Song Qi poses at the Continental Group headquarters.

No one understands the need to know the demographics, economic and technical constraints of international business better than Song Qi (MBA ’99). As executive vice president, global head of Conveying Solutions Business Area at Continental Group, Qi’s global perspective and cultural mindset help him navigate the business practices, laws and current events of Continental’s clients in countries across the world.

In managing 5,000 employees across 69 locations in 18 manufacturing plants in 18 countries, Qi has become adept at adapting to different business cultures, economic drivers and customer needs. He discusses how he has broken barriers to become an executive and leader — in China and Germany — for the international company.

Describe your role as executive vice president, global head of Conveying Solutions Business Area at Continental Group.

Song Qi with colleagues at an Australian shipping yard.
Song Qi with colleagues from Germany and Australia in New Castle, Australia.

In 2015, I joined Continental Group, a global technology company offering safe, efficient, intelligent and affordable solutions for vehicles, machines, traffic and transportation. I spent seven years working as head of ContiTech China region, overseeing 5,000 employees, 10 manufacturing locations and six R&D centers. In April 2022, I assumed my new role as executive vice president and moved to Germany.

My teams and I provide conveyor belt solutions for machine and plant engineering, and comprehensive service for conveyor belt systems for agricultural equipment, hard rock mining, and aggregate, cement and metal processing.

How has your new role informed your global perspective on business?

Each country has its own unique people and business cultures as well as economic drivers. I need to understand how people are motivated in different cultures so I can effectively lead and motivate our teams in different countries. I also need to have a deep understanding of our customer’s needs and expectations in different markets. All this helps me effectively manage the global business with a broad view and global picture in mind.

What advice would you give to help someone gain a global perspective?

Be open-minded. Accept there are many different approaches to life due to different cultural backgrounds. Seek to have a good understanding of different perspectives, assess the situation and try to make adjustments rather than making judgements.

Since graduating from Ohio State, what are you most proud of?

I am proud to bring cultural diversity into the workplace. When I worked for American Electric Power, I became the first employee who received sponsorship for a Green Card in the company’s 100-plus-year history. At Veyance Technologies, I was the first Asian to be on the company’s executive leadership team. At Continental, I became the first non-European to manage a global business area. My professional success also paved the way for these companies to further promote Asians to significant leadership roles.

What does that latest accomplishment at Continental mean for you?

This is a big step for Continental on its journey to enhance cultural diversity for its executive leadership. While I am proud to be a part of this journey, it comes with lots of responsibility. It is now up to me to use my diverse background in China and the U.S. to build a high-performance team and drive business success.

Song Qi and team members along a river port.
Song Qi is joined by members of the Conveying Solutions division on a team building event in Stockholm, Sweden.

Any recent accomplishments you’ve achieved?

In the last year of overseeing the Conveying Solutions Business Area, I managed to build a high-performance, culturally diversified team fully committed to driving business excellence. We closed four acquisitions, one in the U.S. and three in Sweden. We improved the profit of the business area significantly, despite the challenges of high raw material and labor cost, global supply chain disruptions and the energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine.

With a background in energy and mechanical engineering, what prompted the desire for an MBA?

I have a passion for finance, investment and management. My MBA provided me a solid foundation in finance, marketing, operations, general management and U.S. business culture. My engineering education gave me strong analytical and technical skills, which allow me to quickly learn about products, technology and manufacturing process. This combination is invaluable for me in managing a global business in the manufacturing industry.

How has Fisher prepared you for your career?

I learned and grew so much during my two-year MBA study at Fisher — I built a solid knowledge base for my career. I learned teamwork by working closely with other students and, due to the diversified student body, I also learned to appreciate cultural diversity.

Through case studies, guest speakers, alumni events and company visits, I learned U.S. business culture and sharpened my presentation and public speaking skills by engaging in class discussions, debates and project presentations.

In what ways are you involved with Ohio State’s China Gateway?

I go to alumni events, career fairs and seminars and stay engaged with Ohio State professors, alumni and incoming students through the China Gateway. I have organized visits to Continental manufacturing plants for EMBA students so they can witness firsthand modern manufacturing processes in China, and I have given presentations to EMBA students about economic development, the automotive market and business culture in China.

Now, for some favorites:

Favorite business faculty member?

Professor (now dean) Anil Makhija is my favorite, as he is very personable and cares about the students. Our class was the very first class Professor Makhija taught at Fisher. He made the finance class very interesting and easy to understand. Since then, I’ve had a chance to meet Professor Makhija a few times in Shanghai and found out the admiration was mutual.

Favorite business school related memory?

At Fisher’s Pre-Commencement ceremony, I was recognized with a number of academic and leadership awards. When I got off the stage, one classmate congratulated me by saying, “It is your Oscar night.” At that moment, I realized how much I learned and had grown at Fisher as well as the language and cultural challenges I had overcome. I was so thankful to have such an opportunity to study at Fisher on a full scholarship and learn from so many great professors and classmates.

Favorite spot on campus?

The Horseshoe. I am a die-hard Buckeye (so is my son) and nothing is more remarkable than watching our players running out of the tunnel and playing football games in The Shoe. The only regret is that during the few years I was at Ohio State, we did not have a good record against TTUN.

What advice would you give to a current student or a new Fisher graduate?

Believe in yourself. Your Ohio State education will set a strong foundation for you to be successful in your professional career. As long as you keep putting your best efforts forward and are open-minded about opportunities presented to you, you will have a fun and successful career ahead of you.

Thanks to Fisher and Ohio State’s extensive network of alumni and friends…

I will always feel I am part of the Buckeye family. I was once sitting at the Sydney airport reading a book waiting to board a flight. I heard familiar O-H-I-O from another passenger passing by who also wore a scarlet Ohio State T-shirt. That made my day!

Song Qi enjoys the view out of his office window.
Song Qi in his Shanghai office.

What is the most interesting fact about you that isn’t on your resume or LinkedIn profile?

In addition to a global responsibility at work, I also now have a global family. I am working in Germany; my wife and our daughter live in Shanghai, and our son goes to college in New York City — four members on three different continents.

What personally motivates you to action?

I want to make a positive impact on people around me — my family, friends, and people at work. That has been a major driver for me in life. It is a great feeling to see that I can help people have a better life, better career, or more joy in their lives.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When I worked at American Electric Power as a financial analyst, one senior executive said, “If your boss, your peers and your team members all want you to be successful, it is hard for you not to succeed.”

My takeaway from that advice is: I should respect my boss and contribute as much as I can for the success of the team; as a co-worker, I should be a great team player, respect my teammates and provide support to my co-workers as much as I can; and as a leader, I should respect, motivate and support my team members so they enjoy working on the team and have a chance to learn and grow.

This has become my guiding principle in my professional career and personal life. For every step of my career, I have received tremendous support from my boss, my co-workers and of course my team members.

I learned and grew so much during my two-year MBA study at Fisher — I built a solid knowledge base for my career.

Song Qi (MBA '99)Executive VP and Global Head of Conveying Solutions Business Area, Continental Group