When he graduates, Andrew Luo, Pamplin College of Business 2020 Outstanding Senior, will head to KPMG, where he has landed a job in cybersecurity.

Luo, who had interned at the firm’s McLean, Virginia, office in summer 2019, credits his roles at Virginia Tech as a resident advisor and an officer in a student organization for helping to prepare him for the work world, by giving him lots of opportunities to develop and hone his leadership skills.

A double major in business information technology and management, Luo served as a resident advisor at the Leadership and Social Change Residential College for the past two years and as chief strategy officer for PRISM, a student-run ad agency at Virginia Tech.

Through both positions, he said, he learned that a leader can only be as good as his or her team, and that it is essential to develop and maintain a strong and cohesive team, which is where the leadership really shows up. “I have had great experiences with a diverse group of teammates that have enabled me to excel and succeed as a leader.”

One of his biggest challenges as a resident advisor was “drawing the line between being my resident’s ‘friend’ and being their RA,” Luo said. “In the real world, a manager has similar challenges where they want to be best friends with their team members but also want their employees to respect him or her as well. By practicing where to draw this line, I believe this has made me a better leader and helped prepare me for the workplace.”

He has returned to his RA position every year, he said, primarily because of the satisfaction he takes in being able to make a difference in the lives of more than 50 first-year residents. “Seeing each of them come through the doors of the residence hall during move-in and watching them pack and move out” and knowing he has had a part in their personal growth and development in between is a privilege, he said.

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A member of PRISM since his sophomore year, Luo started out on its analytics team before becoming analytics director and account manager in his junior year.

As chief strategy officer since March 2019, Luo helps develop strategic practices and plans for the organization, which currently has more than $150,000 in funding received from clients, sponsorships, the Pamplin College, and other organizations. “PRISM also currently develops innovative solutions for 10 real-world clients,” said Luo, who collaborates with PRISM’s chief marketing officer to identify new business and establish metrics for 
performance and progress. 

The changes he has helped put in place have “definitely made PRISM much better,” Luo said. “For example, each account now has someone who ensures that the client’s long-term needs and goals are aligning with the short-term actions. This is very important for marketing and advertising, as staying ahead of your competitors is what will keep the business successful.

“In addition, we have started conversations with other student-run agencies at universities across the country.” Connecting with others who have similar goals and dreams, he said, would enrich the experience for participants. Eventually, a pitch competition might even be organized.

Luo has consistently made the Dean’s List. A recipient of such awards as the Accenture Scholarship and the Mike Naff Memorial Scholarship, he was also a part of The Big Event’s executive team for two years.

The work experience he gained as a KPMG intern, including completing risk assessments on various software applications, was valuable, but the internship’s greatest benefit was an expanded network, he said. 

“The people I met were considered subject matter experts in the cybersecurity industry.” By connecting and networking with others throughout the office, he said, he learned more about himself and what he needed to know to succeed in the industry.

The son of Chinese immigrants who moved to the United States from Shanghai as young adults, Luo also speaks Mandarin, one of two dialects he heard spoken at home while growing up. His parents typically use their native tongue when conversing with him, while Luo himself uses English, a communication mash-up that he describes as “Chinglish.”

Adapting to the changes necessitated this spring to safeguard public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, including shifting to online classes, staying at home, and other social distancing, has “definitely been a challenge,” Luo said.

But the crisis is also a test of leadership and an opportunity to show Hokie spirit, he added. “It is a time to be resilient and a chance to ideate and strategize to create good for the future.”