Sabine Wu - 1440

Sabine Wu

MBA ’05, Vice GM of Strategy Development, Tencent



Sabine Yu Wu (MBA 05) returned to China following her time at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business with a desire to engage in complex, meaningful and fast-paced work. After four successful years with McKinsey & Co., Wu landed a job with Tencent just as that company, and the broader Chinese Internet ecosystem, accelerated its booming pace. Wu, now the vice general manager of strategy development at Tencent, says she’s grateful to Darden for setting her on a path that led her to the upper ranks of one of the world’s biggest technology companies. 

For people who are not familiar with Tencent, can you describe the company?

Tencent is a leading internet company based in China. The company is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and has a market cap of over $200 billion. Tencent’s vision is to become the most respected internet company and it has a big business portfolio hinging around mainly two areas: one is social —Tencent operates the top three social networks in China, namely WeChat, QQ and Qzone — and the other is digital content goods, including online games, video and music streaming, online comics, online literature, digital news and information services. Together, these offerings serve almost all Chinese netizens and command more than 50 percent of internet time spent by Chinese netizens.

Every month, more than 750 million users are active on WeChat globally.

How did you end up at Tencent after Darden?

I was with consulting firms for quite some time, with four years with McKinsey in China just before Tencent. When I considered moving on, I checked a broad spectrum of options. Multinationals came naturally as the first option as [they offered a] comfort zone with a good culture fit.

I took the opportunity to talk to some of the multinationals and started to feel that they were lacking some key factors to really ignite fast growth in China. Localization tended to be conservative and insight into Chinese consumers was insufficient. Ambition was normally constrained, leading to moderate investment.

Gradually, I got into touch with a new world, the Chinese internet industry. It was fast paced, ambitious, vibrant, complex — it sounded really exciting to me. I consulted some friends and they pointed to one or two internet companies that might open doors to me, with Tencent the top pick. I found a way to knock on the door of Tencent, secured a chance to interview, and after a lengthy process I got an offer in 2011. And here I came to Tencent in Shenzhen, China.

I am still thankful for the great luck I had five years back.

How did Darden prepare you for the career you’ve led?

Darden was definitely a hugely important springboard for my career development. First of all, Darden gave me a quality education. The knowledge and tools I learned served me well in both consulting and at Tencent. But more importantly, the dozens of books I read in fields of managerial philosophy, evolution, psychology, arts and others expanded my horizon and shaped who I am now. I am still using tools and thinking about frameworks taken away from these books today.

Secondly, I met amazing people. They were a true joy during the two years on campus, and they are lifelong friends afterwards. In China, the Darden community is very close.

Thirdly, Darden provided me with a solid career advancement platform. I was a career changer and very much appreciated the large range of recruiters and networking opportunities Darden brought. I definitely feel Darden was the wisest investment of my life.

What are your favorite memories of your time at Darden?

The learning team debates, the company briefings which opened my eyes to so many industries, the golf courses, the travels with my classmates across the U.S., the time spent in the gorgeous libraries — so many.

Both UVA and Darden are working hard to strengthen their connections to China. How is Darden perceived among your peer group?

Darden graduates have a good reputation among employers as we are capable, diligent and mature. McKinsey and Tencent all treat Darden as one of the core schools to recruit new blood. UVA’s reputation showed a significant enhancement during recent years as the Chinese student body grew year by year, and many of them came back to China and made great career progress in a variety of areas.

How would you describe the Darden alumni network in China? 

Very close, very dynamic. We are very active in WeChat groups, and regularly host get-togethers.