By Courtney Zerrenner

Luda Cheng (Class of 2017) worked for five years in operations at Procter & Gamble China before deciding to pursue an MBA as the next step to his long-term professional goal: becoming a general manager. After five years working on the operations side of consumer goods, Luda wanted to see more of the commercial side of business. He met two Darden alumni in China, one of whom had worked with at Procter & Gamble in the past. “We had a lot in common, and he really explained to me how Darden could help me excel in the business world,” Luda added. As Luda met more Darden alumni, he found the network to be tight knit and supportive. Impressed by this alumni community, Luda researched and found that the general management education offered at Darden would perfectly prepare him for his future career goals. He laughed as he explained that he was so convinced Darden was the best fit that when he received an offer of admission, he accepted immediately without hesitation.

Before he arrived , students from the Darden Asia Business Club contacted Luda to relay essential information about finding housing in Charlottesville, traveling to Darden, and life as an MBA student. Luda arrived on Grounds, eager to join any organization from which he could learn and be challenged. His second year career mentor, another former Procter & Gamble employee, was indispensable during the intense first year class and recruiting schedule. Despite the seemingly never ending rounds of classes, case studies, and recruiting events, Luda explained that his favorite part of first year Darden was working on a project with other students from his section for attracting mid-level workers to LinkedIn. Through generating ideas, creating concept, and testing their results, they crafted a mock user interface to present to the LinkedIn sponsors. The sponsors were so impressed that Luda’s group won the competition!

Between Healthcare Club, General Management & Operations Club, and the Asia Business Club, Luda met other MBA students with different backgrounds, nationalities, and future goals. While working on more controversial cases concerning leadership and business ethics, students’ opinions varied depending on their nationality or upbringing. Luda emphasized that “In questions of math, there are right answers. But legality and morality are different across cultures. There are different standards.” In one particular case, students discussed the ethics of a company paying children to work at their factories in the mornings in exchange for free education in the afternoons. While Luda and many other students argued that child labor is always inexcusable, several students maintained that child labor in exchange for education might be the best situation available in the country or region.

This summer, Luda is back in China, interning for Johnson & Johnson in Shanghai as a part of their International Recruiting and Development Program, specifically in marketing. The country by country focus of Johnson & Johnson appealed to Luda, because it is allowing him to learn how to uniquely position a product within a national market. His prior work at Procter & Gamble was business to consumer, but at Johnson & Johnson, the model is business to business. As a result, Luda must completely understand the complex products that Johnson & Johnson are marketing. The medical devices, specifically ultrasonic devices in Luda’s internship, are used in cancer procedures. Luda must be familiar with cancer treatment and the product when speaking with the doctors that purchase from Johnson & Johnson. Because of the nature of the business model, Luda’s work is much more relationally and technically driven. While having conversations with leaders at Johnson & Johnson, Luda realized that “by the end of this internship, I will have a very holistic picture of the world of business.” Luda believes that his five years at Procter & Gamble focused on consumer goods operations, his general management education at Darden, and his internship at Johnson & Johnson focused on marketing technical medical devices to medical teams “will have completed his exposure to all sides of business, from production to operations and management to commercial.”

Luda will return to Charlottesville to complete his second year in August, and he is looking forward to more time exploring Virginia, specifically Shenandoah National Park to indulge in his newly discovered love of hiking. He will go on exchange to Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Management and Commerce in his third quarter of second year, before returning for his final quarter at Darden. After Darden, Luda envisions returning to China with his experience in the country’s market, operations, and general management education to work for a globally focused company.

Luda (fourth from the left) and other leaders of the Asia Business Club at Darden
Luda (fourth from the left) and other student leaders of the Asia Business Club at Darden.