While the move is a great career boost, in some ways it’s a return to the past. As a Xavier MBA student—which he became after earning a bachelor’s degree in international affairs at Xavier in 2005—Van Deman spent a summer studying at Peking University. Part of his daily routine included biking past the Beijing office of Google every day.
But a lot has changed in that short time. The bicycles that were ubiquitous last time are being replaced by luxury cars, and a gleaming new subway system now carries more than 3.5 million riders a day. Despite the progress, Van Deman had a few hesitations when his bosses told him he was headed to China.
“It’s a developing country, and it’s one of those places that’s not always a comfortable place to be,” he says.
There are business challenges as well. Chinese authorities block access to YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing web site that’s an important part of its advertising strategy. And the dominant search engine in China is a home-grown effort called Baidu, while Google controls less than 30 percent of the market.
“I can walk up to people and tell them I work for Google, and they have no idea what that is,” says Van Deman, who’s been based in the company’s Ann Arbor, Mich., office since joining the company two years ago. “That doesn’t happen in the U.S.”