Thinking and Acting Globally with McCombs Alum Michael Soileau

CGB Insights
6 min readFeb 26, 2020

“If you want to go global, you have to think global,” says Michael Soileau, a McCombs School of Business alum who has served as a leader and change agent within major organizations for decades.

It’s a piece of advice that Soileau credits to working more than 20 years in the global economy. “In the 80s and 90s, I saw how a lot of small-to-large businesses entered the global market, and I took my experience from living abroad and my education to solve problems for global industries,” he says.

Now, as Vice President of Strategy, Planning and Development for Comcast Xfinity Consumer Services, Soileau applies his deft expertise in international business practices to his current job, something he says he wouldn’t have mastered if he hadn’t gone to the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Leaving home and living abroad

Born and raised in Mamou, Louisiana — a rural prairie just more than 150 miles from New Orleans — Soileau went to his hometown high school and then to Louisiana State University, where he felt a deep desire to immerse himself in international cultures and customs. “There wasn’t much diversity in my town, and when I went to college, I longed to be around people from diverse cultures and backgrounds,” he adds.

After his freshman year of college, Soileau took a year off and decided to backpack through Europe, finding France as his “home away from home” where he spent time learning the language, experiencing the culture, and seeing firsthand how international businesses operated.

Soileau before speaking at the Broadband World Forum in Barcelona

Throughout this “eye-opening experience,” Soileau also observed how American goods and services were becoming a hot commodity to international audiences. “I learned what consumers needed and what businesses cared about during my travels,” he says. “From a broader perspective, it made me realize that in order to learn and understand experiences that are different from your own, you have to bare your soul and set aside your ego.”

He likens the experience to going to a major foreign city and not attempting to speak the native language, instead expecting everyone to speak English. “You’re not going to gain their respect or understand their culture if you expect them to only understand your perspective,” he adds.

Forging a diverse educational path

After a little more than a year abroad, Soileau sought an education that would give him a richer understanding of global business. His interest was met when he discovered the diverse community at UT.

“I got to see students and researchers from different nationalities, identities, cultures and creeds,” Soileau comments. “The campus really emphasized to me what it meant to truly live in a global world and compelled me to want to learn more about international business.”

Soileau found his fascination develop as he progressed in his studies of international business and trade, communications, and management. In his senior year, he gained both real-world experience and a further understanding of global business practicum through one of his most memorable and challenging courses.

Along with a small group of classmates, Soileau was tasked with creating and selling golf balls to Japan. “At the time, golf was just becoming a leisure sport for international audiences, and in Japanese culture, gifting and receiving a gift and its packaging is very important,” Soileau says.

“We had to create and launch a business, sales and marketing plan as well as figure out how to manufacture golf balls. It was daunting at first, but it was a great window into how to build and develop products for international audiences while valuing their consumer behavior.”

Soileau speaking at the Broadband World Forum in Barcelona

Working for a major global business

Leveraging his experience at UT, Soileau has since spent more than two decades as an expert in employee leadership, change management, new product launches, and sales and revenue growth for a myriad of global businesses.

He served as Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Customer Experience for Innovative Communications, a multiservice provider of phone, data, video, and wireless for the United States Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten. He has also held several leadership positions at OpTel, a multiservice provider in the multi-housing segment.

The majority of his career, though, has been spent at Comcast, driving sales, leading strategy, and developing products and services, all while delivering innovative solutions to Comcast markets. He first worked as Executive Director of Sales for 10 years before leaving and coming back in 2013, first as Vice President of Communications, Data and Wi-Fi products, and most recently as Vice President of Strategy, Planning and Development for Comcast Xfinity Consumer Services.

“My job allows me to provide a futurist view of what our consumers want, need and deserve from our current product portfolio and what our portfolio should provide in the coming years,” says Soileau. His current position gives latitude to scope out and discover new products, services, and most importantly, talent — which often brings him back to his college home of UT.

Soileau (right) supporting the Longhorns

A city within a city

During his time on campus, Soileau found that he could get a similar sense of the internationality he experienced living abroad. Today, Soileau sees the campus, much like the city of Austin, as a hotbed of creativity, talent, and international influence.

“As a student, you’re on 40 acres of land in the middle of Austin on a huge and diverse campus that’s a stone’s throw away from technological advancement, live concerts, and a real immersion of arts and cultures,” he says.

He notes that unlike some universities that feel the brunt of being part of a town or city with little-to-no connection to its resources, UT differs. “I think the school has done an awesome job of embracing the city and vice versa,” he adds.

Solieau counts other influences like South by Southwest, the annual conference and festival for film, interactive media, and music that also brings people from all over the world together to absorb Austin’s rich culture and showcase theirs in the process.

Soileau’s dogs, Colt and Major, are named after UT quarterbacks (Colt McCoy and Major Applewhite) and have moved around the world with him.

Once a Longhorn, always a Longhorn

“Everywhere you go in the world, you’ll likely run into someone with a Longhorn cap or t-shirt,” Soileau says. “Longhorns are everywhere, and we take pride in showcasing that.” Though he’s never too far from Austin or UT — whether through his work at Comcast or guest lecturing about working for a global company — Soileau serves as a ardent ambassador for the Center for Global Business.

As a member of the Center’s advisory board, Soileau is passionate about helping students have access to the resources they need and working with them to expand their global networks. “I try to impart my own experience in working and understanding the global economy to current students of McCombs,” he says.

“For me, UT changed my life. If I hadn’t gone there, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”