2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Shoko Ogasawara, CEIBS

Shoko Ogasawara

CEIBS (China Europe International Business School)

“A Japanese girl believing in her Chinese dream.”

Hometown: Tokushima, Japan

Fun fact about yourself: I gained 7 kgs after I moved to Shanghai because the food is so tasty here.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Tokyo, Bachelor of Law

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Risk Management Department, Tokyo

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Fosun International Limited, Shanghai

Where will you be working after graduation? JD Logistics

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Section Representative
  • Communications Director for the Student Committee
  • Represented CEIBS at the Roland Berger-IESE International MBA Case Competition and INNOVATEChina
  • Awarded Business Fellowship (scholarship)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? INNOVATEChina – A global MBA business plan contest held by CEIBS. As one of the six finalist teams, our team proposed an online platform for custom-made apparel in China.

Our team consisted of four people, but everyone was busy with classes and internships during the preparation period. At the same time, commitments were not all equal (yes, it happens frequently in MBA group work). Also, we had to learn from scratch about the apparel industry and online platforms. As a result, we got more and more frustrated with each meeting. Since I was relatively flexible in terms of my schedule, I accepted the most tasks. I felt it wasn’t fair, but also knew it was necessary to move the project forward. When we finally finished the presentation in front of the judges and audience, I felt that I had moved up a level. Now I am more confident when working in stressful situations and am willing to take on extra work to lead my team to success.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was chosen as the youngest team member to organize an annual global conference within the department where I contributed to the success of the conference. I am proud of it because I had ownership over how to arrange content, took responsibility for logistics, and received a lot of positive feedback from participants.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Shameen Prashantham, who taught Entrepreneurial Management and The Globalization of Chinese Companies (Nanjing Module). As an expert in “dancing with gorillas” (how new ventures quickly scale up by partnering with multinationals), his teaching is always so insightful and well-organized and I gained many new perspectives for analysing business.

Moreover, Professor Shameen is very friendly and always cares about his students. During the three-day Nanjing module, he memorized all 27 students’ names and always calls us by name when he meets us on campus. During Indian Night (one of the biggest annual cultural events at CEIBS), he put on a great guitar performance dressed in traditional clothes.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Chinese Speech Contest organized by the Public Speaking Club. All of the non-native participants, including myself, felt united in struggling to deliver a five-minute speech in Mandarin. It also gave me an opportunity to present my own progress, as CEIBS has a Mandarin requirement for non-native students to complete their MBA degree.

Having studied Mandarin for ten years, I used my speech to introduce a Japanese architect named Tadao Ando, whose exhibition posters had been put up in the subway station near our school. I shared details of his unique life, including how he transformed from a young professional boxer to a self-taught architect. I also shared some of the words he passed onto me and my former batch mates as he spoke at my university’s entrance ceremony in 2008. After preparing for one week and leveraging what I had learned from our Effective Business Communication course, I was awarded as the best speaker in the advanced level category.

Why did you choose this business school? Since my first visit to China – a high school trip to Beijing – I have dreamed of working in China. To make it finally come true, I decided to pursue an MBA in China and prepare myself to work here.

I had three reasons for choosing CEIBS. First, it was the school’s reputation in China. I had heard of it before enrollment, but I was persuaded to apply after learning that CEIBS was well-known amongst my colleagues and that many alumni were working in my internship company. Second, CEIBS offers “China Depth, Global Breadth.” The curriculum is well-balanced with globally-recognized theories as well as cases and guest speakers from Chinese companies. Third, I love the beautiful campus(!). The campus displays its various beauty throughout all four seasons and from morning until night. I still remember once being stunned by the breathtaking night view of the library and the moon after coming out of the library at 11:50 p.m. (it was not unusual for us to study until midnight during terms 1 and 2…).

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Applicants should fully understand how to position the MBA in their life, given that the MBA could be utilized as a turning point in their career, in terms of both industry and location.

In particular, CEIBS can provide more value for global young professionals who have a commitment to China, because of its location (Shanghai) and curriculum (its China depth, again). So, if an applicant hopes to get into CEIBS, I recommend that they should think about why China, in addition to why an MBA and why CEIBS.

What is the biggest myth about your school? CEIBS’ MBA program was ranked #5 in the world by the FT in both 2019 and 2020. Our batch was surprised to see the ranking increase so drastically from the 11th place in 2017 (when many of us decided to apply for CEIBS), then to 8th during enrollment in 2018, and finally to 5th in the middle of our first year in the MBA program.

I assume this surprise comes mainly from CEIBS’ unique characteristics – that is, its China focus – and it seems to be difficult to compare the school by the same standards with other MBAs. As a student with a clear focus on doing business in China, I believe CEIBS is the best school in the world for me since it has helped me with my soft-landing in Chinese society and the job market, as well as in gaining new knowledge and understanding myself much better.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lauren Qin. She is very smart and often poses sharp questions during class (and she is on the Dean’s List). At the same time, she worked hard on extracurricular activities including case competitions, various internships, and singing performances for school events (she is an amazing pop singer). Though she is such a busy and hard-working person, she completes everything with a big smile that always relaxes people around her.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It was a university alumnus who introduced the idea of pursuing an MBA in China to me. He is Japanese with a passion for China, like me, and moved to a startup in Beijing from a traditional Japanese company. He also did an MBA in Beijing and took advantage of the knowledge and network he gained there for his current career in China.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I have only one big item on the list and that is to become a bridge between Japan and China. I have just started my new career in China, but I want to contribute to further strengthening China-Japan relations by expanding my work skills and network in the future.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Shoko is an introvert and normally silent, but very reliable if she is asked for help.


  • Running: I finished the Shanghai half and full marathon, and the Hangzhou half marathon in my first year at CEIBS (yes, I was lucky to win a spot in the entry lottery). Usually, I train on the treadmill in the school’s gym.
  • Singing: I fell in love with opera when I became an adult. For the past 4 years, I have taken lessons in Tokyo, Shanghai, and London (during my 2.5-month exchange at LBS). I also joined the CEIBS Maple Choir and practice Chinese songs every Sunday. I have come to realize that music knows no borders and it helps me to get to meet new teachers and friends in different countries (but please do not ask me how much progress I have made in my singing so far).

What made Shoko such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“From the perspective of a Main Class Coordinator, I think Shoko has been a jewel in the CEIBS MBA Programme. She is definitely not a typical MBA. Her Japanese reticence is in sharp contrast to the glamour and star status of her MBA peers. Yet she is among the powerful few. She convinces others with her actions that it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. She is down-to-earth, yet raises the level of everyone around her.

Shoko is among the few that are always willing to assume additional and challenging responsibilities as long as such responsibilities can motivate her peers to dream bigger and act sooner. I know it is common for MBA students to be wise and efficient. However, it would be impossible not to be astonished when you see how many projects Shoko takes care of at the same time. She is very efficient and devoted to everything she does and often acts to serve the cohort, rather than herself. She has served as a Section Representative and Student Committee member, as an organizer for Chi-pao/Cheongsam Night, Indian Night, Japan Night, the year-end party, the yearbook, and various fundraising activities. She is a key member of Maple Choir, represented the school at the Roland Berger- IESE International MBA Case Competition and INNOVATEChina case competitions. She is never stingy for time to spend with her peers.

Under Shoko’s lead, what seems to be a logistical disaster turns out to be an enhanced approach in diversifying resources in ways others had never considered before. What seems to be trivial or even a burden to others ends up in a solid proposal from Shoko. For topics on which peers are too afraid to speak up, Shoko stands up for solutions without hesitation. For issues the MBA Office thinks are too unsettling for students to adapt to, Shoko rises up to push forward. Personally, I’ve never known anyone who has cared so selflessly about the student body.

Shoko strives for the best, yet remains humble, doing better than most people. It seems to me that nothing can tilt Shoko’s balanced universe of efficiency, exuberance, and excellence.

P.S. If she hides her gentle manners and does not mention to you that she is Japanese, you could by no means tell that she is. Shoko speaks perfect Mandarin with no accent at all (or perhaps with some Shanghai accent!).”

Evelyn Wang
CEIBS MBA Programme Manager


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