November 06, 2018 • By Aaron Orlowski
Catherine Zhou is, by nature, a bridge builder. And she has leveraged the network and skills she gained at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business to build them.
Through the years, Zhou, FEMBA ’04, has aided the Merage School’s admissions and alumni relations efforts in China and was recently selected as the school’s ambassador for China under a new alumni connection program. She helps organize both the Merage School and UCI Alumni chapters in Shanghai.
It fits a pattern for Zhou, whose dedication to bridging cultures, industries and markets has only ramped up since she graduated from the Merage School.
“I learned invaluable business skills at the Merage School, but just as importantly I’ve maintained connections with Merage School colleagues, and it has helped my business tremendously,” says Zhou. “Business grows when we establish partnerships. You can address bigger problems with more resources.”
Zhou is the CEO of EcoKMC, which works with different incubators, capital funds and seed funds in diverse arenas from medical device and health, to advanced manufacturing, education, information technology and environmental technology. EcoKMC, which is based in Los Angeles with a Chinese subsidiary in Suzhou, has contributed to organizing the U.S. China Innovation Investment Summit, now in its third iteration.
For the most recent summit, in October, a group of U.S. firms visited China for a week, including the Irvine firm 3D Infotech, which produces technology that automates quality assurance testing. 3D Infotech is owned by Rohit Khanna, FEMBA ‘04 — a classmate of Zhou’s from their Merage School days.
The Merage School network — and the bridges Zhou has built — paid off. Khanna signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Suzhou, a fast-growing city of nearly 11 million people 62 miles northwest of Shanghai.
Zhou has also been involved in nurturing a sister city partnership between Suzhou and Portland, Ore. Earlier this year, she helped organize a delegation of Chinese business leaders and officials that visited Portland to explore business opportunities.
Zhou is originally from Xinjiang Province in northwest China, and came to the U.S. in 1996 to work for tech companies. Over the course of her career, Zhou has worked for companies from Nashville to Salt Lake City to San Diego, both in the U.S. and with those companies’ offices in China.
When she was looking at MBA programs more than a decade ago, she chose the Merage School because of its expertise in information technology — but learned and gained much more.
“Before I was at the Merage School, I was doing everything by instinct,” Zhou says. “After the Merage School, I had this holistic view of how an operation should be, that it should be like this, or like that. Now, in my business, we actually have a structure to really support ourselves to achieve and excel.”
Today, she’s applying those skills to establishing more bridges between companies — and even countries.