Meet The MBA Class Of 2021: Yukari Hayasaka, IMD Business School

Yukari Hayasaka

IMD Business School

“Passionate explorer of everyday experiences.”

Hometown: Kobe, Japan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I practiced Japanese tea ceremonies and tea tastings, and am a certified tea master.

Undergraduate School and Major: Osaka University, Japan, Bachelor of Arts

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Nestlé, E-commerce strategy and project manager, Japan

IMD classes have been dubbed the “Mighty 90” for their talent and versatility. What has been the best part of being in a small class with this group of classmates? The best part is that you get to know everyone. I would say hi to any of my classmates knowing where they’re from, what their interests are, or who their teammates are. The proximity definitely makes a small batch special. You do not only have 90+ people, you have more than 90 people who you really know and can chat and feel comfortable with. I am pretty sure that this cannot be said of a batch of 500.

Aside from classmates, what part of IMD’s MBA programming led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Since IMD has a focus on leadership, I believed it could provide an interactive experience which would be transferrable to a real-life professional context. As much as I trusted all the business schools to have top level education in given lectures, after 8+ years of managing teams, I was looking for something that would significantly help my leadership and team management skills. After talking to alumni, I was confident that IMD offered a very intense program that would improve my abilities to lead in a fast-moving, high-pressure environment.

What has been favorite tradition or event at IMD? Drinks in the dungeons (our underground study rooms). I am pretty sure every year the students have drinks in the dungeons, but with the COVID pandemic, we were privileged that we could still see each other in person and have fun, even though it was in small groups. I was willing to accept the fact that I would be in a virtual MBA program when I came here, but so far I have been able to attend classes in person and hang out to enjoy drinks with my friends!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Launching and building a brand called SPECIAL.T, a tea brand in Nestlé for the Japanese market, was the most impactful achievement in my career. Building up the brand value and experience from scratch, from B2C platforms, retail displays, TV commercials, SNS content, and all the consumer touch points — all while working with a cross-functional and international team — was an amazing experience. The most rewarding part of it was our loyal customer base; we were able to establish 62K direct online subscribers who loved our brand and actively interacted in our activities. I will never forget the day when I was interviewing a customer who told me this: ‘Drinking tea from my SPECIAL.T has become part of my routine. I do not know what I would do without it anymore. I start my day with the perfect cup and get home tired and looking forward to relaxing with another one.’ I was proud and happy to have delivered a positive change in her life.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: It was being able to be my genuine self. It sounds easy and very basic, but I came to IMD to be comfortable with myself and the way I am. So far, I would say I have progressed well, and the fact that IMD has such a diverse set of people pushed me to get out of my shell. The school offers an intense experience where you are put under a lot of pressure and sharing that experience with all your peers really brings out your true colors. I have learned new things about myself that I will continue to explore throughout the remaining year, hoping to come out next year as a confident individual.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Although my family background is pretty international with everyone living abroad, I grew up in Japan and both my education and career were based there. I couldn’t see myself staying in one country for the rest of my life. Although I lived in Japan, I felt always different around the societal norms. After almost nine years of working in a global company where I struggled to get a position overseas, I decided it was time to take action myself. IMD is my bridge towards global exposure for both my career and my personal life.

What has been your best memory at IMD thus far? The Leadership Lab week, where we explored group dynamics and leadership behaviors, has been the most memorable so far. During that week, I reflected a lot about myself, and received honest feedback from my teammates. I believe in a corporate environment, where you are already quite established, it is difficult to receive genuine feedback. I was lucky that I had this special opportunity to gain valuable insights. On top of that, the bond that it created for the team was phenomenal. We were able to connect at a personal level, which played a big role in our collaborative work throughout all of our team activities. The leadership lab week demonstrated the importance of teams and self-awareness, and I am certain that I will apply the learnings during my future career.


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