Purchasing manager in the Raw Materials Division of Kirin Holdings Company, Ltd., Yoshimi scans the globe for exotic, high-quality fruit juices for Kirin’s vast, inventive selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. She also manages the purchasing and delivery schedule for the US$65M in fruit juice distributed annually to production facilities across Japan.
For me, this year as a Sloan Fellow was about surprises. Ok, I expected to learn finance and strategy—that’s why I joined the program. And I did learn finance and strategy, but the major revelations for me were around leadership. The more I learned about leadership, the more I wanted to learn. I took every leadership course I could. I took full advantage of the individual and team coaching. Every course, every experience was like a building block that brought me closer and closer to understanding my leadership style and how I could improve while still being true to myself.
Before this program, I thought that leadership was about being strong and decisive and keeping others in step. I have changed my perspective over the last year and come into my own as a leader. When I return to Kirin, I know I will be more action-oriented, more collaborative, more inclusive—and more confident. I will show more vulnerability. My attitude will be, “Let’s get this done together.” This transformation is totally a result of having this year to reflect on who I am as a leader—and who I want to be.
And that brings me to the whole idea of taking a year away. I feel like I have really accelerated my professional growth in a short time. Why prolong—and dilute—that journey when you can do it in one super-focused year? And because of the powerful, immersive, collaborative experience, you bond with your classmates for life. What a network!
Not a year off—a year very much ON
In terms of my personal life, you would think that with two small children—4 and 6 years old—a part-time MBA program would be more convenient, but the intensive one-year format worked better for me. My life won’t be disrupted for a couple of years. My children, my husband, and I are having one really action-packed year, then everything returns to normal.
In fact, looking back now, I believe that I could only learn what I’ve learned by taking this year to focus. And I could only learn what I’ve learned at MIT Sloan. It’s all about ROI. The return on investment in this program happens in real time. I’ve learned so much that I can immediately apply to the business world. And I learned something new every day from my classmates—another unexpected bonus of this program. My classmates included experts in engineering, supply chains, high tech, finance. Where else could you spend so much time working intensely with experts from different industries, countries, and cultures, each bringing invaluable experiences to our classes and projects? I now know how business cultures function in so many different parts of the world.
Comfortable with finance?!
Another revelation was sustainability. During the course of the program, my awareness changed. I realize now that I can be the starting point for change, that I can be a front runner in advancing sustainability at my organization. I have become so passionate about this issue that I’m pursuing the Sustainability Certificate at MIT Sloan. I can’t wait to bring what I’ve learned to my work going forward.
And it’s funny. Finance was not my thing, but being surrounded by so many Fellows with finance backgrounds, my own level of expertise was elevated without my realizing it. I actually now feel comfortable talking finance—that I did not see coming! Another eye-opener was entrepreneurship. I thought that in a multinational company, entrepreneurship classes wouldn’t be relevant. I learned, though, that having an entrepreneurial mindset is important in any organization.
Because of revelation after revelation, this program has opened my eyes to how energizing education is, how vital to professional—and personal—growth. Five or ten years from now, I will want to come back to MIT for a refresher, both in knowledge and outlook. That mindset of being open and eager for learning will be a key element of my world view for the rest of my life. Don’t know something? Embrace it!