Tonight we had dinner at South Beauty 881, one of my favorite Chinese (Sichuan) restaurants in Shanghai. I don’t go there very often on the weekend as it’s located close to downtown, and therefore at least a 20 minute ride from my home. But because my sister and a friend are visiting we decided to go there for a spicy meal.
The dishes were great as usual, but after a while Scott had had enough food and wanted to play. So I walked around the garden with him (we were sitting outside) looking at the water and the fountain. While walking back I suddenly heard someone calling out my name. I look around and suddenly see my former professor Kees Koedijk! He is now dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at Tilburg University, but when I knew him he was still a young professor of Finance at Maastricht University.
Kees may not realize this, but he influenced my life in a big way, starting during my last year in Maastricht. Together with Piet Eichholtz he had just set up Global Property Research (which they later sold to Kempen & Co.) where I did a 6 month internship and also wrote my thesis about the research we did there. Kees and Piet both where my thesis advisers.
While writing my thesis Kees introduced me to the corporate recruiter at Mercedes-Benz in Holland, and through that contact I eventually ended up in the international management trainee program at Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz was the company that “sent” me to China back in 1999.
While doing the research for my thesis (in 1995) I considered doing a PhD, but I still remember the honest advice Kees gave me: he told me that he didn’t think I would be able to focus 4 years on one research topic, I would want to do more than that. I guess he knew me very well, I just didn’t realize it myself yet.
I see Kees Koedijk and Piet Eichholtz’ names in the media every now and then, but I hadn’t seen either one of them in person in years. So it was a real surprise to see Kees suddenly here, it’s a small world! He told me about some of the projects that he is working on, and there may be connections with the things that I am doing. So I look forward to catching up with him again in the near future, either in China or in Holland.