International student success. Let’s learn from Echo Gao, from China

Echo Gao, Business Development Manager at Infosys.


Why did you decide to come to college in the U.S.?

Lots of B-school options with good international reputation; culture diversity; strong economy and employment market.

What is your hometown and country known for? What’s the most interesting or funny question you received from someone during your studies in the U.S about where you are from?

My hometown is Luoyang in China. It is a historical city having been a capital city for 13 dynasties throughout Chinese history. Many people have asked me which city in China I am from. When I answer Luoyang, a typical follow up question is: but where in China is it? I think because China is such a large country many people are not familiar with its geography. After I describe the location of Luoyang, many people still seem lost and sometimes change the topic of the conversation. I totally understand: it is not easy to grasp the geography of China. My country has huge physical and cultural diversity.

Let’s talk about networking. Are you a good networker? Many international students struggle to network in the U.S. Some are concerned about their accent. Some feel they don’t know enough about American culture in order to effectively interact with Americans. Do you feel you created meaningful relationships with your U.S. classmates during your studies? What advice related to networking do you have for international students?

I wouldn’t say I’m a good networker, although I do like making new friends and building meaningful relationships. My takeaway is that culture is important but human nature is fundamentally the same. If you treat those you meet, whoever they are – it does not matter where they are from – the same way you treat your own people, you should be fine. Focusing too much on cultural nuances can stop one from progressing fast when networking.

How’s it that you knew what kinds of roles and companies you wanted to target? Did that happen naturally or did you have a plan or a methodology you followed?

There’s public data on which companies sponsor H1B. Target those. Don’t put too much effort on those who don’t sponsor. It tends to be a waste of time.

Let’s talk about career services. How’s it that the career services model in your country differ from what is available at U.S universities.

More or less the same like seminars, workshops, etc, but U.S. schools talk more about networking which in my country is not often an ‘on the table’ topic although over there networking is even more important of a factor when job searching than in the U.S.

Tell us how you found your internship. How did you get the lead? What was the interview process like and how did you use your internship experience when seeking full-time roles as a second year MBA?

The employer published the job opening with my school career services and I passed interview. Interview was simple- tech skills, leadership skills, and communications skills. My internship helped when I sought my full-time job but not too much as I changed industries.

How’s interviewing in the U.S different from interviewing in your home country? What was the biggest adjustment you had to face?

Format is more or less the same. Language is the biggest challenge.

What’s the best part about being an international student, and what is the worst?

Best part is you are part of the great diversity of this society, you are different. Worst part is that sometimes for us international students we are not always able to express our ideas in English as clearly as we would be able to do in our mother language. Depending on whom you are talking to, when that happens, I feel some people sometimes think we are not smart, but we are :).

Let’s talk about sponsorship, always a hot topic for international students, of course. How did you deal with the typical “we don’t sponsor” phrase international students hear all the time? Did you have a “plan” to secure your H1-B?

I simply went away when I got the “we don’t sponsor” answer. Did not want to waste time. No, I didn’t have a plan to secure my H1B. Luckily for me it came smoothly.

How did you get the lead for your full-time role, and what was the interview process like? Tell us about your job as well. What is it that you really do?

Similar to my internship lead, the employer came to campus to recruit and I submitted my resume to try to secure an interview slot. The interview included two parts: HR and Hiring manager. It went very smoothly and I got the job. My first job closely related to my past experience prior to MBA. It was a very good fit. Though I loved the position I switched to another company – transferred my H1-B – due to family reasons.

Americans talk a lot about “likability” in the hiring world. Does such a concept exist in your country? Are international students at a disadvantage when it comes to likability in your opinion?

I do believe likability exists everywhere. You don’t want to play against human nature. Some people are likable from the beginning, when you first meet them, while others we meet become likeable over time, after we get to know them better. Occasionally international students may have challenges being liked right away due to reasons such as culture, language, etc, but that is not always the case. The capabilities and strengths of internationals students tend to show over time in my experience. I think that’s what’s key.

What kinds of questions did your family ask you during your studies? Were they worried about whether or not you were going to find a job in the U.S. after graduation?

They are concerned more about my overall well-being such as health, friends, relationships, etc. They are not so concerned about jobs.

What message do you want to send international students who are seeking jobs or worried about their careers? How can an international person be successful in the U.S in your opinion?

Focus on firms that sponsor, and spend a minimum of 50% of your efforts applying for jobs that are closely related to your past experiences. Be more proactive, more prepared, and speak up. Enhance your leadership skills.

You’ve achieved what so many dream of. What is your international advantage?

People like talking about China and are very interested learning about my country these days. That’s my international advantage: I can provide unique insights about China, and share opinions about the future of my country as it relates to the United States, for example. My own views can be more powerful than what someone may learn from a newspaper or the evening news.




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