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WHU MBA Yusuke Sato

Finding success beyond the comfort zone

MBA student Yusuke on his WHU experience

Yusuke Sato is a 33-year-old from Japan. Growing up in the countryside, he graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo before working for global conglomerate Toshiba. Students from Japan are somewhat rare in the WHU MBA Program. Many Japanese students often opt to study in the USA or the UK. So why did Yusuke opt for WHU, and why Germany in particular?

“I found WHU through the Financial Times rankings,” smiles Yusuke. “But when I researched the program, I loved the focus on leadership and personal development. I think it’s only possible to foster these soft skills through an MBA and with a cohort of like-minded people.

As for Germany – there are a lot of job opportunities here. In general, it is considered to have a strong economy. My background is also in energy, and it is one of the leading countries for renewable energy initiatives. I would love to combine my experience with the entrepreneurial mindset and network found at WHU.”

New perspectives 

Yusuke started his career in finance and accounting within Toshiba before moving to sales and marketing as part of the overseas nuclear division. This division promoted products and services to electricity companies around the world including India, Ukraine, and the UAE. “After that, I moved to another division that focused on alternative energy possibilities, which I found a lot of satisfaction in.”

He explains that it is unusual for people in Japan to move horizontally within companies, instead, often only progressing vertically and staying within a division for 20 to 40 years. “I was keen to gain more knowledge about different business areas, so I moved from finance to marketing. Similarly, I wanted to study an MBA and expand my understanding of business from a broader perspective. 

I want to help Japan become a competitive player in the global market. About 10 to 20 years ago, it was a market leader for the biggest companies in the world, leading in both economy and technological advancements. Now it is the USA, China, and Europe. To do that, I need a better understanding of business from all aspects and global insights.”

Looking to the future

Joining the MBA in April 2022, Yusuke explains that he has learned a lot during the program in a relatively short time. “The Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge helped me to develop leadership skills immediately. I love the overall setup of the program too. It mixes module lectures and workshops, which helps us manage assignments or self-study time.”

Yusuke also touches on the fact that after 11 years of working for Toshiba, he felt that he was in a safe and secure position within the company. While that would be a positive for some, he saw that he was in his comfort zone and ready to develop professionally and personally. 

“Japanese students often look to the USA or UK for their MBA studies, partly because of the reputation of these schools and the language. But often, they struggle being around native English speakers. You can join a privileged school in the USA, but if you can’t keep up with the level of English, it can really hamper any progress. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and do something different. I chose Germany, and I love my cohort as it is mostly non-native speakers. When so many students have English as their second language, we are patient and take the time to listen to one another.”

Of course, it is only the beginning for Yusuke as he embarks on his MBA journey, but what does he have planned for his future once he graduates? “I have two options,” he explains. “One is to return to Japan and help expand an existing business, something in-house. But I am also interested in entrepreneurship, so the second option could be to start my own business. Let’s hope I find a good idea during the program!”

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