I am pleased to present this interview with Kaya Kayanuma, a newly graduated member of the Duke Fuqua MBA class of 2013. I am sure anyone considering Duke - or an MBA in general - will find it useful and interesting. I'm also indebted to Kaya for sharing her time and answering my questions.
Congratulations on successfully completing your MBA at Duke Fuqua! What are your plans now?
I will work for one of the major biotechnology (pharmaceutical) companies, Biogen, as a commercial operation manager in the Emerging Market division. My initial focus is the Japan market.
Why did you choose to go to Duke?
One of the main reasons I chose Duke/Fuqua was the Health Sector Management (HSM) program. Duke University and Duke Hospital have good reputations for health care and Fuqua has put great effort in enriching their HSM program. For students who are interested in health care, HSM gives them credibility when seeking employment in the industry. I also believe that knowledge in health care is very useful even for those who are not interested in working in health care industry, because of its rising cost and impact on the rest of the economy. During Fuqua, I particularly liked the Health Economics and the Pharmaceutical Economics classes taught by Prof. David Ridley. His lectures were comprehensive and covered the major health care topics, from pharmaceuticals to Obama care, and he brought great speakers such as the former CEO of Roche North America.
Secondly, Fuqua focuses on teamwork within its diverse community throughout the MBA program - from class assignments to recruiting, and beyond. I became interested in the Fuqua community initially because of how friendly the Japanese alumni were, but I soon realized that Fuqua as a whole has a welcoming culture. I later learned that the program’s leadership (e.g. the Dean, admissions staff members) makes significant efforts to maintain the school values, “Team Fuqua” and “Leader of Consequence”. At the beginning of the first year and the second year, students are required to participate in a 3-4 day orientation that emphasizes leadership and ethics. Almost all Fuqua classes require several teamwork assignments per class. Students and alumni are proud of being a part of “Team Fuqua” and actively help each other throughout their lifetimes.
How did your impression of the program change once you got there?
Until I joined Fuqua, I did not know that Duke University had such a prestigious reputation in the US and Europe. Many students come from well-educated backgrounds and it is extremely competitive to get admitted to Duke. Students share the sense of pride in the university education, and Duke Basketball symbolizes the school spirit. Many Fortune 500 companies come to campus for recruiting students, not just for the MBA program but also for undergraduate programs. The school spirit lasts after graduation and alumni help each other in business. After joining Duke, I realized the importance of having a good network of alumni. I actually got my job through a Fuqua alumni.
I was also surprised by the seemingly unlimited amount of opportunities to exercise leadership and teamwork skills at Fuqua. Students often say, “There is almost nothing that you cannot do at Fuqua.” Students can start clubs, projects, business, etc. and there are many resources available. Some of my friends started events such as the Fuqua Musical and the Fuqua Iron Chef, and others started their own business. I myself participated in several projects (e.g. international business consulting, small business consulting, and entrepreneurship in health care), and I found them very practical and useful for my future career. There are many opportunities to get involved, and it is challenging to choose activities and focus on priorities.
Looking back, do you wish you had prepared for your MBA any differently? What would you recommend to those who'll start their MBA in the fall of this year?
The first recommendation is relationship building. Even before you start preparing for an MBA, you might want to talk with as many alumni and current students as possible to learn how to prepare for life in business school. Many applicants fall into a trap of applying to schools based only on their ranking. They apply to multiple schools, and decide which school to attend after getting admitted. This is a waste of time and money. Instead it is important to research schools and reach out to students and alumni. This relationship building should start even before you apply to a business school. This will help you with your MBA admission and job search in the future.
The relationship building will also help you become proactive. By talking to students and alumni, you will start to understand what you need to do and what you need to focus on. I waited for the school to tell me when and how to start my job search. I waited for emails from professors to learn what I needed to prepare for classes. Unlike me, some admitted students had already reached out to current students and knew how to prepare for an early job conference in September, just one month after orientation. Others had already finished all the summer assignments a few weeks in advance of starting the program.
You also need to know your priorities, plan ahead, and focus on these priorities. My priorities were finance & health care classes, a job search within health care, social life with my close friends, playing music, and my Christian faith. But during the first year of the MBA, I let peer pressure influence me. I attended many social events, went to every corporate event, slept less than 6 hours a night, and became exhausted. I felt as if everything was a competition. During the 2nd year, I made a more balanced life and my old hobbies priorities. I became selective about what social events to attend and spent more time with those who are important in my life.
Lastly, you want to treat others fairly, be genuine towards others, and know your core values. Do not focus on what you get from others but instead on what you can give to them. This will help you to become a true leader of consequence. I learned this, and several different professors reinforced this in their closing remarks during their last classes. During my 1st year of MBA, I was overwhelmed and could not even think of helping others. I rediscovered my core belief when I stopped thinking school and social life as competitions. I started to treat others in a genuine way as I did before. This attitude opened more opportunities than I expected. I received several job offers and did well in classes. I made many great friends and became much happier.
Can you identify one or two classes and/or professors that were particularly impactful for you?
- Corporate Finance by Prof. John Graham: Prof. Graham has received a number of teaching awards at Fuqua for 10+ years and is a reviewer of a prestigious finance journal. This class was challenging because I had no prior experience in finance. But he offered review classes himself and helped us understand everything from the basics to the current common practices in the real world. He is well connected to the industry, and he even brings senior finance managers as speakers. He is also an advocate for an NGO, “Stop the Hunger”, and takes initiative to organize volunteer events at Fuqua for this organization. I strongly recommend taking this class.
- Raising Capital by Prof. Manju Puri: Prof. Puri graduated from the Indian School of Business at the age of 23, worked in banking, and earned her Ph.D from NYU Stern. She has received a number of teaching and research awards and is well-connected to the finance ministry and banking in India. I really liked her teaching style. Her philosophy of teaching is for students to gain core analytical skill, not a superficial knowledge. She brought no handouts to class and had no PowerPoint presentations, so students really focused on listening to her and the class discussions. In the beginning of each class, she reviews the content from the last class. Students are required to write case write-ups after classes instead of before. This unique teaching style helps students review what we learn and retain the analytical skills that we gain. This class also covered a range of topics from bank loans to junk bonds and the Enron scandal.
- Entrepreneurial Finance by Prof. Manuel Adelino: If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, you should take Corporate Finance, Private Equity and Venture Capital, and this class. Prof. Adelino is a new professor at Fuqua. Although he is fairly young, he has experience in investment banking, consulting, and academics. He covered a range of topics based on a POCD framework (People, Opportunity, Competition/Content, and Deal). Students are usually expected to know the basics of finance, but Prof. Adelino himself offered review sessions about WACC (weighted average cost of capital) and pro forma. He also explained in the class how he made an assumption on building excel models. Students are required to turn in a case write-up every class, and this helps students prepare well for the class.
- Managerial Accounting by Prof. Scott Dyreng: Managerial Accounting is one of the most popular classes at Fuqua, and I strongly recommend taking this class. This class teaches how to allocate “cost” appropriately so that managers can make better decisions and incentivize people. For example, students are asked to allocate a fixed cost based on a labor hour or a machine hour. I also liked his teaching style because he required us to submit a case write-up before every class, used no PowerPoint, and reviewed what we learned in each class. He was very funny and made the class very interesting. He is also very sincere and is one of the professors who taught us the importance of having core values before entering the work force.
- Pharmaceutical Economics and Management by Prof. David Ridley: I explained about this class above.
What kind of extra-curricular activities did you choose to get involved in? Were they worthwhile for you?
I was a co-president of Catholics@Fuqua, a student group for Catholics and non-Catholics. I wanted to learn how to integrate the Christian faith into business and to help other students to develop and/or mature their faith in God. As some professors taught, I believe that having some sorts of a core value helps a student make a better decision when facing an ethical dilemma. We had a dinner event every term (=6 weeks), brought a priest and a business leader as speakers, and held workshops about faith and business. Students commented that they learned a lot during these events and felt encouraged. I was able to build a strong friendship within this group and found a few mentors through these events. It was challenging to balance school, job search, club activities, and private life. But it was very much worthwhile for me to lead this group and I believe I was able to make an impact on the Fuqua community.
Any thoughts you'd like to share about your life in Durham, North Carolina? What's good/bad about living in this part of the U.S.?
I love the triangle region of North Carolina, and if I can, I would live here permanently. Like Silicon Valley, the triangle region (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) is one of the major research hubs in the country. There are several major universities such as Duke and UNC, and their health care systems are both excellent. Because of many university-based researches, the triangle region has many small start-up businesses and also major companies such as GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), Daiichi Sankyo, IBM, and Quintiles. Thanks to this entrepreneurial environment, I was able to find a local start-up company to do a part-time internship and had a good experience there.
The triangle region is also a great place to live and raise a family. Durham and Chapel Hill are large enough to find things to do and small enough to manage commute and travel. Durham is much safer than it used to be, and you can find excellent restaurants. If you want to travel, the airport (Raleigh-Durham International Airport) is only 20 minutes away and the terminal is very clean. This is a great environment for children, too. People are well-educated, warm, and open-minded toward international people. The weather is mild and it’s comfortable to live here.
How did you like my work during the admission process?
John is patient, insightful, sincere, and trustworthy. He is an expert on MBA admissions, yet he is also very humble. When I didn’t even know what to write on the admission essays and resume, he asked me questions and gave me great suggestions. He was always prompt to respond to any questions and kept any promises. He does not put down anyone and always believes in the potential of an applicant. Above all the qualities that he has, I really admire John’s motivation to do his job, which is to raise global leaders from Japan. I strongly recommend John’s service when applying to a business school.
Thanks Kaya for your time and insight!