Q&A with Three M.S. in Global Commerce Alumni

The trio share what drew them to the program and the important skills and takeaways they gained from their experience living and studying at three top-ranked universities on three continents.

Samy Ahmed, Katherine Campbell, and Stoan Stewart

Samy Ahmed, Katherine Campbell, and Stoan Stewart

Three M.S. in Global Commerce alumni come together to discuss their experience in the program.

Katherine Campbell completed her undergraduate studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017, double majoring in Business and Music. She completed the M.S. in Global Commerce in 2018 and now works at EY’s New York office as a Financial Consultant.

Stoan Stewart completed his undergraduate studies in 2014 from North Carolina State University in Business Administration and International Studies. A 2017 graduate of the M.S. in Global Commerce Program, he currently works for Volvo as a Supplier Relationship Manager in Blacksburg, VA.

Samy Ahmed studied Economics and Management for Art, Culture, and Communication at Bocconi University in Italy, graduating in 2017. He completed the M.S. in Global Commerce Program in 2019, and joined Lenovo’s Global Future Leaders Program as a as a Global HR Strategist, split between the company’s Raleigh, NC, and Beijing, China, offices.

What drew you to the M.S. in Global Commerce Program?
Stoan: I joined the program because I knew I wanted to work for an international company, and having experience working with different cultures while living and studying abroad was clearly a benefit. Adapting to new countries can be challenging, but it’s also helpful to have a group of classmates with you experiencing the same thing. You just have to be open to new things.

Katherine: Working abroad at some point was always a big goal, and that initially drew me to the program. Also, the opportunity to get two master’s degrees in one year right out of undergrad was a big perk.

What did you enjoy most about the program and what was the best takeaway?
Katherine: The best part of the program for me was the network I was able to build, both personally and professionally. You’re going to meet some of the best and most interesting people, and make friendships that will last long after the program ends. And having the opportunity to build a network of professional contacts across three continents is great.

Stoan: My ability to work well with different cultures is something I take with me every day to work. It’s easy to say, but a heck of a lot harder to actually put into practice. At Volvo, more than half of my coworkers are from outside of the U.S. With the M.S. in Global Commerce, I was really able to step outside the norm and learn how to work well with international teams.

What new skills did you gain from the program?
Samy: Strong project management skills. You have no idea how helpful it is when you work for a global corporation and you run a project. You have to have an idea or strategy on how to get people on board across the organization and how to break the silo mentality. I also learned effective cross-cultural communication. Again, if you work for a big corporation with global locations, you have to be aware of how communicate to different cultures. Working in global teams with my Chinese classmates was really helpful. I also learned more technical skills like data valuation and how to enact data-driven decisions, which is critical on the job.

Stoan: I was able to learn a broad range of topics, from supply chains to M&A to cross-cultural communication. It all helped me push my resume forward so that I stood out as a candidate. Tableau was also huge. When I was applying for jobs, a lot of companies really emphasized that Tableau was a great skill to have.

Like Samy said, the cross-cultural and project management skills are really important. I still use the example of how I built a master’s thesis with three non-native English speakers in my work today. These are skills that you can easily pull out into a conversation and impress any interviewer or client.

What was your favorite course and why?
Katherine: We took a Business Simulation course at Esade and were put into teams with assigned roles. We were all competing against other teams to sell a certain amount. A lot of it was trying to figure out supply and demand and how to negotiate with other companies. There were issues and last-minute fire drills like you would experience in the real world, and I thought that was a really cool experience.

Stoan: I think I have a different background than a lot of people who come into this program. I was always focused on supply chains and management, so that was always my forte. Corporate Strategy and Consumer Behavior were two of my favorite courses, and M&A was something I had never really learned in my undergraduate degree, so it was incredibly useful.

Could you talk about the recruiting process and career service support?
Katherine: The University of Virginia, especially McIntire, is well known for its top recruiting. During the fall semester, dozens of top companies in all business fields visit Grounds (campus) to recruit UVA students. This gives you a lot of in-person exposure to companies and their recruiters.

Samy: I remember how stressful trying to find a job was. It’s super competitive, and I always wanted to maximize my opportunities. I actually applied to one position the first week of the program, and after six months of interviews, got an offer from Lenovo to join their Global Future Leaders Program.

All three universities give you a tremendous amount of career support. McIntire’s Commerce Career Services, for example, specifically helped me when I was interviewing with one of the senior VPs of Global at Lenovo. We did mock interviews, which helped me a lot because I had never interviewed before with someone that senior at a Fortune 500 company. I also appreciated that it wasn’t just the career office, but faculty and other staff stepped in to help me prepare as well.

Stoan: I utilized McIntire’s career office and resources just about every week. I was always in there, asking about my resume, interviewing, or just letting off steam. I didn’t get my job offer in the fall, so I was still applying and interviewing while I was in China and Spain. I had super-early morning and late-night calls with UVA’s career office, as well as Esade’s, about salary negotiation, interview tips, etc. After a lot of work put into the career search, I ended up receiving multiple job offers in May.

What advice to you have for someone interested in the program?
Stoan: If you guys are lucky enough to get into the program, you know how to work hard. Remember to keep that energy going, especially for recruiting, and also make sure to enjoy everything and everyone around you!

Samy: I would highly recommend having global exposure as an undergrad and developing a global mindset. This program takes place in three different locations, and you will be in contact with people from all over the world.

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