Company and position:
I work for a company that sells power tools called Milwaukee Tool. Specifically, I work for the Asia branch of the company and I am stationed in Hong Kong. I have been with the company since I graduated from USC in 2015. I am a Product Marketing Manager. Basically, I manage a few of our key product lines for all of the Asian countries where we operate. This entails launching new products in to the market, adapting products to fit local markets, implementing branding and commercial executions, and researching new opportunities.
Challenges in an international environment:
Since I work internationally, the biggest challenge is definitely language and cultural barriers. I travel to many Asian countries to study what processes our target users currently use to complete their jobs. More often than not, these users do not speak any English. Even when interacting with my own local teams in different countries, there are clear cultural differences. For instance, many Asian cultures will not outright tell you “no” when they do not want to do something. You have to be able to understand what they mean even when they will not say it. Overcoming these challenges can be difficult, but I find the best way is to just be patient and humble. I have to work to keep myself from getting frustrated, but I always try to maintain my composure and humbly ask for help whenever I need it. This also shows respect which is very important in Asian cultures. With patience and humility, you can almost always solve the language and cultural barriers you face.
I think the biggest thing for me getting this job was actually joining SOU! And I am not just saying that. I learned about this position because an SOU brother, Sasha Davisson, had graduated a year before me and had gotten this job. She then came to present the opportunity to our fraternity. I worked with her and landed myself an interview through her recommendation. The rest is history! Truthfully, the network/connections I made in SOU were a huge part of the opportunity I got. With great alumni like Sasha and other brothers that want to help, you can really have a lot of doors opened for you. In school, I majored in International Business and Marketing with a Japanese minor. Having such an internationally recognized program with Darla Moore absolutely helped me land an international marketing job. I also studied abroad in Japan which has certainly helped me with business in Asia.
Previous internship and job experience:
I had a different job every Summer in college, but I have two that really stuck out as instrumental in my career path. The first was a sales management position for a start up company that made an all-natural sweetener. That experience taught me how to grow a brand from nothing into a true business. I also learned valuable sales and presentation skills that I still use today. The second job was as an international franchising coordinator. An automotive company wanted to expand their operation to Japan, so they hired me to begin the process of finding a local Japanese business to partner with. That was my first experience working internationally and doing business in Asia.
Importance of studying abroad:
I studied abroad in Tokyo, Japan as a Junior at USC. That experience taught me how to live and work with people internationally. I truly do not think I could live and work in Hong Kong without having that previous experience. Being in a foreign country forces you to get used to being uncomfortable. It also forces you to learn how to solve problems and makes you become extremely adaptable. All of these skills are invaluable in the work force. My study abroad experience definitely prepared me well to handle my current international career.
I play in a couple of basketball leagues here in Hong Kong. I also love to read and I am almost always in to the latest Netflix show. Of course it almost goes without saying since I was in SOU, but I absolutely love travelling too!
Advice to brothers:
My advice is to put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. It’s very easy to avoid challenges and stay in your comfort zone, but I would encourage you to step outside of it whenever you can. I’ve been very lost in countries where I knew no one and could not speak the same language as any of the locals. Learning how to deal with these kinds of situations and learning how to problem-solve when you are not comfortable will force you to grow as a person. These skills then translate to almost any profession. My second and final piece of advice is to use your network. Family, friends, brothers, and anyone you can leverage to help you in your career. Without a brother in SOU, Sasha, I would not have my current job. Without a friend of my father’s, I would not have gotten an interview for one of my Summer Jobs. The people in your network are so valuable so please make sure you are leveraging those relationships. Do not ever be afraid to ask for help and definitely keep in contact with brothers and alumni of SOU.
Career and Position:
I’m currently with a customer experience analytics firm called ClickFox based in my hometown of Denver. I’ve been with them for 8 months now. I’m a Senior Consultant on our Business Services team. Basically, we work with clients to improve customer journeys – how customers interact with them on any given end-to-end process. I’m responsible for tailoring our machine learning algorithms to handle multiple client data sources, plugging the resulting data into our visualization platforms, and creating + /solving use cases.
Outside of that, I liaise between clients and our R&D team to inform new product initiatives, build automation scripts to alleviate future instances of carpal tunnel for myself and others, and lead workflow/productivity workshops for new hires.
Challenges in the Workplace:
A common stressor amongst consultants stems from wanting to help the client more than they want to help themselves. In that regard, knowing and respecting the client’s limits will save you a lottttt of headache throughout your career
Beyond the typical workflow headaches (learn VBA or Python/bash to rid yourself of these!), navigating the dynamics of client relationships is a constant tug-of-war. Politics will play a role in every project – both at your client and internally at the office. So how do you overcome something inevitable? Consciously build and maintain relationships with people that have the power to tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’; use whatever tools at your disposal to maximize the difference between input and output. Consistently creating value for others is the surest route to both personal and professional success.
Finding Professional Success:
In terms of steps I took to set myself up for success, the importance of internships/voluntary graduated exposure to the things you find challenging cannot be overemphasized. I only had one internship with an automotive manufacturing firm, and decided it wasn’t for me. I still loved the idea of designing efficient processes though, which took me into the world of computer science and programming – of which I knew nothing.
Luckily, I found a mentor, took some online classes that were genuinely interesting, and found out that the tenets and thought frameworks I’d learned in GSCOM were 100% transferable to other industries and disciplines. The point is, Future You may have a completely different set of passions than Current You, so I would advise against pre-deciding your career early on. Get out. Travel. See as much as you can. Have a rough plan, but don’t work hard at trying to like something for the sake of prestige or starting salary.
Internships and Previous Jobs:
Internship-wise, I worked with Cummins Turbo Technologies in Charleston doing capacity planning the summer of my Sophomore year. I performed the analysis that drove materials forecasting for plants in Charleston, the UK, and India.
Prior to my current role, I was an Associate with PwC. My projects primarily dealt with Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crime analytics and RPA (robotic process automation – basically automating the retrieval and consolidation of data from multiple inputs).
I completed my semester abroad through the IB program at the Rotterdam School of Management in The Netherlands (would go back in a heartbeat :D);My primary language of study was Arabic. Overall, both experiences were of tremendous personal benefit, and consequently, have carried over to the professional realm. Being away from everything and everyone you know – physically and linguistically - teaches openness and autonomy. You learn to be resourceful, patient, tolerant, and resilient, all of which are valued immensely in any organization worth its salt.
Leadership in SOU:
I served as the Pledge Development Chair and quickly realized that I was not as good at planning events or keeping a schedule as I needed to be (s/o to Olivia Barthel for basically keeping things intact that semester!). I never enjoyed the idea of legislating ‘fun’, but learning how to cater to various wants and aspirations in that role made me infinitely more conscientious of others.
Any leadership role demands truth in words and in action to be effective. In my case, I realized I needed to close the gap between who I told others I was and how I actually behaved if I wanted to be successful. More so, the role taught me that there was value in giving wholly of yourself to others without the expectation of anything in return; that nurturing camaraderie and mutual devotion to a common goal – even under an organizational pretense – was a fulfilling skill to cultivate.
The Three G’s – golf, gym, and guitar
Big Fortnite guy - (gamertag: xAyyLeubenx for anyone who wants to squad up)
Read interesting books in coffeeshops while stroking my chin and audibly being like, “ohhhhhh, I see…”
Advice to Brothers:
Listen to podcasts! Music is great and all, but some of the funniest/smartest minds of the 21st century are in your hand right now. Favorites include:
Don’t be afraid to network with people. You might think you’re perturbing them, but in all reality, you’re just giving them an excuse to focus on something other than work for a little bit. Introduce yourself to the world, and you’ll be surprised how many of the things you thought would be challenging or stressful really aren’t that bad. You may feel like you’re starting at the bottom of a big mountain, but in my experience, becoming the person that you yourself admire is kinda like stepping up onto a curb.
Learn VBA/Python – Will seriously save your sanity and make you a savior to 90+ percent of businesses out there.
At any rate, remember that nothing is permanent – good or bad. You might go through a bout of depression when you come back from study abroad, or when you’re two years into working. Combat this by keeping in touch with people and finding something on the side to keep your mind active. Lastly, don’t wait to do the things that matter (you know what these are already).
Cheers! Thanks for putting up with my manifesto, and feel free to touch base with any questions/friend requests.