Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Shuji Maeda 

IESE Business School Class of 2021 at the University of Navarra

Passionate explorer always ready to encounter new experiences and exposures to differences and changes.

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan (Originally from Los Angeles, United States)

Fun Fact About Yourself: I used to fly as a flight attendant!! It was my company’s sudden decision to select me as one of the only three male flight attendants among the 9,000 flight attendants in ANA. Of course, I was not expecting this at all… what a shock right? But the experience came out to be full of excitements and I got to fly around 80 destinations on ANA’s operating network.

Undergraduate School and Major: Keio University, Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: All Nippon Airways (ANA) – Manager, Alliances & International Affairs

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In the Alliances & International Affairs, I was responsible for all the bilateral partnerships with European airlines. I initiated several new partnerships (Joint Venture, Codeshare) with the European airlines in order to capture the travel demands between Japan and Europe. My most recent and memorable project was the brand-new codeshare partnership with Alitalia that was launched in October 2018. I managed the entire task stream and led negotiations with both internal and external stakeholders for the partnership to be thoroughly activated.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I find my classmates to be super reliable. There are so much to prepare (Visa, finding flats, resident card, etc.) before and after arriving in Barcelona; the process can be very complex and confusing. But whenever I ask my classmates for their help, they always react very quickly with all the right answers. I am so excited to start the long-lasting friendship with every one of them!!

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case study is based on real-world business practices and you really need to put yourself in the shoes of management to truly understand the stories behind it. It’s an easy way to get to know how business is conducted in different industries and companies. And usually, there’s no right or wrong answer. I think it’s the whole process of thinking, discussing, and approaching each situation from different perspectives is what really matters. And to tackle 600+ cases with IESE’s super diversified teams, I’m sure there’s so much that I can learn from it.

Aside from classmates and cases, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The challenging environment of IESE. During my application process, I met with several IESE alumnus and students, and it was interesting to hear that IESE’s program was very, very challenging. It’s not only because there are tons of preparation needed for the classes. There seems to be more struggling to figure out how to contribute in a very diverse team, prioritizing daily tasks along with other activities (career search, Spanish lessons, clubs, etc), and surviving in Spain as a non-EU resident. I really think that putting myself in a challenging situation brings transformation and also the outcomes will be significantly greater. In that way, I found IESE’s challenging program to be the most attractive in pursuing an MBA.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Entrepreneurship Club and the summer entrepreneurship experience.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? During the interview, I was asked many questions about my childhood experiences. Honestly, it was quite difficult to clearly remember all the events that happened so many years ago and how I reacted to each situation, but I really felt that the interviewer really looked into what is behind my personality and how I reached to become my current self. This was unique compared to the applications for the other schools.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Working in the airline industry for more than 10 years, I’ve realized that my skills and knowledge were becoming too much airline-specific and focused. Airlines is a rather unique industry, but I believe that there are more that can be learned and brought in to the industry from outside business, people, and their practices. I found the MBA to be the best opportunity to achieve this. At that very best timing, my company had appointed me to participate in an MBA program under their sponsorship.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? IE, ESADE

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I found the campus visit to be the easiest way to understand the entire character of the school. When I visited IESE, they arranged me with a campus tour, Q&A session with current students and the admissions officer, and even let me participate in one of the classes. This whole day at IESE was very helpful to determine my fit with the school environment and its culture.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was when I moved to Japan when I was 18. Although I am a Japanese national, I was born and spent my entire childhood in the US. So, moving to Japan was like living in a totally new country for me. As I have expected, there were many cultural gaps that I found between Japan and the US, which sometimes puts me in a very difficult situation. In the end, I really think that I got to better understand both sides of my identity of being a Japanese-American. From this experience, now I am very passionate about encountering different cultures, especially by traveling to different countries, and experience life out of my comfort zone.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I would like to represent the airline industry in ways to provide people with easier and better access to the world. Ultimately, I want to provide more opportunities for people to see the outside world and to be exposed to so many different cultures, people, and values. This, I believe, is the great stimulus of creativity and self-improvement, and something that all people should keep on experiencing.

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