Why one Ivy League grad turned down Amazon for a job in China

jd dot com
Belinda Chen turned down a job at Amazon to work at JD.com.

Fresh out of business school in the U.S., Belinda Chen had her pick of jobs -- including a plum offer from Amazon. But she headed east instead to join online retailer JD.com in China, drawn by the country's huge e-commerce boom.

"The online retail sector in China has been growing at a tremendous speed," Chen said. "It's a great opportunity to be working in this kind of high-growth environment."

Headhunters say Chen, 29, is a part of a growing pool of ambitious young professionals attracted to China's thriving tech sector. Homegrown darlings such as Alibaba, Tencent (TCEHY), JD.com and Huawei are starting to steal some of the limelight from the likes of Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT). The e-commerce market, in particular, is roaring -- both Alibaba (BABA) and JD.com (JD) had their market debuts in New York last year.

Many young Chinese educated abroad want to get in on the ground floor at these companies, said Erika Shen, who specializes in tech recruiting at Ambition, a firm in Hong Kong. And finding jobs back home means they can tap into their existing networks and be closer to family.

Chinese tech firms are taking cues from their hip Silicon Valley counterparts in an effort to turn the office into a fun and engaging environment for young professionals. Alibaba, for example, boasts cafeterias much like Google's (GOOG), and even throws a massive annual party for employees.

alibaba party
Alibaba employees and their families celebrate the company's 10th anniversary.

For Chen, working in the tech industry means a chance to help build services that could have a huge impact on people's lives.

That work is not limited to companies in Silicon Valley. It's also happening all over China -- in Beijing, Shenzhen and Hangzhou. Chinese companies have "created very innovative products ... that truly altered my life," Chen said.

Customers in major Chinese cities can get same-day delivery from JD.com -- sometimes within hours. Chen herself says it's a huge help to be able to shop for groceries on her phone between meetings, especially with her long work hours -- it "really just simplifies my life."

Related: Alibaba rival JD.com is already a hot IPO

Chen graduated from UPenn's Wharton in 2014, and is on a management track at JD.com, allowing her to rotate between various divisions of the company.

At the moment, she is working to understand which international brands -- from cosmetics to food -- customers want to see on the company's shopping platforms. And she travels around the globe to meet with potential brands and retailers, showing them how JD.com can help them reach the 1.4 billion consumers in China.

Recruiters say this kind of hands-on experience in China's booming tech sector is invaluable.

Plus, there's tons of exposure to senior management. Top executives "give us guidance, not only as our bosses, but as our mentors and friends," Chen said. "I feel this kind of close interaction is very amazing, and I think it's unusual in any company."

Read next: America: The new destination for rich Chinese shoppers

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