2022 MBA To Watch: Sharon Zhou, University of Virginia (Darden)

Sharon Zhou

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Drawn to change and always looking for the next adventure.”

Hometown: Wuhan, China

Fun fact about yourself: I spent the first month of my MBA in 3 countries!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Beijing Foreign Studies University, Dual degree: Business and English Literature

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Cummins, Senior HR Business Partner

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? McKinsey Seattle

Where will you be working after graduation? Returning to the same place

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President, Global Business and Culture Club (GBCC); Recipient of: William Michael Shermet Award, First Year Academic Achievement Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Working with the GBCC Board to bring back an in-person Global Food Festival in the beginning of our Second Year! Since none of the Board members had experienced the Global Food Festival in-person due to COVID restrictions in our first year, it was a lot of trial and error, and working as a team to figure out a path forward. We had an amazing turnout for the event – nearly 30 countries’ cuisines and cultures were represented – the students showcased their talents through impressive performances. More than 400 students, partners and faculty members attended – it was a fantastic day!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Designing and implementing HR policies in a newly formed post-acquisition organization. It was the largest and most impactful project that I’ve led so far, and the complexity, sensitivity, and sheer amount of work helped me learn and grow a lot as a HR professional. This project taught me the importance of perseverance and served as a great opportunity to test my resilience – the outcome was very successful, and I was awarded regional “Employee of the Year” as a recognition.

Why did you choose this business school? The community. During my in-person visit to Darden before applying, I immediately felt that this is such a warm and welcoming community. Over time, I realized that the community is, to a large extent, what the students make it to be (Darden in many ways is a student-run place). During my time at Darden, I’ve met some great people who are open to share their stories, and hear what others have to say; they are some amazing people who always strive to make the whole MBA experience better for their peers and for the first years. To me, this is what makes Darden such a special place in my heart, and it validates my reason of choosing it in the first place.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is such an impossible question to answer! (I would say as a Section B-er, we had amazing professors during our Core in the first year. And when you go through Core together, that bond is just unmatched compared to what you build later in electives. Some of my favorite professors from Core are Mike Lenox for Strategy, Luann Lynch for Accounting, Marc Lipson for Finance, Panos Markou for Operations, and Sean Martin for Leadership!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? tudent-organized trips! During each break, there’re quite a few student-organized trips, both domestically and internationally. Personally, I love to travel, and exploring a new place with your fellow MBA students just makes the experience so memorable – you get to know people better outside of school and get to share amazing adventures together. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my MBA!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I’d built a wider network in my first year. It turned out that some of the relationships that I built in the first year remain to be the strongest ones that I have at Darden, and without doubt will continue post B-school (which makes me very excited and happy)! Going through the Core and recruiting in the first year demanded a lot of my time and energy, and I kind of wish that I had intentionally interacted with a wider group of people.

What surprised you the most about business school? How many different student-led activities there are every single week, if not every single day! From speakers’ sessions to social events, your calendar will never be blank – that’s for sure!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are several! I generally admire people who are very capable and talented themselves and still find a way to connect with ANYONE without making them feel intimidated. It’s amazing to see those peers in action.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Working at the intersection of Tech and Sustainability, and becoming a trusted advisor in one field

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? At the most basic level, it helped me to see the possibility of a future with hybrid work. Personally, I’m a big fan of work flexibility – I believe that when someone can choose the best set-up (location, routine, time off, etc.) for their work, they become more effective, creative, and add more value to a team. I’m truly hopeful that more and more employers will start to recognize the intrinsic differences among employees’ needs and allow them the flexibility to choose what works best for them.

What made Sharon such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Sharon’s participation in class is always thoughtful and well-reasoned. Her experiences in China allow her to bring an important and diverse viewpoint into the classroom that complements and advances class discussion. Lastly, she is gracious and kind and serves as an optimistic beacon to the other students.”

Darden Professor and Chief Strategy Officer Mike Lenox


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