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A Day in the Life: Consulting Firm Associate in Shanghai, China

7:30 a.m.: Wake up in the hotel near the Shanghai office. Hit the gym for 30 minutes, shower and change. ("Even though, I am actually based in Beijing, I have been working in the Shanghai office for a couple of months.")

8:30 a.m.: Have breakfast at the hotel. Recognize which day it is by the same food spread. ("Even though the food is good in this typical 5-star hotel, having stayed in the hotel for around two months means I am too familiar with the food.")

9:00 a.m.: Reach office after a quick cab ride through pretty heavy and noisy traffic

9:20 a.m.: Prepare for the day, finish checking and replying to e-mails while waiting for colleagues to stream in. The working hours in China start and end late.

10:00 a.m.: Review work done by two research assistants who come from the top-ranked Chinese universities. Assign them additional areas to verify by calling or going through secondary research reports. ("Research assistants in China offices are part-time employees who are typically pursuing Master's degrees.")

11:00 a.m.: Synthesize some of the findings from the RA to prepare for a problem-solving session with the team.

12:00 p.m.: Go out for lunch with some office colleagues. ("Having lunch outside the office with colleagues or clients is very common in China.")

1:00 p.m.: Work with another associate and project manager for a problem-solving session. Realize the need to "sanity-check" some of the data from the RA.

2:30 p.m.: Make calls to Chinese companies and associations to verify data and industry trends. ("Secondary research reports in China are often less reliable than those in the U.S. or Europe, so primary research is critical to ensure better accuracy.")

3:30 p.m.: Work on a few PowerPoint slides that capture the insights from the research and problem-solving session for the midterm review with the client.

5:30 p.m.: Review findings from RAs, and provide additional guidance for further research tomorrow.

6:30 p.m.: Check in with the project manager on the day's findings, who reminds me to check with the other associate on her work stream to make sure we are coordinated.

7:00 p.m.: Catch up with the other associate on her work stream informally to make sure we are not overlapping.

7:30 p.m.: Go out to a really crowded restaurant for some excellent Chinese food with other consultants. Continue to marvel at the range of dinner choices in the city.

10:00 p.m.: Return to hotel, check personal e-mail, bathe, call wife.

11:30 p.m.: Sleep.