Alumni Footprint Series, An Interview with Masashi Suehiro (Japan)

Name: Masashi Suehiro

Year of Graduation: 2018

Nationality: Japanese

Country of Residence: Japan

Current Employer: SWAT Mobility Japan Co., Ltd.

Please tell us about a little bit about yourself. 

After graduating from IESE in 2018 and working at a global consulting firm in Singapore, I started working at SWAT Mobility, a Singapore mobility startup, as the country head to expand the business in Japan.

What did inspired you to pursue an MBA and why did you choose IESE?

After working at a trading company for several years, I felt that my growth was limited in a traditional Japanese company, where promotion and salary are mostly determined by seniority. I wanted to devote myself to my work in an environment where my performance could be evaluated based on my own results.
I thought that through an MBA, I would be able to seize the opportunities to work in competitive environments. I chose IESE for its high international student ratio, case study method, and collaborative culture. Also, it was great to be able to live in Barcelona for two years, the home of FC Barcelona, with wonderful weather and delicious food and wine.

How do you feel your MBA transformed you? Did it meet your expectations?

The MBA was a tough environment as I had imagined. I used to work at a trading company and thought that I was accustomed to communicating with foreigners, but the reality was different. It was not easy to exchange opinions with and convince colleagues, who have different cultures and work experience in areas where I had no experience. In such an environment, I thought deeply about how I should convey what I wanted to say to my colleagues, how I could contribute to the team, and how I could demonstrate leadership. I don’t know if I did well in the end, but I believe that my daily struggles became a foundation of who I am today.

Tell us more about SWAT (Japan). What are your plans and ambitions for it?

SWAT Mobility is a mobility startup from Singapore that solves problems related to transportation and logistics. With the declining population in Japan, especially in rural areas, it is getting more and more difficult to maintain public transportation every year. We provide an app for on-demand transport, utilizing SWAT’s patented routing algorithm to pick up and drop off passengers more efficiently using fewer vehicles. In the three years since our service started in 2020, we have had a track record of providing services in 50 areas in Japan. Recently, we have also applied the routing technology for logistics use cases, providing services to optimize routes for cargo delivery.

Do you have any recent examples of how your MBA training has helped you in your work as the country head of SWAT (Japan)?

Without my experience at IESE, I don’t think I would have been able to lead the Japanese subsidiary of a foreign startup and to continue growing it for three years. At IESE, the experience of having discussions with multi-national colleagues, communicating my views and convincing my colleagues to take action is similar to what I am doing at my current company. SWAT Mobility has employees from more than 10 nationalities. Strong leadership is required to communicate with global team members from different countries, in order to have them develop key features for our app to serve Japanese customers, and to get the necessary budget to run the business. I believe that I could only have gained this experience at IESE where I built a foundation for my leadership skills.

What are some of your favorite memories from IESE?

Multiculti, Bar Crawl and Spring Games are the most unforgettable for me. Multiculti is an international cultural festival with the theme of cross-cultural exchange and cross-cultural experience. In the national performances, we performed Japanese-style dances using folding fans, and served some classic Japanese dishes – takoyaki and sushi. At Bar Crawl, we visited bars all over Barcelona and danced until the morning in the club. I also played soccer in my first and second year at the Spring Games, which is an IESE-sponsored sports tournament for business schools. The team worked together as one to fight for victory, though we were unable to win the championship in both years.

The Japanese table at one of the most popular events at IESE – MultiCulti!

If you were to do the IESE MBA again, is there anything you would have done differently?

It may have been difficult as I attended MBA while my baby was 3 months old, but I wish I had traveled to more European countries and tried more local food and drinks.

Finally, would you like to add anything as a message for prospective applicants?

My two years in the MBA program have been some of the most fulfilling times of my life. Every day was a series of new experiences, tough yet exciting. I was able to absorb not only academic knowledge such as marketing and finance which I had not studied in depth  before, but also various values through interaction with my colleagues. Without my experience at IESE, I would not be where I am today. I am envious of the students who will be able to study at IESE. I’m rooting for you.

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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