By Anelle Mensah

Justin Tang’s upbringing in a bi-cultural family, balancing Taiwanese and American roots, and family heritage influenced his interest in the interplay between cultures. Born and raised in Huntington Beach, California, he attended UCLA as an undergrad, earning his Bachelor’s Degree in International Development Studies. While at UCLA, Justin pursued an internship with the State Department where he found mentors in Foreign Service Officers who traveled the world for a living. During his second year, he also had a particularly transformative semester living in Spain with a host family and exchange students from various parts of the world.  These experiences shaped his desire to travel and understand other cultures, a desire that Justin continues to explore.

Justin worked in federal consulting at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington D.C. for two years and pivoted to commercial consulting at Slalom Consulting in Portland, where he specialized in consumer analytics and project management. After working in consulting for four years and wanting to expand his professional network, Justin decided to pursue business school. The global academic opportunities at Darden allowed Justin to explore the ways different countries approach business.

Justin travelled to China and Russia through Darden Worldwide Courses (DWC), where he learned first-hand about business practices of the respective countries. Through the DWC in China specifically, participants were able to become familiar with unique aspects of Chinese culture as well as gain a stronger understanding of how business is conducted. “Unprompted, alumni and companies discussed the role government plays in both their business operations and broader industry dynamics. This showed me the inherent complexity in starting a venture in China as a multinational company,” Justin said. The course allowed him to experience China from a different perspective and Darden provided inside access to business leaders and companies. “I had been to Shanghai as a tourist before, but the Darden program allowed us to meet with business leaders so we could better read between the lines of what’s in the news,” Justin stated.

On the Russia DWC, Justin learned about the importance of adaptability in Russian business and the cultural nuances that exist in Russia. “When you land in Russia, you really begin to appreciate the country’s size. It spans 11 time zones and takes about 9 hours to fly across the country, yet has less than half the population of the U.S. So imagine if you’re PepsiCo or an eCommerce company trying to deliver products to the local grocery store or someone’s home, the logistics are incredibly daunting.”
During his time in China and Russia, the importance of personal relationships and their effects on the political and business maneuvering of both countries stood out. As part of the courses, Darden provided students with opportunities to meet and hear from alumni working in the region they visited in a variety of industries.

Furthermore, Justin gained a deeper appreciation for how establishing relationships, in a culturally contextual manner, can help access these foreign markets. “Having a local presence within the community is essential to starting international ventures. It just hammers home the importance of developing relationships with people—that remains true regardless of culture” reiterated Justin.

The Darden Worldwide Courses provided Justin with takeaways applicable to life and career: “When you travel, you gain a lot of humility. There’s nothing more humbling than not being able to read signs or communicate with others. You gain some perspective and see the numerous ways others are successful.” One of his favorite professors, Yiorgos Allayannis, urges students to read, read, read and travel, travel, travel, words that Justin takes to heart.