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China, Here I Come!

Next week (the week of April 14, 2024) promises to be another memorable one for me. For the first time in my life, I will travel to China to attend the Huawei Analyst Summit. This annual event hosted by Huawei brings together analysts from around the world into Shenzhen, China. During this time, it provides updates on its latest innovations. This year, it plans to share how it uses artificial intelligence technology to drive changes across Huawei’s business domain.

HAS Invite Snapshot

No Reasons to Say “No”

Huawei has invited me to attend this event in the past. However, I have always declined for multiple reasons. Primarily, it always seems to coincide with the NAB Show in Las Vegas (which it does again this year.) However, this year DCIG’s Principal Storage Analyst and Partner, Ken Clipperton will attend the NAB Show. This freed me to explore the opportunity.

Second, it is a long trip. Like a l-o-o-o-n-g trip to get to China. In this case, it is 24+ hours of time in the airports both going and coming back. Further, on the trip back, I have back-to-back red eyes. I did not even realize that was possible.

In this case, I leave China and land in Los Angeles about the same time and day in the evening that I took off from China. Then I hop onto another flight that leaves LA at midnight and lands in Dallas at 5 am. Then one more flight a few hours later up to Omaha.

However, my life circumstances have changed in the last few years. My children have grown and moved out, I have fewer demands on my time, and I currently have a slight break in my workload. Further, hey, it’s China!

Third, and final, I enjoyed my time last year in Munich, Germany, attending a separate Huawei event. That conference provided me with a deep dive into Huawei’s technical capabilities across its various platforms. I must admit, that was the first time I had been wowed by a technology company in quite some time.

Others offer bits and pieces of what Huawei offers. Some even offer most if not all that Huawei offers. However, in my mind, Huawei represents one of the first to bring all these pieces together in one cohesive, enterprise offering.

These three reasons all combined to contributed me to saying “Yes” to attending this year’s event.

The Visa Application

Having addressed my reasons for saying “No,” I now had to deal with the consequences of saying “Yes.” This meant starting my preparations for the trip itself.

First and foremost, I had to apply and obtain a visa to enter China. Since the event was only about four weeks out, this left little time for me to apply for and obtain a visa.

Even though Huawei thankfully quickly provided me with an invitation letter, I still had quite a bit of legwork to do. In glancing in the Chinese Embassy’s website based here in the US, I initially thought I could work through the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, IL, to obtain a visa. After all, I live in Omaha, NE, so I would logically go to the closest geographic location to get a visa. That turned out to be an incorrect assumption.

I guess China, like most of the US and the world, views Nebraska as flyover country. As such, anyone in Nebraska wanting a Chinese visa must apply directly to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC.

Since I had no immediate plans to travel to DC, I engaged a third-party service to help expedite the visa application. This turned out to be a wise move. It provided the application and feedback as I completed it to ensure it was done accurately. It then handled the physical submission of the application to the Chinese embassy. This allowed me to complete the entire visa application process from start to finish in under two weeks.

Flights Going and Coming

Even though the visa application went well, that still left me only about two weeks to finish planning my trip. You know, booking flights, creating itineraries, and determining how long I was going to stay, minor details like that.

I first decided to allow myself an extra day at each end of the trip to both allow for delays and account for the change in time. Further, it seems most flights I looked to China arrived late in the evening (after 9 pm Shenzhen time.) That further confirmed my decision to arrive a day early.

Picking flights admittedly got a little tricky. I wanted to leave enough time between flights to make my connecting flights. In coming back from Germany last spring through Chicago, I only had two hours to connect to a domestic flight. That was not enough time as I ended up spending an extra night in Chicago because I missed a connecting flight to Omaha. So, I made sure to select flights that had at least three hours between them.

The other “snag” I ran into was on my return trip. Huawei invited me to visit their R&D facilities in Chengdu. I did not think much about that at the time of the invitation as I had planned to fly in and out of Shenzhen.

However, when I looked at where Chengdu was in relation to Shenzhen a few days later, I had a moment of panic. It was about 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) to the north of Shenzhen. Thankfully, Huawei hired smarter and wiser people than me to handle my flights. They booked me into Shenzhen and then out of Chengdu on my return trip.

Final Prep

chinese yuanAt this point I am only a few days from flying out. As I write this entry, I await the arrival of a Fedex package that contains the cash (Chinese Yuan) I may need for any incidental expenses. I also need to figure out exactly the exact items I need to bring versus those that I want to bring.

Overall, I am eagerly anticipating this trip and the adventure that awaits me once I arrive in China. I hope to post one or more blog entries about my travel experiences in addition to my analyst insights from the conference.

Here are my follow-on blog entries about my trip to China:

Part II: 3 Eventful Days in Shenzhen
Part III: No One Should Visit Chengdu without Visiting the Panda Park

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