Life at Huawei's Shenzhen HQ: In pictures

Life at Huawei's Shenzhen HQ: In pictures

Summary: The Chinese tech giant drafts engineers straight from universities around the country to drive its huge R&D effort. What do they find when they get to Shenzhen - and more to the point, what are the canteens like?

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  • To keep the research engine turning — especially in mobile devices, where Huawei is making a big push — the company needs to attract the best talent. Victor Zhang, chief executive of Huawei UK, talked about why he chose to join straight after graduation, after doing the milk round in Shenzhen in 1998.

    "Huawei actually had one of the best environments," Zhang said. "Everyone was very dedicated, especially since the salaries were higher than others."

    Employees can buy the products they work on: there are shops in Huawei's headquarters with handsets on sale, for instance.

    Image: Karen Friar

  • Visitors to Huawei's HQ will mainly meet receptionists dressed in the company's colours of black and white.

    However, men in their mid-30s run the key parts of the business, according to Sladek - though this can bring its own pitfalls. "How do you continue to reward success when some of your execs are quite young?" he asked.

    One way Huawei does this is through what it calls a share-buying plan. The company is not listed on any stock exchange, though it has recently approached investment banks about an IPO, according to The Wall Street Journal. At the moment, it describes itself as employee-owned, rather than a state-directed business — though there questions about how much the Chinese government influences it.

    According to Sladek, 65,000 employees own shares in the business and have voting rights. Everyone at Huawei gets the right to buy stock once they've been in the job for two years — if they're Chinese, that is, as foreigners don't get the right. The amount they can buy varies, depending on seniority, performance and their place in the hierarchy — execs will get more than cleaners, for example. It all adds up to hundreds of millions of shares, Sladek said.

    The biggest shareholder is Huawei president Ren Zhengfei, who was a civil engineer in the People's Liberation Army before he founded the company in 1987, and who owns 1.4 percent.

    Another thing keeping down the average age at Huawei — and perhaps clearing the way for promotions — is that staff can retire at 45. If they've spent eight years at the company, they can hang onto their shares and reap the dividends, though they lose their voting rights.

    Huawei is led by a board of directors, who are voted in every five years by a group of 60 representatives chosen by shareholders.

    Image: Karen Friar

  • The clipped greenery and low-rise buildings in Huawei's grounds in the suburb of Bantian are a contrast to Shenzhen city centre, a busy urban area packed with tall blocks, electronics stores and traffic. On the local highways, Huawei is big enough to have its own traffic signs.

    The move to the city could be tricky for recruits from other parts of China. But in the heart of its campus, Huawei has built accommodation blocks for young workers who have just started with the company.

    Rents are cheap: just 800 rmb (£80) a month, though the maximum stay is six months. However, each of the 3,000 or so inhabitants only have about 30 square metres of space each, meaning "it is a little crowded" and a bit like student halls, according to Sladek.

    Still, there is an open-air cinema close to hand, as well as a swimming pool, and there are basketball courts, ping-pong tables and football pitches dotted around for Huawei-ites to use. There's even an old steam train, put to use in the past as a restaurant.

    Image: Karen Friar

Topics: China, IT Employment, Tech Industry

Karen Friar

About Karen Friar

Karen Friar is news editor for ZDNet in the UK, based in London. She started out in film journalism in San Francisco, before making the switch to tech coverage at ZDNet.com. Next came a move to CNET News.com, where she looked after west coast coverage of business technology, and finally a return to her homeland with ZDNet UK.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

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9 comments
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  • R&D and Huawei? You've got to be kidding.

    The only R&D Huawei does is on stealing information, bribing officials, rigging bids. You're never safe if you're in the same room with someone from Huawei. Phones, laptops, USB sticks go mysteriously missing during meetings. NDAs mean jack to them too, they just have no respect or ethics and cannot be trusted.
    spinit
    • Yes, R&D.

      Why is it hard to believe that Huawei has it's own R&D center? You're assuming that R&D means Research and Development.

      It could stand for "Retrieve Documentaion", through hacking, or something along those lines.
      William Farrel
    • so what's your view of chiness

      so you still think anyone from a soviet country can kill people by a newspaper in 8 different ways ?and who make the flame virus?
      Narcissu5
    • Life at Huawei's Shenzhen HQ: In pictures

      @spinit
      reminds me of reading an opinion posted in zdnet awhile back criticizing foreign-made computer cases as being dangerous because they are of poor quality compared to us-made cases. one particular criticism of south korean-made cases are burrs not polished that can cause cuts. well, now almost all good cases are built from the far east. add to that, south koreans are holding patents that us companies are paying to incorporate into their products. just wait for the chinese to develop the technology further, and you will see what 1.3 billion people can do in a lifetime. and for the sake of argument, let us assume that only 20 percent of those people are mensa-capable, they are more than half of the entire us population pulling their weight together to push their technology forward...
      kc63092@...
  • They could have gone with a better company

    then Aramark in the cafeteria.
    William Farrel
  • Life at Huawei's Shenzhen HQ: In pictures

    remind me of the 50's and the 60's when the us spared no expense to leapfrog in every facet of modern technology... and gave us all these tech wonders we are enjoying now. the 70's and the 80's belong to the japanese miti, the 90's and 2k's to the taiwanese and south koreans equivalent-mitis, and now the chinese are doing the same thing. r&d doesn't belong exclusively to anyone or to any nation. us technology came from europe, and by extension, so does the technology of the the far east. if anybody will notice the trend, civilization as we know it revolves around the earth. old writings point to ancient chinese technological prowess, then technology went on to the middle east, on to europe, then on to the new world, and now coming back full circle. for anybody to say that the chinese are good only at stealing information, is doing himself a disservice. nobody was born running and jumping straight from their mother's womb, we all learn by mimicking those who came before us. us learned from the european, who in turn learned from the middle easterns. the modern chinese learned from those came before them and developing the technology further. anybody might smirk at that assertion, just like the european did when us was developing their own technology divorced from european's undertakings. civilization is moving forward oblivious of any nation's trying to control it's march into the furture... so good luck to all of us.
    kc63092@...
    • Life at Huawei's Shenzhen HQ: In pictures

      Well put...
      Alexander Tang
  • Get a real view - this is an advertisement

    I have worked there a lot, plenty of smart people and products produced.
    But the canteens and the working environment for most is nothing like you show here, I am sure you enjoyed your guided tour and published what your hosts wanted you to.
    DerekBarclay
    • Want to share more details?

      Hi Derek,

      I'm sure we saw the best of everything - but show me a company that wouldn't do that with visitors. Still, the people we did see did seem to actually be employed there. Where did you work with Huawei? Was it Shenzhen? What was it like there? Be good to hear more details, if you feel like you can share them.

      Karen
      Karen Friar