Cleo Cheng

Cleo Cheng

M.S. in Commerce 2015 (Finance)

B.A. International Economics and Trade 2014

After: Deloitte Advisory, Valuation Consultant (Washington, DC)

Now: Deloitte Consulting, Consultant (Washington, DC)

Transitioning to graduate school in the United States

The most overwhelming part of the transition would have to be recruiting as soon as (or even before) the program starts while managing a heaver course load. As an international student from Beijing, I had the extra challenge of adapting to the American culture quickly, including academically, socially, and professionally. It went fairly well for me, partly because I had done a lot of preparation and adjusted my expectations before coming to the United States. More important, the M.S. Commerce Program does a really good job of helping students work through the first couple weeks, manage expectations, and get into the busy graduate school life right away.

Leveraging liberals arts with business

I studied International Economics and Trade for my undergraduate degree and enjoyed learning about the theoretical structure. During my fourth year in college, I had an internship with a venture capital firm. That was when I realized the economic structures do not help as much when it comes to looking at start-ups to decide whether they will be able to generate continuous cash flow for investors. I needed more knowledge on how businesses operate and what makes them good or bad investments. After the M.S. in Commerce Program, when I look back at the start-ups I studied during my internship, I have a clearer lens and better approach to analyzing whether they would have been good investments, using both my economic background and business knowledge.

Most memorable class

Professor Maillet's Foundation in Global Commerce class was my favorite class. It provided me a completely new lens and useful toolkit to analyze businesses in different areas. In the class, I was exposed to new perspectives about my home country, China, as well as other countries I have not visited before. I also enjoyed the participation aspect of the class—it really is helpful to hear everyone's opinions.

My GIE experience

I went to the Middle East/India, and the most memorable company visit for me was a fabric factory in Bursa, Turkey, owned by the family of a Comm School alum. It was incredible to see the factories and collections and designs of fabric that the family has built over the years, and it was fascinating to hear the alumnus discuss how they leverage Turkey’s geographic location to utilize resources from Asia and export them to Europe, as well as the strategies they have been employing to add value to their clients.

Preparation for my first job

From a technical standpoint, my first job as a Valuation Consultant was a full expansion of Professor Felicia Marston's Advanced Corporate Finance class we took in the spring semester. It provided a great overview in terms of how to go about valuing an operation, and gave me a head start. In addition, the skills I learned in the program’s Communication class were and still are consistently reflected on the job at Deloitte. I work with various parties on a daily basis (manager, senior manager, partner, client, my peers, offshore resources, etc.), and it is always important to think about how to convey a message mostly clearly and effectively to different audiences in different contexts.

The value of Commerce Career Services

Commerce Career Services was tremendously helpful in facilitating my job search. First, the staff provided specific assistance for international students, which I really appreciate. My first week at UVA in the summer (international students came in earlier for ESL courses), I had a meeting with CCS’ Kelly Eddins, during which we discussed specific strategies for the upcoming recruiting season and how I could leverage my previous experience in information sessions and job interviews. I also had a few mock interviews with CCS, which were very helpful. Even after I received a job offer, CCS helped me connect with someone who worked at Deloitte after the M.S. in Commerce Program to help me learn more about the company from an insider's view.

A typical day in consulting

To give you an idea of a typical day, here’s what I did last Tuesday. I took an early-morning flight from D.C. to Atlanta to work with my manager on a hospital merger project, advising a C-level executive of the buyer hospital. We had had a call with the client the day before; in the morning, my manager and I met with the partner to determine the next steps to take during the week and the content we would present at the next status meeting. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on the model, building functions to demonstrate different scenarios of the deal. After reviewing the model with my manager, we had a conference meeting with another Deloitte team working on operational synergies for the client, discussing how we could incorporate the identified synergies into our model. After work, I hung out with a few Atlanta colleagues I hadn't seen in a while at a bar near the office and met the new hires joining the firm this year.

Advice for future students

Don't worry too much about getting perfectly prepared for doing the job while you are still in the program. You will be trained up after you start working, so absorb as much as you can from the M.S. Commerce Program.

To international students applying for the program, (1) think really hard about why you want to do the program. Make a clear connection between what you have accomplished and what it is that you are trying to achieve and demonstrate how M.S. Commerce Program (or what elements of the program) would help you succeed. (2) Demonstrate what you think you would be able to bring into the class that native students couldn't. McIntire has a strong focus on business in global context, and participation is a big part of class. Being able to share opinions from a different and unique perspective really adds value to the classroom experience. (3) Always be proactive and feel free to reach out to current students and alumni. McIntire has an extremely supportive environment, and people love to help out when they can. Don't ever feel you are bothering people. Help them help you.

Biggest take-away

My #1 take-away from my time at McIntire is learning that context matters, to businesses as well as to people. People can have very different opinions, and I learned to always appreciate diverse opinions and learn where they came from. Same with businesses. One successful business model in a given industry in the United States wouldn't necessarily work elsewhere in the world in that industry, because context matters, and the context of that specific country will have a huge impact on how businesses operate there. McIntire has helped me put on a new lens.

Favorite Charlottesville activity

There is so much to do in Charlottesville! One of my favorites (that I miss most) would have to be enjoying a Bodo's bagel with best friends on the Lawn on a beautiful fall day.