Xiaoou (Olivia) Wang knows the value of opportunity, and how holding a door open for someone else can change a life.
As a high school junior in her native China, a teacher unexpectedly called Olivia into her office. The teacher told her she had an opportunity to attend college in the United States, and asked her if she would be interested.
“I had never thought about going to the United States for college,” she says. “But I thought, yeah, that sounds interesting.”
Olivia wound up at Marietta College in Ohio, and later transferred to USC, where she graduated with a degree in business administration. Over the next few years, she gained experience in marketing and public relations in the U.S. and China.
Olivia saw earning an MBA at the Foster School as an opportunity to dig deeper in the business disciplines she had studied as an undergraduate, build leadership and teamwork skills, and network her way into her next career in the U.S.
Learning how to prioritize effectively and manage her time was an unexpected bonus.
“I’ve had jobs where I had to work eighty hours a week to finish all my work,” she says. “But here at Foster there are so many things going on at the same time. You have classes, homework cases, and team meetings, but you also want to talk to employers, talk to other students, and go to networking events. I finally found it impossible to finish all the things I wanted to do. I realized that, here at Foster, I really needed to learn how to prioritize my tasks, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to use my time.”
The hunt for a summer internship and a job after graduation was never far from her mind. A career coach in the MBA Career Management office helped her focus her search and provided her with contacts for informational interviews. “
By talking to different people, getting to know their experience at different companies, what their roles were, and what their work was like day to day, I got a better picture of what I wanted to do,” she says. “I decided that Microsoft was one of the companies I wanted to pursue.”
With assistance from the career coaches and peer advisors – second year students who had been through the process of interviewing for internships – Olivia refined her résumé and honed her presentation skills in practice interviews. Finally, she landed her internship at Microsoft. The fit with the central marketing unit at the tech giant proved a good one, resulting in an offer of a permanent position after graduation. Olivia leapt on that opportunity.
She was so grateful for the help she had received in her job search that she took on a role as a peer advisor for first year students during her second year.
“I helped first year students get through the very difficult time of job hunting, internship searching and interviews,” she says. “Students came to me for general advice, help editing a résumé or cover letter, and tips for interview preparation. I wanted to guide them in seeking a job they would actually like after they graduated.”
Olivia sees this impulse to help others as part of the culture at Foster.
“People who come to Foster believe in the culture here, and they learn about it before they arrive,” she says. “We are a group of people who are warmhearted, who really want to help society but are also self-motivated in our own careers as well.”