“I thought, geez, my whole house is going abroad. Being independent, I went over to the Study Away office to see where I could go that was different.”
He heard about MSU’s China program. “I thought: If I don’t go now, I never will.”
While at MSU’s partner school of Qingdao University, he took Mandarin classes, immersed himself in the culture and made friends.
The place got into his blood. He graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s in management — and a minor in Chinese studies, added after his journey.
“As I got ready to graduate, I knew I wanted to go back to China.”
He looked for an American company willing to send a new grad overseas, but instead a friend told him about a job in the Kansas City area with Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation, known
as HERC. The global company rents equipment such as bulldozers, bucket trucks, lifts and power generators for business and government projects.
Patton started with HERC in 2006, answering phones and coordinating sales. He learned new aspects of the business and was quickly promoted, eventually running an entire Midwest division.
In 2008, HERC wanted to expand in China. The American in charge of that expansion called Patton for cultural advice, and the two were soon in regular communication. “One day he said, ‘Look, we have gotten to the size where I can offer you a job here.’ ”
Patton jumped at the chance, and in 2010 he and wife Lauren made the move to Shanghai. “My wife was raised by a family with the travel bug; she had been all over the world before we got married.”
One of Patton’s former roommates, Zach Blome, ’06, said Patton is outgoing, adventurous and focused on success —all characteristics that help people who take jobs overseas.
“I remember when he got back from China he was super-excited and had story after story; he was really impressed,” said Blome, now an audit leader at Wells Fargo Des Moines. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that he moved there.”
Since 2010, HERC has grown its existing Chinese facilities and opened new ones. And when Patton’s general manager retired in 2012, the job was his. He now is responsible for overseeing the whole Chinese operation, from finances to marketing to human resources.
He calls on VIP clients, convincing them to use HERC equipment for their projects. In China, it’s not unheard of to see some construction practices that may not be best for the welfare of the workers.
“I feel I really am helping build a safer China. I love convincing those clients to use our equipment to create a more safe and yet more efficient workplace.”
And as far as fun goes, he says Shanghai, a metropolis of more than 23 million on China’s eastern coast, has even New York City beat. He and his wife, who have a 1-year-old daughter, Hayden, go on a date each week to explore.
“It’s the greatest city in the world! It’s got the most amazing food — there are more authentic Italian restaurants here than almost anywhere in the world. There’s a place called Ultraviolet that does a five-hour, 20-course meal with 20 wait staff for just 10 diners. There
are Michelin-starred chefs. There is also really amazing nightlife.”
Patton gets back to the U.S. a few times a year, and meets up with Missouri
State China program representatives when they are in town.
He also hosted an American MSU student, letting the student job-shadow him for about a month.
When his contract in China is up in about a year and a half, Patton could see himself working in another global location such as Central or South America.
“I understand working in a foreign country,” he said. “I am open!”