2015 Best MBAs: Miwa Takaki


Miwa Takaki

Cornell University, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA

MBAs are typically first adopters who embrace the possibilities of innovation. Miwa Takaki is one such MBA. A member of the first class at Cornell Tech in New York City, Takaki squeezed two years into an accelerated one-year program. During her time, Takaki organized a week-long student trip to Silicon Valley and a hackathan for middle school students. She won the D-Prize for her work in social entrepreneurship. And she did all this while simultaneously pursuing a graduate degree in sustainability management at Columbia University. Takaki will be joining eBay after graduation.

Age: 28

Hometown: Seattle, WA (Born in Japan)

Undergraduate School: Northwestern University

Undergraduate Degree: Dual major in Industrial Engineering & Economics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Nestle’s Performance Acceleration Team

Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? N/A (The Johnson Cornell Tech MBA is a one-year, accelerated program)

Where will you be working after graduation? Sr. Technical Product Manager for eBay NYC (Onsite Traffic and Monetization)

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…”I realized I wasn’t creating the change in the world that I knew I was capable of. As an environmentalist, I had been trying to drive a sustainability initiative at my company. After several successes with the initiative, I realized I could do something even bigger – that I could (one day!) be the next Sheryl Sandberg or Michelle Obama. I saw business school as an opportunity to engage with and learn from others who want to do the same.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…considering other graduate school opportunities. I have always known I wanted to pursue graduate education because I love to learn and to be around others who are as passionate as I am about learning and development.”

What are your long-term professional goals? Stay active in the evolution of Cornell Tech and its network, launch a new product of my own, create volunteering and education opportunities for the workplace and beyond, sit on the Board of a non-profit, and start my own business.

Favorite Courses: Co-curriculum company projects with Computer Science MS students, Tech Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, Critical Thinking

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? I was recently awarded the Johnson Fried Fellowship, a prestigious annual award granted to seven graduating students on the basis of academic achievement and demonstrated leadership. This year, the candidates were selected from among 280 students, nominated by students, faculty and staff. Nominees were interviewed by the Dean and an advising team. Being granted this award was meaningful to me, because it meant that the classmates and professors who inspire me each and every day recognized my leadership and capacity to serve as an inspiration to others. It was extremely humbling to be chosen as a Fried Fellow, especially from a pool of truly outstanding MBA students.

The Fried fellowship also allowed me to accelerate my efforts toward increasing volunteering and mentorship opportunities for graduate students. With the strong support of my fellow students, faculty, and staff, I was able to launch a community day dedicated to sharing knowledge with underserved community groups. The project, called Hack Roosevelt Island Day, enables Cornell Tech students to connect with communities on our new campus on Roosevelt Island. The inaugural event, hosted by our students, includes an Earth Day themed hackathon challenge for the local middle school, as well as tech training for the senior citizen association. The Fried project accelerated the potential for Cornell Tech’s growing role in revolutionizing interdisciplinary learning in computer science and business for everyone.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? It may sound clichéd at first, but I would not be where I am today without my 38 close friends and classmates. This is not trivial. As the inaugural MBA class at Cornell Tech, we are and always will be a different class than any other MBA program. Being a new program, we’ve experienced the challenges and frustrations of a startup, while reveling in the exciting opportunities to create real change in how we shape graduate education in the future, especially for interdisciplinary collaboration between technology and business. I am blown away each and every day by my classmates (and best friends) and am lucky to be surrounded by so many people I respect and admire. They are pioneers, builders, artists, founders, innovators, connectors and visionaries – and they continue to challenge me to become my best.

Why did you choose this business school? When considering graduate programs, I knew that I wanted to be a part of a movement that created real change in the world. As part of “v1,” I saw the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA as an opportunity to be a leader in a new and evolving collaboration between business and technology – something that no other business school can offer. I knew this program would not only be a chance to spearhead change in graduate education, but would also expose me to experiences I had never encountered. And unlike existing MBA programs, the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA runs like a startup, meaning that each individual creates enormous impact on curriculum, activities, and engagement. The opportunities afforded by the program – whether it’s the interdisciplinary collaboration or the suite of influential players in the world of technology and business – are to be admired.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Being surrounded by people who are doing incredible things every single day. The MBA program at Cornell Tech was a unique opportunity to meet, engage, and build long-lasting friendships with some of the most interesting and ambitious people I have met in my life. These friendships grew over afternoon beers on the Ithaca gorges, 24-hour hackathons in the Google building, and in class travels abroad. While the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA experience is unique in more than one way, the intimate family it creates is what I enjoy most. If I were asked to do this again, I would do so in a heartbeat.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? Undoubtedly, one of the most memorable moments from business school was our class trip to Israel. Day-to-day, 30 of us worked with local tech startups on projects ranging from creating go-to-market strategies, to launching campaigns for increasing market adoption. We studied the cultural, political, and social complexities of the area through discussions about Arab-Jew relations, digital media, and religious diversity. We discovered the world of underground street art in Tel Aviv, camped in the Bedouin desert tents, and did a sunrise hike and yoga over the Dead Sea. These little moments – laughing with friends while biking along the Mediterranean coast or sharing an intimate meal in a chef’s living room – made the trek a trip of a lifetime.

Fun fact about yourself: I can finally do a yogi headstand

Favorite book: Born to Run

Favorite movie: Bourne series

Favorite musical performer: Daft Punk (haven’t seen them live yet!)

Favorite television show: Broad City (the funniest women on television with all female writers)

Favorite vacation spot: Somewhere I’ve never been – I love to travel and explore.

What are your hobbies? Running (currently training for my third marathon – NYC marathon), biking, swimming (aspiring triathlete), camping, yoga, skiing, certified scuba diver, rollerblading, reading, live music, traveling (24+ countries), volunteering, my dog Lola

Twitter Handle: @wawamiwa

What made Miwa such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015? 

“Miwa is a standout student within our inaugural class of the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA, both for her academic and professional achievements, and also her commitment to making an impact in the community and world around her. On the academic front, while undertaking our rigorous one-year MBA program at Cornell Tech, Miwa is simultaneously pursuing a Masters in Sustainability Management at Columbia University. Professionally, Miwa is headed to eBay based in New York City later this year. And finally, as part of the New York City community and Cornell Tech – a venture that is intended to directly impact the tech ecosystem of New York City – Miwa proactively organized her classmates to undertake service programs, such as tutoring local students and running hackathons on Roosevelt Island, the future permanent home of the Cornell Tech campus.”

– Amanda Shaw, assistant dean, Student Services, Johnson at Cornell

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