Darla Moore’s design thinking course jumpstarted this graduate’s career

A week-long design sprint is a part of the Master of International Business (MIB) program at the Darla Moore School of Business. Here’s how MIB graduate Sarah Sanders is applying the skills she learned in that design sprint to a career in consultancy.

In short

Why Sarah is a lifelong Gamecock

Sarah Sanders admits she may not be the best person to talk to about the Darla Moore School of Business. “I think I’m a bit biased when I talk about the culture at Darla Moore – I’m a lifelong Gamecock!” she laughs. (12:31)

Sarah’s time at Darla Moore began with her undergraduate years when she studied for a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in International Business. Although she wasn’t planning on studying for a master’s immediately afterward, the unfortunate timing of her graduation convinced her otherwise.

“After I graduated from my Bachelor’s in International Business, it was in 2020, so it’s the middle of the pandemic — which wasn’t the best time to join the workforce, unfortunately,” she remembers. (00:51)

“The job offerings at that point in time weren’t something that I was as interested in. There were just less opportunities at the time. So, I started looking into master’s programs.” (01:17)

That search started and ended at the Darla Moore School of Business, and its Master of International Business program. Once a Gamecock, always a Gamecock.

The international aspects of the Moore School MIB

Sarah elected to study a Dual-Degree at the Moore School, which meant spending a year abroad at ESCP Business School in Paris to study Digital Transformation after earning her MIB degree at USC. It was one of several ways that her master’s program expanded upon the international elements in her bachelor’s.

The first big difference she noticed between the undergraduate and graduate programs was in the makeup of the class. She says it went from “majority Americans” for the bachelor’s to around a 50/50 split between domestic and international students in the master’s program. “Which was a really excellent addition to the master’s,” she says. (03:34)

Sarah’s bachelor’s degree included a number of international business classes, which were based on topics such as geopolitics, international strategy, and international marketing communications. These topics were expanded upon in her master’s and allowed her to broaden her understanding of international business.

“I really loved those international business classes,” she says. “It was a smaller cohort of all IB Majors that were studying a bunch of different functional majors, and it was a lot of case studies, a lot of debates, discussions, a lot of geopolitics. Those are the core classes that I really enjoyed. They were also the most difficult classes that I took, and so my master’s of international business was more like only those kinds of classes, but at a next level.” (02:39)

Although this increased international emphasis was a crucial part of Sarah’s master’s program, its most unique feature was found elsewhere.

The design sprint in the Darla Moore MIB

A design sprint isn’t the first thing you’d expect to see in an international business program, but at Darla Moore it’s a perk of the course. 

Design sprints were pioneered by Jake Knapp of Google Ventures, taking inspiration from IDEO’s human-centered design thinking workshops. A design sprint condenses the business challenge-solving process into just five days. By integrating the design sprint within the MIB curriculum, Moore School students learn how to accelerate business processes and combine the reliability of quantitative analysis with the richness and relevance of qualitative analysis.

“We did a whole design sprint over a week,” explains Sarah. “We had a real-life client — a Fortune 50 company — and we had a business problem to solve for them with design thinking.” (08:12)

The beauty of incorporating a design sprint within a master’s program is how closely it resembles the workplace. In Sarah’s case, the out-of-hours contact with stakeholders was not only a vital part of the design sprint — it was also the perfect preparation for an international career.

“We start off on a Monday, and then by the end of the week, we have the solution for them.  This is a global project. Sometimes we would have calls with stakeholders in Europe, Asia, all over the world. Sometimes we’d have calls late at night, early in the morning. That was a good taste of what really working internationally looks like.” (08:25)

How Sarah is applying her design sprint experience to her career

After graduating, Sarah found herself with that most valuable thing: options. Unlike in 2020, she could now pick and choose her preferred career path. She went on to accept a job as an Associate Consultant at Euromonitor, where she continues to apply the design sprint skills she learned in her master’s.

As part of her role, she often has to interview clients to gain a deeper understanding of their industry. It’s during these interviews that she can really draw on her design sprint experience.

“A lot of the time the industry, I’m not an expert in, so I’ll have to interview people to try to know, ‘What do I need to know about this industry immediately?’ — ‘Who do I need to talk to to learn these insights?’, etc. And that’s exactly the first step of design thinking (empathy building), so I’m using that first step all the time,” she explains. (11:44)

Ultimately, having the opportunity to apply these skills to her career has been invaluable for Sarah. Not only is she seeing first-hand the benefits of her master’s, but she is using them to excel in her dream job.

Are you interested in studying a master’s at the Darla Moore School of Business? Then feel free to reach out to one of our master’s ambassadors.

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