Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Yasushi Kobayashi, IESE Business School

Yasushi Kobayashi

IESE Business School at the University of Navarra


Hometown: Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a big fan of sushi.  I’m so proud that “Sushi” is one part of my first name!

Undergraduate School and Major: Waseda University (Japan), Commerce

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Toyota Tsusho Corporation (New Business Development Manager)

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? In the case method, you are required to make a decision assuming that you are the CEO of a company. My post-MBA career goal is to start my own search fund and operate an acquired company as CEO, so I am convinced that this method will help me figure out what the correct decision is in operating a company.

Also, I would like to point out that we have a lot of chances to listen to opinions from students representing more than 55 nationalities during classes. There are a wide variety of opinions I have never thought about in my life, and this environment helps me realize there are still a lot of ways of thinking in this world, which broadens my horizons.

What has been your favorite part of Barcelona so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? My favorite part of Barcelona has been the climate. It is said that it is sunny for more than 300 days annually in Barcelona. Even if I am overwhelmed by a bunch of cases, this weather motivates me to keep moving forward.

Before I came here, I worked in the conglomerate of Toyota and I had a chance to live for 5 years in Latin America (two years in Quito, Ecuador and three years in Havana, Cuba). This was the first time that I lived in a Latin country and it enabled me to broaden my horizons. In a nutshell I fell in love with Latin culture. People were very nice and I was especially struck by the Latin way of thinking that family and friends are the most precious things in life. In Japan, family and friends are also seen as important, but many Japanese sometimes sacrifice their time with family and friends because of working long hours. So, it was very natural that I chose an MBA program in Spain.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the IESE Business School MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The reason why I chose the IESE MBA program is that IESE is a business school which is leading search fund study all over the world. My post-MBA career goal is starting my own search fund in Japan. However, search funds are still quite a new scheme in Japan and there are only a few searchers as of today and a small community to rely on. In contrast, search funds are very common in Spain and since 2011 IESE has been working on the study of them in conjunction with Stanford. Now IESE is known as one of the best search fund schools in the world. During this program, I want to acquire know-how of and network with the search fund community.

The IESE MBA is known for heavy reading and rigorous academics. Has the program lived up to its reputation? What advice would you give to first-years to help them thrive in the early months of the program? I would say it is 120% true.  I had known that the IESE program was famous for its intensive program, but I realized that this program was a way heavier than I expected. IESE requires you to read three cases every single day and do a team meeting every morning, so I was honestly overwhelmed. But thanks to my teammates and section mates, I gradually got used to the workload and now I can manage them. I personally believe that collaborating with your teammates is the key to overcoming this.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at IESE? What struck me was that I could meet a lot of students from various nationalities who are interested in search funds after graduation. I have already met more than 10 students with aspirations to form their own search fund on campus and we periodically hang out together. Every time we hold a reunion, I get more motivated by them. I really love it, and I’m convinced this network will help me a lot when I start fundraising.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest challenge was when I worked in Cuba and founded a new company for the first time in our company’s history and concluded a $30-million contract with the Cuban government.

Cuba is a Socialist country, where it is obligatory to conduct a certain amount of trading with the Cuban government for over three years, and then obtain approval from the central government to found a new company. However, I felt it was necessary to have our own entity in Cuba without waiting three years, because we needed to create an after-service network.

Therefore, I visited Cuban entities and petitioned them to issue a recommendation letter that supported the foundation of our company in a prompt way. However, our request was repeatedly refused because there was no precedent. The situation looked dire, but I never gave up and visited over 20 ministries and 100 state-owned companies. Finally, I received the letter from a ministry.

After that, I had an official meeting with the incumbent vice president of Cuba, and I appealed for the need to establish our entity. As a result, I could establish the new company within one year. Afterwards, I became the first CEO, and succeeded in signing a $30-million contract, and this project was awarded “Project of the Year” in my company.

What I learned is that “Where there’s a will, there is a way.” When people face hardship, they hesitate to keep challenging themselves, but you cannot see the reality you want if you give up. I learned that a path may not be there to begin with, but you must forge it yourself through hard work.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: It has been only five months since our program started, so I don’t have a big accomplishment yet.  But I have just been overwhelmed by IESE’s academic program and I would say the biggest accomplishment so far is that I (barely) survived in the 1dy term!!! My goal is to launch my search fund by the end of the graduation, so I will achieve this biggest accomplishment by putting in a lot of effort.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the IESE MBA program? I would say that the most important thing to gaining admission is grit. I know the admission process is really tough especially if you are a non-native English speaker. It requires a lot of time and effort.  There are a lot of people who are interested in doing an MBA in the world, but unfortunately most of them don’t realize it just because they can’t follow through on their commitments to make this happen. So, my advice is to define clearly why you want to do an MBA and keep working hard and never give up until the end.


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