues to empower entrepreneurs and drive innovation.

Jack Ma is a rock star

Wearing a slick jean jacket, black sunglasses, and rocking a popped collar, Jack Ma stunned attendees at the Alibaba sponsored music festival by taking the stage and performing a duet with singer Li Jian.  To be honest, it’s not entirely unexpected considering Jack showed up one month prior at our 18th birthday party dressed as Michael Jackson.  Walking into an Alibaba event, you never know what kind of surprises, announcements, or performance are in store.

So, what’s life like at Alibaba?  It’s unpredictable, chaotic, exhilarating, and sometimes extremely frustrating.  Yet, you’ll constantly be surrounded by people who authentically believe they can change the world.  The 2017 Cloud Computing conference provided a glimpse into this future, a future characterized by innovation, inclusiveness, and opportunity for all.


Ryan McCarthy is a member of AGLA Class #2 and currently works on the HR team at Alibaba Cloud.

Click here for complete coverage of the 2017 Cloud Computing Conference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s