SMITH BRAIN TRUST — U.S. expatriate Erick Haskell spoke no Mandarin when he moved to China in 2005, and none of his employees spoke English. He knew little about the country and had little experience in retail. Yet within 10 years he was managing director for Greater China at Under Armour, the region’s fastest-growing brand in a fast-growing athletic apparel market. Haskell describes his journey in episode 2 of Beyond Business, a podcast series hosted by professor Gary Cohen at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Things have been moving so fast for the Baltimore-based sportswear manufacturer, in fact, that the company opened a new store somewhere in the region almost daily in 2016. “That’s something not happening anywhere else in the world,” Haskell says. “Under Armour is an exciting place to be, and what’s happening in China is perhaps the most exciting thing in the company.”
He shares three keys for aspiring expatriates coming out of college.
Be authentic: Many expatriates endure their time overseas so they can put the experience on their resumes and move more quickly up the corporate ladder. Haskell craves global adventure for its own sake and is never in a rush to get home. “I decided that I wanted a career overseas, whether that would be foreign service or in business,” he says. “I was determined that was going to be my path.”
Be fluent: Haskell could have survived with an interpreter by his side in China, but instead he hired a tutor and learned to converse in Mandarin. During college he also studied Spanish, which led to his first overseas assignment in Puerto Rico. “The only reason I got the job that I did was because of my language abilities,” he says. “Language is critical.”
Be flexible: Haskell immersed himself in Latin America and planned to remain in the region. “China was nowhere on the radar,” he says. Then a former colleague called him and asked for help getting a Chinese startup ready for its initial public offering. Rather than making excuses, Haskell seized the opportunity.
Listen to his full conversation with Cohen below (18:29), and check out other Beyond Business episodes.