‘A new world of possibilities’:
Hoeft T&M student conducts pilot internship program in China
For Peter Ninchich, persistence pays off.
In fact, the senior accountancy major’s tenacity is what made him The Hoeft Technology & Management Program’s first international intern in Beijing this past summer.
Since studying abroad in Spain in 2011 and 2013, Ninchich developed a passion for international travel. “After I gained these international experiences, I became curious about actually working in a different country.” He inquired about global internships, but was told that it wasn’t common for students to intern internationally. “It was a new idea for the University of Illinois, but I was determined and aggressive, and I didn’t give up my search.”
With the help of John Quarton, director of the T&M Program, Ninchich succeeded.
“I was a global marketing intern at Motorola Solutions,” he said. “Living in China was the most significant learning curve I’ve ever experienced.”
The plan fell into place last fall.
“I met with John about the possibility of an international internship,” Ninchich said. “Because an upcoming T&M trip to China involved several of our program’s corporate sponsors, he saw a potential internship opportunity in Beijing. Based on my past experiences, I was a good candidate.”
Since 2005, The Hoeft Technology & Management Program has offered its students an annual 11-day “international immersion” trip to China. “It’s a simulated business trip,” explained Quarton. “Students visit seven companies and two universities. They see firsthand the rapid pace of social and economic development taking place in China, which raises their awareness of the global nature of business. The trip also provides students the opportunity to get to know their classmates and develop an international professional network.”
Along with the company visits, this year’s itinerary consisted of trips to five cities—Beijing, Xi’an, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Jiaxing—which involved nearly every mode of transportation. “We traveled by plane, overnight train, bus, cabs, subways, boats, bicycles, you name it,” Quarton remarked. Students visited the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, and the site of the 2008 Olympics. They also bargained with vendors at the local markets, attended an acrobatic show and a traditional Chinese music and dance show, and capped off the trip with a river cruise along the Shanghai skyline.
“It’s such a valuable learning experience, I thought, ‘Are there any other international opportunities for our students? Another trip? An internship?’” Quarton added.
This year’s corporate sponsor visit took place at the Beijing office of Motorola Solutions, headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill. Quarton connected with T&M Corporate Affiliates Program Advisory Board member John Kedzierski ’01 (BS, Electrical and Computer Engineering), senior director of North America market strategy and operations, and Lin Gao ’98 MBA, senior director of global government affairs in Beijing, about internship opportunities. The discussions led to Ninchich’s interview for a global marketing internship.
“After meeting with John Quarton,” Kedzierski explained, “I reached out to my regional counterpart, Shamik Mukherjee, who ran regional marketing in Asia. We discussed the opportunity and identified a current business need—developing a messaging strategy around the complexity of technology standards in China—that would be a challenging project.”
“As an accountancy major, a marketing role was intriguing. I wasn’t sure if I’d be a fit,” said Ninchich. “But my credentials were affirmed, and Motorola Solutions coordinated the internship position to begin immediately after the T&M business trip.”
Peter arrived in Beijing, said Gao, “without his fellow classmates, without adult supervision, and without knowing a word of Chinese. That’s also the feeling I had when I got to the University of Illinois back in 1996, so I knew exactly how he must have felt.” Lin Gao encouraged Ninchich to explore the city before his first day at Motorola Solutions. That Saturday, she took him to a charity ball. “Peter met with business leaders and networked with American expatriates,” she said. On Monday, the office’s marketing director showed him around the office and introduced him to the team. “I got used to seeing Peter in the office, in meetings, as if he were one of us,” Gao added.
Ninchich was the only American employee, giving him the chance to work with a diverse group of people. As the global marketing intern, he interviewed leaders across all functions to gain a better understanding of the products that Motorola sells, and developed content to deliver to the US-based global marketing strategy team.
“By the end of the internship, I’d met with over 15 different leaders from the Beijing, Shanghai, and Singapore offices,” Ninchich said. He compiled a report with his findings and recommendations, and upon returning to the US, met with additional staff to finalize it. “By the end of my internship in August, I presented my messaging strategy recommendations to the chief marketing officer in Schaumburg.”
Ninchich’s international internship experience was powerful, giving him marketable tools that will help drive his career.
“I was exposed to the challenges that foreign companies face when operating internationally. Now I have a much better understanding of global business, and I developed skills that will be beneficial in many situations,” including in his future plans: “I ideally want to work in forensic investigations or international government operations dealing with accounting fraud.” Until then, Ninchich is staying at Illinois to pursue an MS in accountancy.
Does he have any advice for students? “My advice is to expand your goals and do something different. We’re all creatures of habit, and most of us want to stay within our comfort zone. We need to open our minds to a completely new world of possibilities.”
“By leveraging our relationship with the T&M Program, and its China Immersion trip, we were able to place a student directly in China to do field research and bring findings back to the US,” remarked Kedzierski. “More importantly, through internship programs we establish relationships with students who could be future leaders at Motorola.”
“Some people may think of an internship is just another checkbox on the resume,” said Gao. “I hope Peter’s global internship turns out to be more than that. It’s a lifetime experience, to be living, working, entertaining, and learning in an unfamiliar environment. I’m glad Peter overcame many of these challenges and developed his global competency.
“I’m also glad that 16 years after leaving Illinois, I’m able to take students like Peter under my wing. This is my way of saying, ‘Thank you, Illinois MBA, for making me a global citizen the way I am.’”
Ninchich added, “I’m very thankful to all of the people that made my experience so memorable.”