By Kelly Tran

Sam Qiu (MBA ’19, second from right) grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and studied business at Louisiana State University (LSU). Upon graduating from LSU in 2008, Sam worked in strategy and client basing for Target and then attended law school at the University of Illinois, where he graduated in 2012. Afterwards, Sam worked as a criminal defense attorney until deciding to pursue an MBA degree at Darden. During his time at Darden, Sam completed four global academic offerings, including a Kaizen project with Fortive, the Darden Worldwide Course (DWC) to China, an exchange program with the Melbourne Business School (MBS), and a Global Consulting Project (GCP) with Udemy.

What led you to want to attend Darden?

During my five years as a public defender, I really enjoyed interacting with and counseling clients. However, after having worked on several serious crime cases, I felt that I had reached a point in my career in law where I wanted to try something new. With my degree in business management, I felt that transitioning to the business sector was the right move. I decided to come to Darden not only for its reputation as a leading business school, but also because I believed that at Darden, I could develop the skills that would allow me succeed in business.

What drew you to participate in four different global academic opportunities?

In my first year at Darden, I traveled to China to participate in a Kaizen project with Fortive in Tianjin and, again, with the China DWC in Shanghai. The two programs interested me because I wanted to learn more about global business perspectives and observe how businesses operate in one of the world’s biggest and fastest growing economies – East Asia. As someone who regularly visits family in Beijing, I also wanted to explore other cities in the country to get a sense of how I felt about potentially working in the region in the future.

During my second year, I desired a more in-depth immersion into a foreign country, leading me to do a nearly three-month exchange program with the Melbourne Business School. I wanted to learn more about foreign companies and thought that the differences in size and economy between the U.S. and Australia, despite cultural similarities, would make it interesting to compare the business practices of the two countries. In addition, I have always wanted to visit Melbourne and the idea of learning to surf there during its beautiful summer weather attracted me. All of these reasons coincided at the perfect time in my life, so I decided to go to MBS because I knew that the chance might not come again in the future.

I also participated in a Global Consulting Project with Udemy in my second year to further enhance my business skills and experience. I knew that it might be difficult to balance the GCP during recruiting season, but I wanted more practice working with clients and evaluating business practices and this project particularly intrigued me. The project entailed conducting competitive analyses of different business sectors in Europe and presenting our recommendations to Udemy on-site about how to best approach a European country’s government agencies about multiple business initiatives. The opportunity to research various business initiatives across Europe and continue diversifying my global perspective strongly appealed to me, especially because Europe was a new area for me to gain global experience in.

What are some of the valuable skills and lessons you gained from your global academic experiences?

The classroom setting is useful for learning models and theories, but being outside of that environment and visiting real businesses creates an entirely different dynamic. While working with Fortive during my Kaizen project, I learned about Tianjin’s strong manufacturing sector, interacted with company employees and created concrete solutions with my team to improve the company’s business operations. This gave me a better understanding of how a factory operates in general, meanwhile gaining experience with solving problems of inefficiency within industries. Moreover, during my Global Consulting Project with Udemy, I conducted competitive analyses on the business practices of fifteen European countries in order to structure business initiatives for working with their respective government establishments. Having to figure out the best way to reach out to government agencies based on each country’s business practices taught me about different approaches to business, including how to best approach potential business partners.

In what ways did your time in these programs contribute to your global perspective, and how did they impact your goals for the future?

Having grown up in the U.S., I used to have an American-centric view of business. However, my perspective has evolved to examine business from other countries’ points of view. During the Kaizen project and DWC in China, our meetings with business leaders and visits to different companies taught me to think from a global outlook. Despite culturally different business perspectives of the East compared to those of the West, I found it interesting that parts of China, like Shanghai, are more Western-oriented in their business views than other parts.

Moreover, interacting with people in China and Australia contributed to my expanded perspective on cultures and work environments around the world. Through my programs in China, I learned more about work culture in China and how people think about work relative to their career and life goals. This helped me to imagine how I would fit in to their work styles and culture if I were to pursue a business career in the region. Similarly, the more long-term immersive experience of my exchange program with the Melbourne Business School gave me the amazing opportunity to genuinely get to know people who live and work in Melbourne. The face-to-face interactions that I had with classmates every day allowed me to learn about their lifestyles and work environments, and helped me reflect on what I want in my own career. In this way, these programs served as a way for me to not only dip my toes in the water and see how international business opportunities could fit in my career path, but also contributed to my development as a global citizen. After graduation, I will work for Microsoft as a commercial executive, and my global knowledge and experiences will help me work with the different demographics and diverse groups that I would expect to find in a global organization like Microsoft.

Sam (second from left in back row) with exchange students at MBS in Melbourne, Australia