24 hours with… Aaron He, Saatchi & Saatchi Shanghai head of planning

With an early rise and an early-to-bed approach punctuated by work, museums and dancing – Saatchi & Saatchi Shanghai head of planning Aaron He tells us about a day in his life

He is the Saatchi & Saatchi Shanghai head of planning

6:00am: I like to rise early and get a headstart on the day. I usually wake up without an alarm but if I’m not up by 6am, my 14 month-old son who is an early-riser will get me going. He is definitely the best form of an alarm clock.

7:00am: My wife, son and I share breakfast at a café near my office. My wife is a restaurant connoisseur so we are always trying out the newest restaurants in town.  

This morning we go to Café Grey, at the Middle House, a more recent addition to The House Collective by Swire. In the morning, the place is very quiet and they have great breakfast deals.  

My favourite thing to order here is the Chinese breakfast set. It includes a jianbing – traditional Chinese street food that is similar to a savory pancake. I would also recommend the classic western breakfast of bacon and fried eggs, if that’s your thing.  

Breakfast with the family

8:00am: I’m lucky to live only a short walk from my office. So depending on the weather, I will either walk or take just one metro stop to the sculpture park near the office. In the park, I know a quiet corner where I practice taiji for about 45 minutes.  

I was trained as a modern dancer at an early age, which gave me a base for taiji. In the last five years, taiji has become an integral part to my daily routine.

It is a wonderful way to start my day and focus my mind, body, and heart. Finding this mind and body connection is so important and gives me energy throughout the rest of the day.

Healthy mind, healthy body

10:00am: I’m at the office by now. If don’t have any internal meetings or presentations scheduled so I will capitalise on these first hours at the office to approach urgent strategy issues and prepare for any upcoming client pitches.

1:00pm: I usually have lunch around 1pm. Lunches are a great time, I find, to plan for meetings with contacts or friends outside my own agency as well as to network and learn about industry news.  

Today though I don’t have any lunch meeting planned so I head to the Shanghai Museum for a break, which is also in close proximity to my office. I am a big fan of Chinese calligraphy and this museum has one of China’s best collections.


2:00pm: I’m back in the office and ready to meet with our general manager and one of the account teams, in order to head out for a client pitch for a major car company. The drive is just under an hour, but everyone in the car is working during the whole ride so the time passes quickly.  

It’s amazing to see how technology has affected our workflow. Now it seems quite normal to work from our phones and use any bit of spare to time to hop on a conference call or strategise with a colleague, who might be on a flight to Macau while I’m in a taxi to a client meeting.  

Our team chemistry has grown over the years and we can work efficiently in any setting these days. As China is integrated more into global pitches, the collaboration across worldwide offices has increased as well. This inter-office work flow is more important than ever as we focus on a ‘power of one’ strategy. We can already see the success of this with two recent global accounts won.

7:00pm: I leave the office at this time and head home for dinner, again walking back. My wife is a great cook and loves to experiment with new dishes. She studied traditional Chinese medicine in university and so often her cooking and the ingredients she uses incorporate the basic nutritional principles of TCM.  

I’m incredibly lucky to have such a knowledgeable chef in my family. Tonight she surprises me with mapo toufu, cooked with a her favourite new edition to the kitchen – a Vorwerk Thermomix.  This amazing kitchen gadget really simplifies the whole home cooking process, as literally everything can be cooked and created with this one device. She can’t stop talking about it.

8:00pm: After dinner, I get to sneak in some playtime with my son before he heads to bed – either watching cartoons or reading. He is walking now and even running sometimes. He must have gotten some dance and rhythm genes from me because a funny thing he does now whenever we turn on any music is he will start to dance.  

His dancing surprisingly looks like he is imitating moves from the modern dance style that I practiced in my youth. I was quite shocked when I noticed this because we haven’t tried to teach him any of these modern dance moves yet. My wife believes it has to be in his genes and also could be influenced by the modern dance shows we watched during her pregnancy.   

9:00pm: My wife and I have the next few hours to ourselves before bed, where we share about our day or anything on our mind work or family related. This is a special time for us to catch up with each other, reflect on our day and process our thoughts as well as to reconnect.  

Time for some calligraphy

We do this over tea in a dedicated tea room we have in the house. Tonight we also get out our calligraphy sets. It is a very calming way to end the day. I always look forward to this time of chatting and reflecting with my wife over the day’s happenings and new ideas that have percolated in my mind; whether they are business ideas or related the future of our family.   

10:00pm: I try to stay in tune with the natural rhythm of the seasons and light, which is best for the body. While the ad industry has a reputation for late nights, whenever possible I try to go to bed early and get in a solid rest so I can be fully energised and focused for the next day.


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