More dynamic and more challenge
I joined Rakuten straight after my graduation from the Harvard MBA class of 2012. I'd done an internship with another Internet company, but I wanted to join Rakuten, as I'd heard good things about it. It seemed to me to be more dynamic and more of a challenge, and it also respected human values.
I was dropped into the Kobo e-books business to start with, and I really didn't know a lot about it to start with, but what was really impressive, especially by comparison with other companies, was the fact that I could make suggestions which were listened to, and were acted on fast. I worked in the Kobo business for a month before being assigned to the CEO Office. We worked on projects originated by the CEO himself. These were general projects, such as strategic partnerships, M&A deals, and due diligence and I did these for about one and a half years.
Now I'm based in Boston, where I sometimes run into some of my former classmates from Harvard, but not many of them are president of a business like I am. The business I am running provides the back-end systems of loyalty services to companies, and we're a unique B2B company within Rakuten. Our customers are enterprises such as airlines, hotels, etc., mainly based in the US. We're now working on expanding the business to take in major international brands and that's our next big challenge.
Obviously this is a big challenge, and a lot of responsibility for me, especially as I have joined the company relatively recently, and I was the first one in the company to join in this way as an MBA to the CEO office and take charge of an overseas subsidiary. It's a dream job. Unlike some companies, there is flexibility in Rakuten - Japanese people have a chance to work outside Japan, and not just as extensions of the head office. You're not just fine-tuning existing systems in Rakuten, because the company is not over-organized – in the best possible way. It gives me more opportunity to grow as a leader, and I'd like to be a global leader, flexible and capable of managing a mix of different cultures.
What it takes to become a true leader
There is a lot of support to help me meet the challenges. Recently Mickey (CEO Mikitani) visited us in Boston. He invited me out for drinks after work and he coached me for a few hours. It was great - the CEO giving me a one-on-one feedback session on how to become a true leader! A great experience. You definitely learn a lot very fast in this company.
A great thing here is the level of opportunities given to young people, particularly if they are prepared to take risks and stretch themselves. We need more global talent who are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone, and there’s a real mutual fit between MBAs and Rakuten. And if you join Rakuten, you’ll get the chance to become a leader - fast.