Before entering the MIT SFMBA, Karen Kumakura Inomata, SFMBA ’23, worked as a senior manager at a global management consulting firm where she connected the pharmaceutical business in Japan to the wider world with a range of projects, including cross-border M&A and market-entry and R&D strategies.
Part One: A Mid-Career MBA for Women is an Essential Reskilling Solution
I learned about the concept of reskilling in women’s careers from Gloria Blackwell, CEO of the American Association of University Women, who we met during the Washington D.C. module of the SFMBA program. That discussion put into perspective my own experience and underlined just how my year as a Sloan Fellow has been a turning point in my career.
I had no opportunity to build overseas experience by my mid 30s because of a hectic schedule, a job change, the birth of my two children, and a promotion to manager. When my children reached elementary school, I found myself in a senior leadership role. It was at this time that I learned about the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA program, which seemed tailor-made for the challenges I faced as a mid-career leader. It offered me an opportunity to study international business from a senior management point of view and to reflect on my role as a leader taking on increasing responsibility.
A mid-career MBA program like this one is a very attractive option for busy women in their late 30s. Our 20s and 30s are a busy time for many life-stage choices. It can be a time of biological interruptions, and many women give up on returning to their careers after the birth of a child because they fear they cannot regain their momentum. There’s also the question of how to build one’s unique and competitive value proposition when you have less time to dedicate to your career.
During my maternity leave and afterward, when I was working a reduced schedule, I continued my studies. The effort I put into education paid off, and I was accepted to this program. The MIT Sloan Fellows Program is the culmination of the eight years of reskilling efforts I’ve undertaken since the birth of my first child. If you are a woman (or, of course, a man) in your 30s or 40s struggling with family responsibilities as you try to build competitiveness in your career, consider the SFMBA.
Part Two: MIT Sloan Connects Innovation and Business
I grew up with a father who was a doctor, researcher, and professor devoted to innovation in healthcare, so supporting that particular sphere has been a compelling theme throughout my life. After undergraduate and graduate studies in pharmaceutical science, I developed a career as a management consultant advising healthcare companies dedicated to innovation.
When it came time to choose a mid-career leadership program, I thought MIT Sloan would be ideal because it connects the realms of business and innovation. Many classes include interaction with MIT science departments, and researchers across the city of Cambridge are heavily involved in healthcare innovation. The Cambridge Innovation Center, for example, provides access to the latest trends in biotech ventures and pharmaceutical companies.
Part Three: SFMBA is the Best Program for Families
Your family is certainly as large a part of your mindshare as your career. I can say from a year’s experience that the MIT SFMBA is the best MBA if you are coming to the program with kids!
Because it’s a mid-career program, many of my classmates had children of elementary school age and older, so my two kids had their own cohort. Many events were organized for their benefit—an apple picking adventure, a pool party, and a multicultural fair. All were wonderful opportunities for our children to experience a new community and make diverse friends. They were also great opportunities for the parents to form support systems—other Fellows who are juggling work and childcare, too.
This camaraderie really calmed my mind. Building smooth collaborations with family members is essential if you want to be able to pursue a fulfilling professional life. A career isn’t satisfying if your family is unhappy. As my oldest approaches teenage years, it’s been so important to have this time with my children and establish new ways of doing things that work for all of us.