Alumni Profile – Working in Events Management

Zhe (Shirley) Zheng
MSc International Events Management, Class of 2011
Founder and CEO, Mason Events Management Ltd and Wedding Bloom

Shirley graduated with an MSc in International Event Management in 2011 and went on to set up her own company, Mason Events Management, which specialises in promoting and building links between Chinese and British companies.

She was named as the winner of the Enterprise category in the 2014 Vice-Chancellors Alumni Awards.


Why did you choose to study at Surrey?
I didn’t see the campus, or the UK for that matter, before I came. I did a lot of research at home in China and saw that the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management had been ranked number one for many years and had 40 years of teaching behind it. It looked like it was a very nice area and was close to London. I also met a graduate, Jennifer Ma, who had graduated 10 years before, and who told me what a great place Surrey was.

Why International Event Management?
When I was a child I loved organising things and I was always the class monitor. I enjoy challenging environments, and using my skills to resolve problems. I studied English at my Chinese university and the teachers there suggested the course. During my year at Surrey I realised the course was perfect for me. Event management allows people to be creative too, with the opportunity to work with businesses and companies in very different fields.

Tell us about your company
When I graduated I knew I needed to gain experience in both events management and in the travel industry if I was going to have the right skills for setting up my own company, and so I spent a year in each area.  I finally went ahead towards the end of 2013.

I struggled every day at the start and it was especially hard as all my family are in China. But I never gave up and after a few months I had my first client and the business started to grow.

My strengths are that I understand British and Chinese culture so I can be a bridge between the two countries. Event management is highly pressurised and you must have the ability to control everything, along with good communication skills to make sure messages are delivered effectively. You must also be able to cope with last minute problems and come up with solutions.

In the first nine months, Mason was chosen as the sole Chinese agency to represent AidEx, by Centaur Media, an event which attracts 2,000 visitors from across the international aid community each year. The company was also appointed as the Chinese co-ordinator for the 2013 World Travel Market at ExCel in London. I am really pleased as the business is getting bigger and bigger.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I love the industry and have a real passion for what I do. I enjoy the opportunity to be creative, pitch your idea to a client, deliver it and receive good feedback. It’s a great feeling of satisfaction and pride.

 What are you memories of Surrey?
How good the student support is. Arriving from China for my first semester was quite a challenge and it was difficult at the start, being taught and writing in a different language. However, there are so many resources to help you and I took advantage of them all! The library in particular was great, advising me on essay writing, and critical thinking and there was extra language support too. At the end of my first semester things had really improved and I received good grades, which really encouraged me.

What advice would you give to students?
Firstly, take advantage of all the University has to offer; it made such a difference to my time at Surrey. Secondly, if you have a chance at something – like a volunteering experience – just go for it! Don’t think too much about the salary at the beginning because valuable work experience is so important: it is key to your career success.