‘Sight Unseen’ Move to China Leaves Darden Alumnus’ Eyes Wide Open

By Jay Hodgkins

University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumnus Chris Smith (MBA ’01) had a clear desire to better understand global business, which set the 15-year Intel Corp. veteran on a hunt for opportunities within the company to work outside the United States. He imagined he’d end up in England or Germany, but when an opportunity to move to Dalian, China, to serve as finance director at Intel Semiconductor (Dalian) Ltd., he jumped at the opportunity “sight unseen.”

Five years into what was supposed to be a two-year assignment, Smith says he and his family are still loving the experience in a new profile on the Darden website’s The Network section. In the profile, he also discussed the leadership lessons he’s learned in China and what makes someone a global leader.

As a foreigner working in China for a U.S.-based multinational corporation, I view my role a bit like a goodwill ambassador. For many, I may be the face of the West. As such, I think I need to hold myself to a higher standard. That mindset has influenced my leadership style in that I’m not just representing myself or even my company, but I’m representing the U.S. and the West. I do think about the impression I want to leave with the Chinese of a westerner.

As a global leader, understanding what the cultural barriers may be to developing the future leaders around the world is an important skillset to have. One of the things I found working in Asia is that local management styles can sometimes be more hierarchical and top-down. I work to ensure the teams I work with know it is not just OK to have a different point of view than me, but it’s expected. We continue to work on expanding critical thinking skills and candor so that we’re helping to build future leaders. That’s one of the important roles of any leader: Build the future leaders.

Read the full profile on Darden’s The Network.

East Asia, Fortune 500
About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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