Ying “Trinity” Zhang (MBA ’14): A Brave Adventure at Darden, Studying Abroad and in Life
Interview and blog post contributed by Mayi Lei (Class of 2022)
As the current CMO of Aqara, University of Virginia Darden School of Business Ying “Trinity” Zhang (MBA ’14) is responsible for global marketing planning and implementation, brand management and e-commerce channel management. There, she also led her team to reach strategic cooperation with Apple and other global brands.
At Darden, the former Batten Scholar was a high achiever, completing two intensive internships in one summer. Before starting the MBA program, Ying worked in marketing with Proctor & Gamble and as an entrepreneur. She spent more than five years at Johnson & Johnson Medical China after graduating from Darden, leading its largest product platform out of historical lows and regaining rapid growth.
Q: Why did you choose Darden?
A: When I came to the United States for a campus visit, I personally felt the beauty of the Darden campus and the friendly community here. It was in April, which happened to be the most beautiful season of the year in Charlottesville. At that time, I thought it was the most suitable environment for studying.
Q: Why did you choose to apply for an MBA?
A: This was indeed a difficult choice at the time. There were director-level job opportunities for me, and the opportunity cost of studying for an MBA can be high. But I decided to follow my heart. I really wanted to find a place to recharge myself. I also wanted to see the United States and experience a different culture. I believe that life is a process of jumping on different curves, and the MBA was a process that allowed me to consolidate before starting again. It also gave me many opportunities to unveil the unknown in life. After I went, I found that it was a worthwhile trip, and it has greatly reshaped my life.
Q: You mentioned the word “reshape.” Explain Darden’s influence on you.
A: First of all, it’s an eye-opener. The recruitment and case method process showed various industries to me very efficiently. After I went to Darden, I felt that there was a chance to make different choices in my life, like God had opened all doors in front of me and I was able to choose the one I wanted to enter the most. Second, I was able to see and understand that the world moves in different dimensions, and that inspired me to think about how to tolerate and accept differences. I used to hear about the importance of diversity when I worked in a large company, but I didn’t really understand the meaning until I went to Darden. Diversity can really bring innovative ideas and great thoughts. The last point is globalization. Before, my vision was still more concentrated in China, but at Darden, we were thinking about how a product should be deployed and promoted globally. Gradually, this kind of global thinking became natural and part of my mindset.
Q: What was your favorite course at Darden?
A: The Thomas Jefferson reading seminar. We discussed readings with Darden alumni every week. Although I was extremely busy, I had to read a book a week and write about my experience. This class prompted me to read a lot of Thomas Jefferson’s works, and it is these works that gave me a deep understanding of the core spirit of the United States and the entire society.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you encountered at Darden?
A: At the beginning, it was the language barrier. After that, it was the cultural barrier. I now think that, in many cases, good English does not mean good networking. What really allows you to make friends depends on whether you can get the culture and talk together. For Chinese students, the way Americans socialize, the topics of their discussion and the process of building trust are very different from China. I was able to experience and practice this a lot during my MBA.
Q: In addition to the challenges, what were the biggest gain you took from Darden?
A: The first are those changes I mentioned earlier, and the establishment of a network of alumni, which provide me a lifetime of support. In addition, I really learned how to connect with people effectively.
Q: You did two internships during the summer after your First Year. Can you talk more about that experience?
A: I first interned as a product manager at Danaher, and then went to Tencent’s strategy department to complete an associate internship. I even skipped a semester in order to complete these two internships. When I returned to school, I completed eight courses in one semester in order to catch up with my fellow classmates.
At that time, the teacher told me that I was the first person to complete eight courses in a semester (generally, everyone only chooses four courses in a semester). Looking back now, my Second Year was really tiring. But if I had another chance, I would make the same choice because both internships have benefited me a lot. Danaher taught me the working environment and management culture in the United States, and an internship in the strategy department of Tencent was a rare opportunity.
Q: Can you offer three life suggestions or tips to current students?
A: Be yourself. Follow your heart. Be bold!
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