Meet IMD Business School’s Distinguished Alumni: Kenichiro Kubo

Kenichiro Kubo

Class / Grad Year: MBA Class of 2015

Current Employer / Role: ReCor Medical / Director, Executive projects

Best memory at school: My best memory at IMD involves the weekly social activities. There were many classes I enjoyed, but discussing them here might spoil the experience for incoming students. I remember that every Wednesday, we would gather at a bar near IMD. One of our classmates took the initiative to approach two nearby bars and asked them to pitch special packages for IMD students, with the winning bar becoming our weekly hangout spot. This creative mindset was eye-opening for me, as it showed that anything could be negotiable.

Another memorable experience was the weekend feedback and commitment sessions that a classmate and I initiated during our first month. We would meet at the school on weekends to share our thoughts and provide feedback to each other. At the end of each session, we would set commitments for the coming week. I cherished the balance of enjoying life during the MBA program while dedicating serious time to ensure our ongoing development.

Your advice to incoming first-years: IMD is an ideal fit for those who are curious about exploring their true selves, open to receiving feedback, and courageous enough to embrace change. During your time at IMD, you will continuously experience these three aspects, and while the changes within you may not be immediately apparent, they will contribute to your long-term leadership development. As I learned at IMD, leadership begins with self-understanding.

My IMD experiences proved especially valuable four years after graduation, when I had to manage multiple countries remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic as a first-year general manager. It was challenging, as I had to let go of some team members and communicate temporary furloughs while simultaneously maintaining morale and achieving our targets. Despite the hardships of COVID-19, we met our goals and retained most of our team members. I believe that without the strong foundation IMD provided, it would have been much more difficult to navigate this situation as a leader.

Where do you currently live? Singapore, soon to be based in Palo Alto, California. I started to work in Greater Boston after graduation, then worked in Singapore for about six years. The next destination is back to the USA.

Fun fact about you: I am currently supporting a Koi fish farm in a rural part of Japan. During a recent career break before moving to Palo Alto, California, I had the opportunity to work with a local Japanese government to improve community healthcare. While there, I came across a small company that breeds Koi fish, which are recognized as ‘Living Jewels’ around the world. I instantly fell in love with these creatures and decided to help the industry grow globally. The Japanese government also views Koi fish as a strategic export product. Having built up international experience, my passion now lies in contributing to the commercialization of high-quality Japanese products worldwide.

Why did you chose your school? I chose IMD because I believed it could offer the ideal environment and curriculum for developing leadership skills in a diverse setting. Firstly, IMD had a small class size of 90 students at the time, with everyone undergoing the same program except for a few elective courses. This type of environment fosters mental resilience, as it encourages students to continually build relationships regardless of personal preferences. In essence, I believed it would present opportunities to work with team members whose communication styles might be challenging. This assumption proved accurate, and as a manager, I find that my IMD experiences continue to be invaluable. Secondly, IMD attracts diverse, courageous, and open-minded classmates who are willing to listen and provide feedback. While other schools may also boast diverse student bodies, the unique feedback-driven environment at IMD allows diversity to truly enhance our leadership capabilities.

What student organizations did you join? I was a member of the healthcare career community and the group exercise community. The healthcare community’s objective was to host sessions with alumni working in the healthcare industry, enabling us to learn from their experiences. In fact, one of our classmates became interested in healthcare after attending some of these sessions. The group exercise community focused on organizing activities like group yoga, morning HIIT sessions, after-class running, and swimming in the picturesque Lake Leman. I still fondly recall the stunning sunsets while swimming in the lake during the summer in beautiful Lausanne.

Favorite trait in others: My favorite trait in others at IMD is their willingness to support one another. Our chat group, which was created during our time at IMD, remains active almost daily even seven years after graduation. In this group, we share life updates, inquiries, and various topics. I recall a moment when I faced a career crisis and openly shared the news in the class chat, trusting my peers. Many responded with helpful suggestions, offers to be discussion partners, or shared their own experiences of overcoming similar challenges. I had never felt such strong support before, and despite our physical distance across the globe, our bonds remained tight, allowing us to help each other. I believe this is a unique benefit that a small class size can provide.

One thing you would’ve changed in the MBA experience: In retrospect, I believe that, like many of my peers, I should have studied more diligently, particularly in areas I initially assumed were of little interest to me. Once I became a general manager, I found myself responsible for multiple functions, overseeing everything downstream from the warehouse shipments. My responsibilities encompassed not only sales and marketing but also logistics, customer support, operations, regulatory affairs, finance, and more. Reflecting on my IMD experience, I realize there was a wealth of knowledge in the lectures that could have greatly benefited me.

Although I aspired to pursue a global healthcare career, I did not have a clear enough vision of becoming a general manager overseeing multiple regions. Having well-defined questions to ask ourselves can significantly deepen our learning. In my case, if I had envisioned a future management position, I could have extracted even more valuable insights from all the lectures IMD had to offer.

Favorite class? Aside from the leadership courses, my favorite class at IMD was the finance course taught at that time by Prof. Nuno Fernandes. His strict teaching style demanded full concentration and engagement. With a background in dentistry, management consulting, and pharmaceutical marketing, I had limited knowledge of finance. Prof. Fernandes’ captivating classes showed me how interesting finance could be and emphasized the importance of understanding its core principles to be an effective leader.

When I later assumed a general management role, I read Prof. Fernandes’ book, Finance for Executives. While reading, I could vividly recall his voice and the intensity of his classes. IMD boasts an array of exceptional professors, but Prof. Nuno Fernandes’ course holds a special place as my favorite.

One secret to success: Consistently perform at your best, earn the trust of your supporters, and maintain strong relationships with them. Reflecting on my career, I realize that my growth was always facilitated by someone who believed in my potential. When I was appointed as the Country Manager for Singapore at Danaher, despite lacking prior P&L or people management experience, a senior leader took a risk on me. Later, when I left Danaher/Envista, a senior leader I had known from my first company invited me to work in Palo Alto, USA, even though I didn’t possess specific knowledge of the therapeutic area or market. I believe that pivotal moments of change in our careers, such as transitioning from manager to general manager or joining the C-suite, require the support of influential individuals.

What is your biggest regret? Upon reflection, I honestly do not have any significant regrets. I attribute this to two factors: my experiences while at IMD and after graduating from IMD. While at IMD, I participated in numerous sessions, received feedback, and attended leadership classes that facilitated self-reflection and a deeper understanding of who I am. This process also involved accepting past decisions and understanding why I chose to study at IMD. Importantly, I was able to distinguish between desires driven by personal ambition and those influenced by external expectations. Since graduating from IMD, I have remained true to my core values, minimizing potential regrets in my life. Additionally, I have continued to engage in sessions with a psychoanalyst and leadership coach from IMD, which have helped shape and refine my values over time.

What is the next thing you’re going to do on your bucket list? As a newbie triathlete who started only about a year and half ago, my next step is to finish an ironman race. The race consists of 3.9km swim, 180km bike, and a full marathon. Last month, I was in Davao, Philippines, completing a half ironman race. I am planning to join an Ironman race in California in the near future.

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