Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Takafumi Shibata, IMD Business School

Takafumi Shibata

IMD Business School

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Hometown: Aichi, Japan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I became a father during the MBA and started another intensive program: fatherhood! Leaving my family in my home country to pursue an MBA in Switzerland while my wife was pregnant was a tough decision, but six months later, my family finally came to Switzerland.

Undergraduate School and Major: Hitotsubashi University, Economics, Japan

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Panasonic Corporation, International Sales & Marketing

What has been the best part of being in a small class with this group of classmates, known for their talent and versatility? The small yet diverse cohort has been the foundation of my self-awareness and leadership development since I started the program. Not only does the small class foster unity and help us develop bonding, but it also urges a sense of responsibility for all of us to actively engage in both on- and off-campus activities.

With its strong focus on leadership development, group work is embedded in every part of the IMD program. All of us are encouraged to apply our unique expertise and provide honest feedback to each other, while continually developing relationships regardless of our differences. The prominent level of engagement and versatility of the class adds more complexity to such an exercise and hence enriches our learning opportunities.

Through the close (and sometimes intensive) interactions with classmates, I have become more aware of how our differences in cultural and professional backgrounds affect our thinking process and communication style, and the IMD MBA continually pushes us to learn how to overcome such differences and perform better as a team in demanding situations.

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? When I was researching business schools, none of the IMD alumni missed mentioning the “Leadership Stream” as the highlight of their MBA. Experiencing difficulties in leading and managing multinational teams and stakeholders at my previous workplace, my top priority was learning leadership in a highly international environment. IMD’s unique approach to leadership development, with a strong focus on self-awareness supported by year-long sessions with a psychoanalyst and leadership coaches, was a clear distinction from other MBA programs.

IMD is known for academic rigor. What is one strategy you used that would help a future IMD MBA better adapt to the workload early on? My strategy was nothing unique from other MBAs – know your priorities. Constantly ask yourself why you are here. In my case, it is gauging self-awareness and developing the foundation of my leadership style through the academically demanding program. I believe all MBAs come with different objectives that change over time. So being conscious about what I am looking for throughout the program has been an essential strategy for me to adapt to the workload and take the best out of it.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was engaged in initiating and creating the mid-term business plan at Panasonic’s European headquarters in Germany, developing sales projections and facilitating discussions among stakeholders, including EU and Japanese top management. Working closely with a director of the business unit in Europe, I created a key investment plan to increase sales headcounts at the European headquarters to develop business for the new product category, and managed to solicit Japan’s headquarters to make the investment, even though I needed to do all the pitches online due to COVID-19.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: Although it is still a work-in-progress, the level of self-awareness I have obtained through the program is enormous. Thanks to constant feedback and discussions with professors, leadership coaches, psychoanalysts, and classmates, I have come to realize many aspects of myself that I did not know or pretended not to be aware of. Combined with several unexpected events in my private life during the program, learning at IMD and support from my psychoanalyst helped me to build a “spine” that has become the foundation of my self-awareness and authenticity. The “spine” is still premature and fragile, so I will keep honing it for the rest of the program and even after graduation.

Where is your favorite hang-out in Lausanne? Why do you (and your classmates) gravitate there? It is such a privilege to study in a place like Lausanne, where I have access to many beautiful places inside and outside of the city. Aside from the popular places where many people from IMD gather for drinks, Lausanne offers beautiful parks and beaches by Lac Leman. Hanging out with classmates at such places helps me to relax, free up my mind, and appreciate the moments we share. And not to forget, there are many outstanding mountains around the area where we can go hiking in summer and skiing/snowboarding during the chilly winter.

What do you hope to do after graduation? I will continuously pursue international career opportunities where I can work with people from diverse backgrounds. I want to hone my business development and general management skills in multinational organizations, making meaningful impacts on society.

What has been your best memory at IMD thus far?  It is impossible to select only one moment as the best memory at IMD. It has been full of enjoyment from Day 1 to today. There are numerous nights in the “Dungeons” (IMD’s MBA meeting rooms for group work), the White Horse or Lacustre (local popular bars), home parties, unforgettable classes, short trips with classmates, and the first time I saw my daughter after six months…this question already causes a wave of nostalgia!

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