By Dai Ikegami, SFMBA '22
A question at the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA preview event had a great impact on me. “MIT is the place to invent the future. So, what future would you like to (re)invent?” The question urged me to explore what I want to achieve in life.
When it came time to attend the Sloan Fellows June orientation, I was both excited and nervous, but my anxiety was immediately diminished by Dean David C. Schmittlein’s opening remarks. “If the strengths that brought you here were all you needed for the time ahead,” he told us, “why are you here? You are here to become a leader with the methods, skills, and traits that your organization will need in the future.”
After orientation, I resolved to unlearn what I knew, put myself outside my comfort zone, and develop the leadership capabilities, methods, and networks necessary to realize my vision for reinventing the Japanese talent development system. I decided to focus my energies on a thesis that explored how traditional Japanese companies could reinvigorate managers to improve competitive advantage in a world of uncertainty.
While MIT offers an expansive range of courses, the thesis allowed me to dive deep into research around the essentials of leadership development and pursue my personal vision. I had the opportunity to interact with my advisor, Deborah Ancona, with other MIT professors, and with thought leaders in the field of leadership development at other universities, including Harvard Business School.
During the past year, I also opted to serve as a Sloan Senator. The MIT Sloan Senate is the principal interface between the student body and the administration. The goal: to make the student experience as rewarding as possible. I chose to be a Senator, actually, to make my own experience as rewarding as possible. I wanted to learn the true meaning and impact of diversity, equity and inclusion by engaging with the 130+ members of my cohort. They have come to MIT from 40 countries and many different industries, and I respect each of them with my whole heart.
Whenever we voice different opinions and approaches to issues, it has been a real learning experience for me to exercise adaptability and empathy, listen to diverse perspectives, and promote inclusive leadership. I’ve learned that it’s crucial to embrace both polarities, figure out the prevailing universal values among us, and come up with action items that will strengthen all of us as principled leaders. In fact, I built a wonderful support system with the three other Senators. After months of working together, despite different perspectives and styles of communication, we find we are always united in the end.
So, what is next? I will pivot my role from global sales to human resources and development at my company Mitsui & Co., Ltd. I will introduce people analytics to the company to accelerate diversity and inclusion, and reinvent the talent development system on the basis of my learnings and experiences at MIT. I’m both excited and nervous—just like I was at June orientation. The difference between then and now: I understand my personal vision better, and I feel more confident to tackle the unknown.
So, I want to ask you: what future would you like to (re)invent?