Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Satofumi Ushigami, IESE Business School

Satofumi Ushigami

IESE Business School at the University of Navarra

“Realistic idealist, passionate about making good impact on societies.”

Hometown: Fukuoka, Japan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I´m an in-house chef with over 20 years of experience. I started cooking for my parents when I was an elementary school student (my first dish was miso soup). Ever since, I have enjoyed preparing meals for families and friends.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Bachelor: Economics, University of Tokyo

Master: Economic Policy, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deputy Director, Japan Bank for International Cooperation

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? With the case method, students are expected to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist. They are tasked with structuring and analyzing the challenges that the protagonist faces, ultimately arriving at solutions. With a clear objective of problem-solving, students repeatedly engage in learning various theories and analytical frameworks, participating in discussions with outstanding peers from around the world. Through the iterative process of exploration and solution-seeking, I believe that, in the future, when students assume leadership roles and confront unstructured real-life challenges, they will be better equipped to make pragmatic and effective decisions.

What has been your favorite part of Barcelona so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? Food, climate, people, culture…Everything is exceptional! Thanks to this incredible living environment, I can fully concentrate on my studies and enhance my learning experience to the fullest throughout my MBA journey.

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 case method was crucial for me. While working in the planning department, I encountered various challenges such as growth strategies, corporate governance, and compliance. The desire to enhance my problem-solving skills in addressing these complex challenges was a key motivation for pursuing an MBA. Recognizing that, I hypothesized that the case method offered a more practical learning opportunity compared to traditional book study. Hence, I selected IESE Business School. Now, after six months into the program, I am confident that my hypothesis was accurate.

Moreover, the availability of non-English language learning opportunities was another factor influencing my school choice. I worked for three years in South Korea, during which I studied Korean and conducted my work in the Korean language. From this experience, I strongly realized the value of being able to speak the local language in a non-English-speaking environment. While considering my desire to strengthen my skills by learning another language, especially Spanish, which is widely used in business, I discovered that IESE Business School offers a program called BSP (Business Spanish Program). This became a crucial criterion in my school selection process.

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? As anticipated, IESE Business School assigns a substantial amount of reading as part of the coursework, resulting in days dedicated to continuous contemplation of cases from 6 am until midnight. Active participation and discussions among students are encouraged during classes, and there are numerous moments that impose mental pressure. However, it is precisely in such challenging and stressful environments that one can experience significant personal growth. Embracing these moments and finding enjoyment in them, I believe, is the key to making the student life at IESE Business School fulfilling.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at IESE? I am a member of the Energy Club and participated in a career trek organized by the club in Amsterdam in November. During the trip, we visited various companies ranging from major energy corporations to startups. It provided an opportunity to learn about the strategies of each company and stay updated on the latest trends in the industry. Additionally, we had opportunities to discuss the challenges currently faced by these companies. This unique experience allowed me to apply classroom learning to real-world issues, making it a highly enriching and educational time.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I led the establishment of two pivotal entities, “Sustainability Management Department” and “Energy Transformation Strategy Office.” This served as a defining experience that prompted me to contemplate the roles the entities should play given the societal shift towards sustainability. It also led me to consider how to coordinate within the company to drive organizational transformation and how to effectively persuade stakeholders with various perspectives.

This experience highlighted the importance of acquiring a comprehensive understanding of management and leadership, leading me to pursue an MBA to cultivate a holistic perspective in these domains.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: Earning third place in Duke University’s Energy Case Competition stands out as my most notable achievement thus far. Collaborating with students from varied backgrounds, including engineers and consultants of different nationalities, we worked late into the night, engaging in discussions and preparations. It was a challenging task to build effective collaboration within a short timeframe, but it proved to be a valuable experience in understanding the significance and effectiveness of teamwork fueled by strong passion and diverse expertise.

What has been your best memory as an MBA so far? The party held at the end of the first semester was particularly memorable. Hundreds of students gathered to celebrate each other’s efforts over the past few months, spending time talking, drinking, and dancing. I realized that, in just a few months, I was able to meet and form friendships with remarkable students from all around the world. This experience strongly reaffirmed the value of pursuing an MBA for me.


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