Former WDI Intern Remembers “Gem Experiences”

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Although it has been six years since her WDI summer internship in Vietnam and Cambodia, Tae-Hwa Eo still remembers how those three months working for a nonprofit, global health organization made an impression on her. Before she began her MBA studies, she had worked for a for-profit food company in South Korea.

“I got exposed to a totally new work environment in terms of business purpose, backgrounds of colleagues and, above all, the scale of impact of my work,” she said. “Also, I was largely impressed by the passion of people I worked with. They were professionals in each field – biologics, medicines, business – and truly motivated by a greater purpose for mankind.”

Eo is using that mindset for her current role in marketing at Samsung’s credit card division as the company looks to increase its corporate social responsibility efforts in the South Korea nonprofit sector.

“As a marketer, I am committed to developing marketing activities that do good for our customers and thus show that Samsung Card is not all about making profit, but does care about its customers,” she said.

Tae-Hwa Eo

That internship experience with WDI was exactly what Eo was hoping for when she chose to pursue her MBA at the Ross School of Business.

“It didn’t cross my mind, however, that I would be a WDI fellow when I was applying for Ross,” Eo said. “But it definitely was a plus factor for me to decide which MBA program because building experiences beyond the typical business life was one of my goals to achieve while I was enrolled.”

Eo came to Ross after getting her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in international law from South Korean universities.  

When she began searching for a summer internship, a fellow MBA student recommended she look at WDI’s opportunities. When she saw the internship listing to work in Vietnam and Cambodia for the Seattle-based global health nonprofit PATH, she immediately applied.

“I had a strong background in the healthcare industry and also had an extended work experience in Southeast Asia, which was a great combination of candidate requirements for the PATH internship,” Eo said. “I was also confident that I would do a good job once I got it because building a market penetration strategy was something I had been doing for the majority of my professional career.”

Eo spent the first couple of weeks of her internship in Seattle at PATH’s headquarters and then moved to Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi. She would travel often to Ho Chi Minh City and other Vietnam provinces, as well as Cambodia. She conducted research on malaria control, especially in remote areas, where immediate malaria diagnosis is difficult.

“Vietnam and Cambodia were the two target markets for this project because they have poor malaria control compared to the high prevalence of the disease,” Eo said. “Also, there is a high frequency of G6PD deficiency in the ethnic groups in those regions, for which the primary malaria treatment – primaquine – can cause life-threatening side effects.”

G6PD deficiency is a genetic disorder that occurs when the body doesn’t have enough of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). G6PD helps red blood cells work, and protects them from substances in the blood that could harm them.

Eo was tasked with developing methodology for evaluating potential national markets for point-of-care G6PD tests and the implementation requirements for those tests. Eventually, PATH wanted to work towards safe and widespread adoption of malaria treatment in Vietnam and Cambodia.

She said the experience taught her that “nonprofit organizations need not just philanthropy and a good heart, but well-developed business perspectives to satisfy all of the stakeholders involved in a project like this, such as the fund provider, the pharmaceutical manufacturer and the local healthcare professionals, to bring about the most efficient outcome.”

Eo has been with Samsung Card for a little more than four years, spending time in both business development and marketing. She enjoys working in fintech, which is a fast-growing industry in South Korea and worldwide. But she notes she’s always looking for new opportunities and likes to learn new things.

For instance, she is learning swing dance, is pursuing her international coffee barista certificate and has plans to get a professional translator certificate.

Whatever her next career path, Eo said she will not forget the lessons the WDI summer internship taught her.

“It presented me with gem experiences that I would never have had otherwise, which naturally showed me that there were more roads to take in life besides the one I was used to my whole life before getting my MBA,” she said. “But more importantly, it has taught me that life is not all about working for a big company and making more money. Instead, it is about finding what makes me happier and how I could live a meaningful day every day.”



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