Hitotsubashi ICS, international corporate strategy, is the number one MBA program in Japan ranked by QS. The program positions itself as a business school with western teaching methods and Japanese characteristics. It conveys the core values of the school with the quote "The best of two worlds".
This sentence means different to me than to other students in ICS. While Guanghua and ICS are both top business schools, the teaching styles of the two are entirely different. The double degree program provided me with a chance to see two different worlds, doubling my learning, knowledge, and connections. To me, Double Degree is the best interpretation of "The Best of Two Worlds".
What are the critical differences between GSM and ICS?
In terms of resources, course breadth, and corporate cooperation, GSM has demonstrated its significant influence as a top business school. As far as courses are concerned, Guanghua provides more technical courses such as Quantitative Investment and Machine Learning courses. Those courses are challenging for other overseas business schools to provide equivalence.
The advantage of ICS lies in substantial and intensive case studies. The ICS way of teaching helps students reinforce their analytical skills and establish their analysis frameworks by practicing a large number of cases. For students who want to enter the consulting industry, the case interview is often a big hurdle. ICS courses are proper training to help student gain advantages when having case interviews.
The two schools have their emphasis on teaching. If one can make good use of the resources from both sides, he/she will find himself/herself a competitive edge when left school and start another journey of the career.
What are Japanese characteristics, and what are ICS characteristics?
For students who have taken courses taught by Professor Douglas at GSM, if you like the style of case teaching, then the ICS MBA program will be very suitable for you. Take the ICS's signature course "JBE: Japanese Business and Economy", taught by Professor Fujikawa Yoshinori, as an example. Each class has a case discussion. The most prominent feature of this course is it is entire "Japan-focused".
Both macroeconomics and corporate strategy are demonstrated in Japanese cases. The course requires students to apply the fundamental theories learned in economics and management to case analysis. Because all the facts are centered on the Japanese government and Japanese companies, it is constructive for international students to integrate into the local context.
The course is divided into two parts, and the selected cases follow a top-down structure to guide students to understand Japan.
From the "The Miracle Years" of the post-war Japanese economy, to "The Lost Two Decades" of the bubble economy, to the modern growth strategy of "Abenomics", and Japan's current national development strategy "Society 5.0." The professor using these case materials as examples to introduce the brief history of Japan's modern economy, helping us familiarize with the pros and cons of various policy tools. Furthermore, by analyzing the outcomes, we can understand the effects of policies in different cycles of the economy. The course also invited the current Japanese cabinet staff to communicate with classmates so that students can understand the dilemmas faced by the government when formulating policies.
The second part is to go deep down to the corporate level. I took the chance to once again learning Porter's five-force analysis to estimate the potential profit of the industry. And think, if, unfortunately, you are in a highly competitive and low-profit sector, what are the possible strategies to help your company avoid competition?
The case of Tokaibane, a Japanese SME, is used to demonstrate how a "focus" strategy can protect itself from competition from large enterprises and maintain high gross profit. And the case of Japanese logistics company Yamato is used to analyze how it differentiates itself and become a market leader with over 1.6 trillion yen annual revenue. (For the year ended March 31, 2019)
The course invites the senior management of the case companies to discuss with the students in the class. Digital transformation in recent years is another hot topic that we had talked with many great business leaders. The legacy of experience and business knowledge and the back and forth discussion between younger and older generations were the most exciting part, leaving me with great memories of the course.
Figure 1. JBE guest speakers Mr. Katsuhiko Umetsu, Senior Executive Officer, Yamato Holdings Co.Ltd.
Stepping out the comfort zone
Raising hands and share my opinions in the case discussion was indeed a great breakthrough for me, as it not just throwing random ideas on the table, but also means objections and challenges from the rest of the class. Despite many times, you will find yourself embarrassed because of missing details or insufficient analysis, but like it or not, it is the best experience you can get out of the MBA case studies. No matter how hard it is for an Asian student to get used to humiliation, I tried my best to be part of the conversation to get an A on the transcript.
In order to catch up with native English-speaking peers, many Chinese students are super hardworking. Some of them spent hours carefully summarized the key points and organized their opinions before every class. They spoke very actively in the classroom and reviewed their expressions and logical sense from feedbacks. In the course, I saw students who take case analysis seriously have significantly improved their skills in winning debates. This is a fundamental skillset to build influential leadership.
The guest speaker series
Professor Tom Ito, Executive Director of ICS EMBA Program, is an experienced former investment banker. After graduating with an MBA from Harvard, he worked at Wall Street for five years and returned to Japan as head of investment banking at UBS. Guests speakers were mostly his friends and were invited to give lectures on the EMBA of Hitotsubashi, and a few seats were open for MBA students to attend. Among them, I was fortunate to participate in the speeches by Mizuho Bank CEO Mr. Koji Fujiwara and Senior Chairman of the ORIX Group Mr. Yoshihiko Miyauchi.
The experience of leading the organization through changes during radical times is a great lesson we learned from the significant leaders.
Figure 2. EMBA guest speaker series by Mr. Koji Fujiwara, CEO of Mizuho Bank
Figure 3. EMBA guest speaker series by Mr. Yoshihiko Miyauchi, Senior Chairman of ORIX Group
For foreign students, finding a full-time job in Japan is not easy. The main problem is not in professional knowledge but in the language. If one cannot use Japanese as a working language, it is very difficult to find employment in the local area. I found my internship in Japan because of having related prior experience and the Python talent，which is relatively scarce in Japan. Therefore, I was lucky enough to find this opportunity without speaking Japanese.
However, during my internship, even it is a coding job, I still have to face language problems. For example, data analysis may require reading Japanese companies’ financial reports to analyze the underlying reasons for the difference between the actual and forecast. Since not every company provides English reports, I find it difficult to finish all the work independently. This made me realized that language is a bar that every foreign student has to pass.
The school is very serious in assisting foreign students to find employment. At the beginning of the school, ICS invited non-Japanese alumni who worked in BCG and Deloitte consulting to share their experience of how to find a job in Japan.
For those of you who are interested in getting into consulting firms in Japan, there are definitely opportunities. Of course, your previous work experience and language ability matter, but with the right study plan and strategy, it is possible to get into top consulting firms in Japan. (Surely you have to be the top students. Although GPA doesn’t mean much to Japanese companies, a high GPA at ICS reflects how active and articulate you are.)
Figure 4. Alumni Sharing Panel: Job Searching in Japan
My greatest thanks to Guanhua
Finally, I must say that I am very grateful to Peking University ’s double degree program for giving me the opportunity to see different cultures overseas and learn different experiences. I also encourage all my fellow schoolmates to take the opportunity to apply for the double degree program to enrich your life experience.
Provided by：Wilson Chen