Hitotsubashi ICS: Efforts Toward Inclusion

Hey friends! One more post on diversity issues and progress towards inclusion at Hitotsubashi ICS. You may recall the post I made a little while ago about the bigotry I witnessed and experienced during my time as a student. Here’s what happened after that post went up:

– One of my classmates posted a link on our class’s private Facebook page, with a note along the lines of how I should be ashamed of myself for marketing the school so poorly.

– Several classmates (all notably straight, cisgender, male, and of the dominant ethnic group from their respective countries, therefore not personally subject to, in their homes, any of the oppression I talked about – hmmm) chimed in to agree that I was terrible.

– I received an email from a professor asking me to talk to him about my post.

Two of those things are gross and horrible, and pretty much illustrate what I was talking about: as a school community, we found it worse to protest bigotry and harassment than to actually engage in bigotry and harassment. It was acceptable to drive me out of a space I was a part of, to try to shame me for having an experience I thought was not OK and expressing that it was not OK. Nobody had anything to say about, say, racism not being okay, or it being shameful that racism was an issue in our community, and that it was terrible marketing that racism existed in and was expressed by members of our community, or that we should really do something to fix that.

The email I got from my professor, however, was good! During my time as a student I hadn’t sat down and talked with any authority figures in detail about all the stuff that I had witnessed or that had personally happened to me, because the one or two times I brought things up to test the waters, the vibe was either so negative or so apathetic I was scared off. Anyone who has been in this situation knows what I’m talking about: even if the people in positions of power don’t appear blatantly untrustworthy, or themselves express overtly problematic opinions, it’s a risk to approach them. There are consequences to speaking up, and at the time there was way too much risk and way too little reward for me to say anything. So I kept my head down and stayed safe.

After my professor reached out to me, though, asking me directly for clarification on what I’d talked about and what I’d experienced, that door was open, and I shared in detail what had happened to me and what I’d seen over my two years. I named names, which was refreshing, because the anonymity of those who had harassed me was in part why I think they were allowed to continue to be active parts of the school community. I doubt these people will ever be punished in any way, but I don’t especially care – I just care that someone in a position of power now knows who they are, so new students will hopefully never have to deal with known racists, misogynists, and bullies.

His inviting me to talk to him also allowed me to discuss in more depth the school’s ongoing efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. There seem to be a lot of things in the works, the positive effects of which I hope you current and incoming students will see (or are already seeing).

Most notable to me was that the school is in talks with a professional diversity trainer who I’ve personally worked with and really admire. She lectures internationally and is hired by huge multinationals to train their staff. I think she has the potential to help a lot, and also help moderate and maintain a safe space for discussions about diversity issues that was lacking before.

Going forward, I hope you incoming students, many of you who have read my post, spoken to me, and decided to apply to and attend ICS, will let others know how it’s going and feel safe to speak to the administration about any issues that might arise.

As an outsider, or at least no longer a student, what will be most demonstrative to me of ICS’s progress is how much I’m welcome in the community in the future. I’m not really trying to get into the whole diversity and inclusion initiative – that’s stressful as heck, and better left to the hired professionals. But I have worked with the ICS faculty and administration on a lot of projects, including writing for their website, helping with the fantastic new Japanese culture class, and being a part of orientation week so you new kids know how health care works and where to get a cellphone. I’d love to continue to be a part of that, and in all honestly, I think I will. One blog post speaking honestly about my experiences doesn’t transform me from “one of our best students ever” (direct quote from another professor) to “evil vindictive harpy bitch” (not a quote). If ICS is an institution really dedicated to owning up to its diversity and inclusion issues, and improving them – and I think it is – then I look forward to congratulating the newest incoming class in person this summer.

And, possibly, explaining how you can pay your health care bill at the convenience store.

Take care everybody. As with the last post about harassment, comments are off to avoid, well, harassment. Prospective and incoming students are always welcome to contact me directly with questions.

Hitotsubashi ICS and Other Institutions of Higher Learning: Doin’ It Wrong

For various and sundry reasons, I haven’t posted and probably won’t post in any detail about the various instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other oppressions I encountered from students and faculty while at Hitotsubashi ICS.

Instead I will just say that this story bears a lot of resemblance to the spirit of the school re: what one does when one sees bigotry.

It makes me sad that even in educational institutions, where, you know, you would presume to find smart people, it isn’t racism (et al) that’s the problem, it’s pointing out that racism.

I look forward to our increasingly international future in which all forms of bigotry are fundamentally incompatible with business or any kind of meaningful success.

I know we’re around application season, so for those of you who stumbled here looking for info on ICS, I will continue to say that I learned a lot there, but part of what I learned was how to protect myself when my peers and the system would not (or when my peers and the system were the ones actively harassing me in the first place).

Best of luck kiddos, and look forward to the usual photo-heavy adventure posts to come.

EDITED TO ADD December 22, 2013:

To the surprise of certainly-not-me, the response to this post has been along the lines of “Shame on Jordan for pointing out bigotry!”

I’m sorry if you feel that way. I encourage you to eliminate said bigotry, so there’s nothing for me or anyone else to point out. Asking people who feel hurt and unsafe to be quiet isn’t a viable solution, in the short-term or long-term, for any organization. It particularly runs counter to ICS’s mission of diversity, since fostering diverse groups of people requires fostering spaces where all those groups feel welcome.

I believe ICS has good qualities, and has it in itself to be a better institution. I hope more energy is devoted to that goal going forward.

Life at Hitotsubashi ICS: Let’s Talk Money

I’ve heard from a number of you who got your acceptance emails from Hitotsubashi ICS. Congratulations! Where ever you decide to go, I hope you have a great time.

Now that school is an impending reality for many of you – and financial planning for school is something most of us have to consider no matter what – I thought I’d share a guest post I did at The Billfold a while ago about my personal finances.

I Can Pay for an MBA, But Not in the U.S.

My situation has changed slightly since that post. Namely, I’ve gotten a part-time work permit (students can work up to 28 hours a week if they get this permit from the Immigration Office), and some part-time work. I’ve also knocked down my rent at Oakhouse by about $100 a month. All together I’m surviving off my stipend plus my part time earnings, no longer dipping into my U.S. bank accounts. An ideal situation for any student for sure. (Well, an ideal situation would be living in a plush mansion and having my private helicopter take me around town, but I’m talking real world.)

My situation isn’t necessarily one that everyone can copy, but I hope it gives those of you working out finances some guidance. Questions? Leave them in the comments!

Life at Hitotsubashi ICS: Internships

Welcome back to our irregular series on life as an MBA student at Hitotsubashi ICS! ICS’s two year program requires students to do at least one internship or enroll in at least one term of an exchange program. Some students do both, some students do multiple internships, and some students do all that plus take additional classes at ICS (whether they need the credits to graduate or just because).

The second year internships are one of the main reasons I chose ICS. I wanted to explore other industries (doing the same kind of web marketing/communications job I’d done before), and I want to get a job in Tokyo after graduation, so an internship seemed to serve both those purposes.

So hey, I’m a year and a half in now, I’ve done my internship, how’d it go? What was the process, how’d I get it, what did I do, was it any good? All those questions, answered!

In the spring of my first year, a consultant from the brand consulting company Interbrand spoke in one of my marketing classes. I approached him after class, got his card, and followed up with him via email asking to talk to him more about his organization. We and another of his colleagues met for lunch, talked about branding/marketing/social media/web trends/whatever all the cool kids are talking about, and about their organization. I was getting ready to broach the “Hey, so do you guys take interns?” subject near the end of lunch when one of them said, hey, so do you want to do an internship?

After chatting about the details a bit there, we passed it off to our respective administrators: I emailed our Career Services office, which also handles internship placements, and the people I met with contacted their HR department, letting them know the deal and that my Career Services office would be in touch. We set a date, we set a length, and I showed up on the first day, signed some paperwork and a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and we were off!

Because of said NDA I can’t talk about my internship in any detail, but it was a) really interesting, b) really educational, and c) really valuable for figuring out what I want to do and for whom.

Now, let me back up a second. The way my internship happened is not the way all internships happen at ICS. Since the internship is a required thing, the Career office guarantees that it will arrange at least one internship for every student who wants one. While setting up my internship with Interbrand, I was also working with the Career office to set up another, because, well, they said they’d do one for me, right? Might as well use that resource if it’s there.

Sometime in the late spring/early summer, all the two year students received a packet listing the places that other ICS students had done internships before, and where we might ask the Career office to try to arrange something for us. I picked some tough companies to get into that I didn’t have any personal connections with, because again, if this resource is being offered to me, might as well get as much as I can out of it, right? The Career office eventually made contact with Bandai Namco on my behalf. Bandai sent us a new employee questionnaire, in Japanese for me to fill out in Japanese, and I did so, and sent it back, and heard some time later that I wasn’t a fit and they weren’t interested.

This makes it sound like it was a really short process. It wasn’t. It took me forever to fill out that questionnaire, and it took forever times two to get the very helpful woman at the Career office to stop editing my Japanese and just send it in already.

I’d heard anecdotally from other people in my class that they were having difficulty finding internships through the Career office, that they didn’t like the internships they had found, etcetera. Not everything is necessarily on the Career office, but I think there’s a higher chance you’ll like where you are and what you’re doing if you do the heavy lifting yourself and just hand it off to the Career office for the final detail work and stamps of approval.

So that’s how it goes. It helps to know where you want to intern, what you want to do, and have an in to that company that you can leverage yourself. There is a Career office, the lone woman running it does do an important job, but at the end of the day it’s not as simple as just handing it over to her to magically arrange to perfection. (If only.)

My internship lasted about two and a half months. I was thinking about doing a second internship, and I may still, but for now I’m spending my time volunteering, working on freelance projects, and hustling at networking events for more permanent employment. Hope that was helpful to you, dear readers. Have any questions? Leave them in the comments!

How to Succeed at Hitotsubashi ICS

My first year at Hitotsubashi ICS is done, my one-year classmates have graduated, many of my two-year classmates are already off at their study abroads of choice or starting their internships. Insane! It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was first coming to ICS, after several years out of school (and many, many years out of any class that involved numbers or mathematical calculation), wondering how the hell I was going to survive.

Today I ran into a few incoming students at the administration office, and was inspired to look back at my own time as a new student. Things seem a lot harder when you just don’t know what to expect, so some advice from my first year at ICS:

1) Speak up. Participation is a huge part of your grade in every class. As the professors will tell you, the quality of that participation matters a lot more than the quantity, but that doesn’t mean you have to try to say something brilliant and impressive every time you raise your hand.

I got by in Finance and actually did well in Accounting, my two most feared and unfamiliar subjects, because I raised my hand and asked questions. A lot. As a loud, opinionated American, this was pretty easy for me. I didn’t have any reservations about “looking dumb.” It’s not like I was fooling anyone that I didn’t know what was going on, so why not just get my questions answered rather than sitting there being confused? But really, even if you do have these reservations, don’t worry. No one thinks you’re dumb. In fact, they probably had the same question. It’s just that you were the one willing to ask it. So help yourself, and help your grade, and speak up.

When you do know what’s going on, participate in the discussion, have an opinion, and share it, with the accompanying persuasive evidence to back it up. Professors usually give you about ten seconds for your comment, so you don’t have to get too deep into it. Just make sure what you say is relevant to what people are talking about, and that your stance has some support from the case, or your own experience, etc.

2) Learn from your classmates. I probably learned as much about finance from the Finance class as I did from a classmate who worked in banking (and who I made sure to have in my group for Finance group assignments!). I also had some of my best case discussions with other people outside of class, where we could talk more easily and freely. These discussions and outside learning don’t “count” for anything, you don’t get points for bringing up good points just among one another, but it made a real difference in how well I understood things in class as well as my thinking about future cases and problems. Two great perks of ICS are the diversity of the students and their mutual cooperation, so use them.

3) Work smarter, not harder. The cliche joke is that ICS means “I Can’t Sleep.” Personally, I never had a single night where I was up past midnight working if I didn’t want to be. I know this will be different for those of you who aren’t as fluent in English, but even then you should try to be efficient with your time. I am telling you now: skim cases. Skip sections. Do this smartly, so you come away understanding the essentials of a case and the important points of discussion. It is much better for you to be fully awake and alert in class and not know or understand every detail of a case, than it is to understand every little detail of a case but be totally out of it or falling asleep.

That’s it for now! Incoming students, do you have any questions? Current or former students, anything to add to this list? Leave them in the comments!

Welcome Hitotsubashi ICS Class of 2012

About one year ago I flew into Tokyo, had a minor panic attack and coming halfway around the world to get an MBA, then wandered the city for a few weeks until school began.

For all of you in much the same situation, now or in the imminent future: welcome! Once you figure out where to buy power adapters, set up your bank account, and get a cellphone, you’ll calm down, I promise.

First, for anyone still looking for housing: Oakhouse. Tell them I sent you. We’ll both save some money.

Second, you’re going to need your resident card. Japan recently implemented a new resident card system, and their website seems to suggest you’ll get one right at the airport if you come in through Narita or Haneda. I have no idea, having gone through a different process… leave a comment and let me know!

After that, for those of you who are wondering how the heck to open bank accounts: it’s easiest to just open one with JP Post. Walk into any post office during business hours, say “よきん” (yokin), fumble through the rest. You can pay for most things (internet, rent, phone bill) using JP Post bank transfer. You can’t pay your Hitotsubashi tuition, but what you can do is just take out the cash and walk it to the Hitotsubashi 5th floor office. Easy peasy.

Finally, to sign up for a phone: I got an iPhone, because this is Tokyo, where streets have no signs and addresses make no sense and you are always somewhere wondering what the fastest train route is to get to somewhere else. Also because I’ve never had a smartphone before. You can go to the giant Softbank store in Harajuku or Roppongi and they’ll have people who speak English. Two year contracts are the standard, but it looks like Softbank offers shorter term prepaid contracts. Go shop around. I hear a lot of people complain about Softbank, and it is apparently “the worst” after au and Docomo, but I’ve never had any problem with them. I pay about $75 a month for unlimited data and minimal minutes (because who calls people and talks to them anymore).

If you’re making the big move, are already here and wondering where the heck you’re supposed to find ___, or need anything else, leave a comment or shoot me an email anytime. Welcome, and good luck!

Life at Hitotsubashi ICS: Advice from an Aussie

My friend and fellow classmate Andrew, from Australia, shared this wisdom about coming to Hitotsubashi ICS that I thought I would share with all of you:

The fun begins before your departure… you’ll soon be asked to complete an online learning package for Accounting, Statistics and Corporate Finance, and be given a list of textbooks to purchase for Term 1 – best to purchase these from Amazon and have them delivered to the school.

(Jordan’s note: I disagree. Don’t purchase any of the books until you get here. Many second years have books they’re happy to give you, and I’m thinking about facilitating a book exchange between departing students and incoming students. Also, sometimes you’re asked to buy books that are never assigned for reading…)

There are some things I wish I knew before departing Australia, thought you may be interested:

1. Bring two pairs of pure white socks (not cream or bone or ivory or with patterns).
You’ll need these for two Japanese Culture class visits – tea ceremony and Japanese dancing.
I had a hard time trying to purchase in Tokyo.

2. Class fundraiser – each year there is an auction to raise funds for class activities like the weekly Friday drinks.
Each student is asked to provide one item to be auctioned.  Cherie (Jordan’s note: another Aussie classmate) and I took four classmates to an Australian restaurant in Daiba.
The auction is held around the same time as Halloween so bring something you can wear as fancy-dress  (fancy dress was compulsory for us, had difficulty shopping for a costume in Tokyo – language, insufficient time etc.).

3. There are a few classes in Terms 1 & 2 that require you to wear a suit, mainly for company visits.
Make sure that your suit is OK for both heat and cold.
Recall feeling very cold during winter, wishing that I had a suitable vest to wear underneath.
Admittedly, could be that my suits are OK for Sydney weather, not Melbourne.

And that’s it! Thank you Andrew, I didn’t take the Japanese Culture class myself so didn’t know that bit about the white socks. The rest is also good advice that had slipped my mind.

Best of luck to incoming students, and as always feel free to post a comment or send me an email if you have questions.

Life at Hitotsubashi ICS, Part 3: The Paperwork

Here’s a question for you, readers: for those of you who are applying, are interested in applying, etc, to Hitotsubashi or any other school in Japan, do you actually want to hear about the paperwork process once you’re admitted? I had started to type something up then realized it was not only supremely boring, but given my fuzzy memory and the fairly rote way in which one goes about applying for a Visa and such, not really useful. You get your acceptance, you get instructions from school about how to apply for your Visa, you apply for it, you get it, you get to live in Japan.

The only “exciting” part of this process, for me, was finding out, no, you still are not permitted to print out your photograph on quality copy paper in your office. The Embassy will send you to the CVS ten minutes away, in the sweltering summer heat, where you will take a sweaty (but surprisingly good – masterful lighting, CVS!) photo, then run back ten more minutes in the heat and turn in all your documents.

And by you I mean me. Just so we’re clear. I hope you will not tempt fate as I did and just get a proper photo taken.

Bless DC for its copious number of drug stores with a “passport photo” corner, though. Ten minutes was nothing compared to what it could have been.

Anyway, let me know in the comments if you’d really like to hear more, or if I should move on to less rote, more useful things: like finding housing, making the actual trip to Tokyo, and orientation.

Hitotsubashi ICS: Strategy Simulation Week

Another Hitotsubashi post! In addition to the regular coursework, all Hitotsubashi MBA candidates go through something called “Strategy Simulation Week” after the second term exams. Strat Sim Week, or SSW, is a week-long team game in which five teams of five run virtual auto manufacturers and compete against each other for a share of the market. Students are actually divided into ten teams of five, but we operate in what I like to call parallel universes: five teams are in Universe 1, and five teams are in Universe 2.

Before SSW starts, we were assigned to teams, given financial and market share data on the five different pre-set companies available, then given the opportunity to bid on which company we wanted to run at the start of the simulation. There was Firm A, B, C, D, and E, each with different strengths and weaknesses, some of which we could suss out from the data provided, and some of which we only learned once the simulation began. My own team wasn’t as aggressive as others in the bidding, and we ended up with Firm E, a low-technology, high-capacity manufacturer. Firm B, which was definitely the favorite in the bidding process, was a very high technology, low-capacity firm, with the largest market share in dollars of the other companies. (On the other hand, we as E briefly held the largest market share in volume in the game.)

SSW is a pass/fail course, but there is a “winner” at the end: the team with the best combination of market share, CAGR (compound annual growth rate)… and some other metrics I don’t recall… wins. The winner gets the honor of having their name included with past winners on a grand SSW banner. And the right to be smarmy for the next few days, I guess, before everyone leaves for spring break and/or stops caring. I’m not totally sure how one would fail SSW, other than to clearly show through your progress that you weren’t trying at all, and even the companies that crashed and burned at the end – or made really stupid decisions, but still, made decisions – passed the course.

SSW is structured as a series of ten decisions, after each of which the game advances one fiscal year. Through the SSW program, which we all loaded on our computers prior to the game’s start, you can make choices on manufacturing capacity, new vehicle development, vehicle upgrades, issuing and recalling debt and equity, dividends, marketing, and production volume. So, on Monday at noon, we had to input all our decisions in all these areas for the first fiscal year. Then, Monday at six, we had to submit them for the second year, and Tuesday at nine, for the third, etc. After each round the game refreshed and gave us our new standing, the state of the market, and any other data we might need (in fact, more than we might need) to assess our situation and proceed accordingly.

The market changes as the game advances, based on the moves competitors make and changes in the game economy. In Period 4, our firm was suddenly slammed by two different companies introducing vehicles into our primary markets, and our net income and market share took a nose dive. Then, Period 5…. was 2008. The economy tanked, and everyone hurt, but we, having just taken a hit the previous round, hurt more.

Wednesday of SSW is “Half Time Presentations,” where at 1pm all the teams present their starting situation, their evolution as a company, their current situation, and their plans for the future. These presentations are “in character,” meaning we presented as if we were employees of this fictional Firm E talking to shareholders. However, since the game is still happening, and since our competitors are sitting in the room, we have to be cagey about what we reveal about our current situation and future strategy.

From Wednesday on, my team spent our time crawling out of the hole we were in. We did pretty well, actually: we went from last place at half time to third place by the end. We weren’t able to catch up to firms A and B, who had rocketed ahead of the other teams through serious technological investments. Ours was a true American underdog story – even though this was all happening in Japan and I was the only American on the team. But everyone likes hearing about the little guy climbing his way to the… middle, right?

The final SSW decision was Friday evening, and the award ceremony for the winner took place immediately after. Congratulations to Team B, who won in our universe, and Team A, their close second. Saturday was then final presentations, where we discussed “out of character” our progress and learning from SSW, particularly real world lessons that we took from the experience.

SSW was a long week, but looking back, it was a lot of fun. Our team was a great mix of skills and personalities, and as with a lot of the coursework at Hitotsubashi, I learned just by being around my peers with different expertise. This kind of too-much-data, too-little-time, not-enough-skill training is also pretty analogous to the real world. In my old job, and I’m sure in many jobs to come, I was thrown into situations where there was a lot of data, a deadline, and me without the exact right knowledge or skill set to know what to do or how to do it. There’s really a strategy to knowing how to approach these kind of situations, and even if I don’t see myself running an auto company, I know my experience with SSW will help me where ever I go.

Life at Hitotsubashi ICS, Part 2: The Interview

I got an email this evening from a prospective Hitotsubashi student asking me for advice on his upcoming interview, so, in addition to replying to him, I thought I’d get off my butt and post the next part in my series on life at Hitotsubashi: the interview.

So my applications were off in the mail, and thus began the waiting game. I think everything went into the mail early December, and I began hearing back late January. First I heard from Hitotsubashi, with a conditional congrats: I passed the first round, and now was time for the interview. As I was in Washington, DC, and my interviewers were in Tokyo, they kindly arranged to call me at home. I gave them my cell (which didn’t end up working) and my landline (which did). The interview was at about 11pm DC time. Ah timezones.

I’m not a person who enters interviews calmly. I get nervous. I probably act or sound a little nervous. But these nerves also help, because the only way for me to calm them is prepare. So I prepped for Hitotsubashi, using the not-particularly-clever but still rather helpful strategy of searching “MBA interview questions,” “business school interview questions,” and variations thereof. There are some very excellent resources out there, and I compiled a list of typical questions, typed out quick, bullet-point answers, and practiced them for a few days before my scheduled interview. It was extremely useful prep, at least for me.

When the call came it was three people on the line: Sherman Abe, the current finance professor, and if memory serves Hiroshi Kanno, the Operations Management prof, and Hideki Kawada, our program administrator. They are all incredibly nice and helpful people, but at the time they were terrifying strangers who could make or break my Tokyo MBA dreams. They asked, however, all questions I was prepared for: Why do you want an MBA, why do you want to get your MBA in Japan, what attracted you to Hitotsubashi, and, in so many words, what’s special about you. They also asked me about my particular weaknesses: my GMAT score was solidly average in math, so they wanted to hear if I thought I’d be prepared for the quantitative classes.

In all my answers I think (and this is highly biased, but as I was admitted maybe fair enough) that I was articulate and succinct. I told them what was true and what they wanted to hear, which is probably where you want to land if a school is the right fit for you, too. The whole thing was only 15 minutes, though as with all terrifying things it felt very long. My interviewers had kind of read my resume and kind of read my application essays, but they’ve got a lot of people to talk to and not a lot of time, so I did end up rehashing things I had already talked about and making some of the same points “in person” that I did in my essays. I figured consistency was good, too.

Then that was it! They schedule these things back to back so when my fifteen minutes were up, they were up. I thanked them for their time, promptly looked up their email addresses to send them a thank-you note the next morning, then began the waiting game anew.

First came my registered letter from Waseda, which I was kind of startled about: Waseda does not require an interview, so it was just like, knock knock, postwoman, sign here, surprise, you’re in! I heard from Hitotsubashi via email a few days later. Hitotsubashi is kind enough to tell you the day and time they’ll be emailing decisions, so I was at my computer vigorously refreshing and then cursing the seconds it took for Gmail to open the email when it did arrive.

The email came really late, so when Chris Ahmadjian, then-current now-outgoing Dean welcomed me via email to the Class of 2011 (people graduate at different times, so classes are named by the year they enter) I only had my housemate/cousin Wendy to scream and jump around with. (Yes, I did a little dance to celebrate getting into business school. Neeeeerd.) My parents just got voicemails, my two bosses found out in private meetings, then my coworkers in a group meeting over the next day or two.

Alas, the work was not done. Now came the preparation, including the always-dreaded… paperwork.

Next time: Visa applications and other preparations for school in Japan.