Shanghai-Based Vice President Reflects on WDI Internship

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Note: This is one in an ongoing series of articles profiling past WDI interns and Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) team members and their career paths. Additional profiles in the series may be found here.

Lee Boyd can’t remember specifically how he heard about WDI as a first-year MBA student in 1993 at Michigan’s Business School (as it was known then). But he vividly recalled what he learned about the Institute that day and what it could offer MBA students like him.

“I saw (WDI) as a great opportunity to get work experience in an emerging economy and, very hopefully, China,” he said recently.

Boyd, who today is the Shanghai-based vice president of Greater China commercial operations for Bio-Rad Laboratories, had studied in Japan for a year as an undergrad. But he also had a growing interest in working in China as an MBA student.

Boyd got his opportunity at WDI in 1994 as part of a three-person student intern team on assignment for AT&T in China.

“That was the summer of ’94 and the China boom was just getting started,” he said. “One can never predict the future, but you could foresee that the country, economy, and markets had great growth potential in front of them.”

Boyd, another MBA student, and a Chinese Studies PhD candidate examined the effectiveness of how AT&T received and processed customer sales and found significant, potential improvements.

“Also, management development and talent retention were growing issues – and remain hot issues today. We suggested changes to the evaluation, review and training practices” at AT&T, Boyd said.

That early experience in China led to what has been a long and successful marketing career for Boyd, mainly in Asia. He has spent 10 years working in Japan and seven (and counting) in China.

The WDI internship “added a perspective and interest that I would keep and put to work professionally later.” He said it was probably a blessing that his internship was not followed by a full-time job after graduation. Instead, he viewed the internship as a “career building block that I had to add to my experiences and skills to pursue what I wanted.”

The internship also taught him how to “deliver results as a team. Two months living and working together builds your understanding of the importance of understanding the common mission, roles and responsibilities, communication, and sometimes conflict resolution,” he said.

It was exactly what he was hoping for when chose to attend U-M for his MBA studies and WDI for its unique international experiences.

My internship “gave me work experience and heightened my interest in China, leading me to move there and continue my career in China,” he said. “It gave me work experience in China during a period in my career when that opportunity was not easy to find. That background and learnings have definitely been a positive (for my career).”

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