Foster MBA students network in Japan

Study Tour Offers Global Lessons for MBA Students

Technology Management MBA students build international relationships with Japanese companies.

They learn together, they study together, they eat together, and during the spring break before their final quarter in the program, Foster School of Business Technology Management MBA students travel together on the International Study Tour.

“It’s a total bonding experience,” said MBA student Paul Weeks. “Traveling – let alone traveling internationally – is always an experience, but doing it with a group of people who all have families and jobs and responsibilities at home is an experience you may never get again.”

The International Study Tour is an elective exclusive to students in the Technology Management MBA through the University of Washington Foster School of Business. In 2024, the 22 participating MBA students chose to visit Japan, where they met key executives at nine diverse companies including global leaders IHI Corporation and All Nippon Airways as well as startups mui Labs and Aristol.

“We had the whole range of diversity,” MBA student Jacob Leigh said about the company visits, “from 5,000 people working there to five people sitting on a couch.”

Foster MBA students trek to Japan
Foster MBA students enjoyed the shared experience of visiting historic sites across Japan.

Taking Technology Management MBA networking global

As they prepared for the 10-day visit, Technology Management MBA students worked in teams to research each company so that they could not only ask thoughtful questions, but also answer questions about their own experiences and workplace culture in the U.S.

“They could really see that we were interested in being there,” said MBA student Joselyne Rivera Rusca. “They wanted us to share our work experiences and truly wanted our opinions. It didn’t feel transactional.”

The Technology Management MBA is the fastest path to a Foster MBA for working professionals with an accelerated 18-month program focused on technology management. Throughout the program, students hone their networking skills by taking advantage of optional opportunities such as Career Mixers, Tech Treks to regional businesses, and other organized events.

Study Tour to Japan Offers Global Lessons for MBA Students
In between their meetings in Tokyo and Kyoto, Foster MBA students focused on immersing themselves in Japanese culture.

The International Study Tour offers a valuable opportunity for students to take those networking skills global, while also seeing first-hand some of the differences in workplace culture that they learn about in classes such as Global Strategy, Organizational Change, Strategy of Technology Innovation, Supply Chain Management, and Entrepreneurship.

“We spent so much time in the classroom talking about how business is done in Japan,” said MBA student Diana Iftimie. “Getting to see how it happens was very insightful, but seeing it with a cohort of people who were learning the same things – getting to have those conversations and see the parallels – was so valuable from a learning standpoint.”

Foster MBA students gather together outside Noritak
Following an insightful company visit, MBA students gather together outside Noritake.

Global business lessons from Kyocera, ITOKI, and a range of Japanese companies

The business visits kicked off at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan to help students dive even deeper into some of the cultural differences they would soon encounter – like the continued use of floppy disks and fax machines at many Japanese companies.

In contrast to the U.S., where many workers jump from company to company, Japanese employees often stay at the same company for their entire lives. Learning about these differences in advance provided students the opportunity to observe the potential impacts during their company visits to:

  • IHI Corporation, a 150-year-old, well-diversified, heavy-industry manufacturer that is committed to contributing to the development of society through sustainable technology.
  • ITOKI Corporation, a 130-year-old office design company that focuses on designing the future of workspaces, and whose president, Koji Minato, has an MBA from the U.S. and has worked at Sun Microsystems and Oracle.
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest commercial airline, which was awarded world’s best airport service, world’s cleanest airline, and best airline staff service in 2023 by Skytrax.
  • Aristol Japan, behavioral science and AI startup that is committed to leveraging technology for societal well-being and business innovation.
  • Kyocera Global, which initially focused on ceramics when it was founded in 1959 by Kazuo Inamori but eventually expanded into electronics, telecommunications and solar energy. This visit, which was organized by Kyocera employee and 2021 Foster Technology Management MBA alumnus Yoshiki Ando, also included tours of the founder’s namesake Inamori Library and the Kyocera Museum of Fine Ceramics.
  • Noritake, which develops ceramics manufacturing technologies, including its high-quality Noritake China tableware that is sold worldwide.
  • mui Lab, a startup that specializes in digitalizing living spaces, whose main product is a smart wooden interface that serves as a versatile control panel for smart home devices.
  • JapanIQ, a consultancy focused on Japanese consumerism.

“We got to see first-hand the differences that we’d learned about doing business in different cultures,” said MBA student Mike Costales. “Being able to experience how Japan’s culture is engrained in their business practices is not something I would have learned as just a normal tourist.”

Foster MBA students network in Japan
MBA students cited experiencing Japanese business culture first-hand as a key learning on the tour.

Experiencing Japanese culture together as an MBA class

In addition to meeting top executives and other business leaders in Japan, students also had the opportunity to experience Japanese culture while solidifying the lifetime bonds that are part of what makes Foster’s Technology Management MBA network so robust.

“People knew each other coming to class, but during the tour we were able to form more of a personal connection across the team,” said MBA student Amrita Mahapatra. “That’s a great way of networking and creating a bond.”

Foster MBA students visit Japan
MBA students set aside time to enjoy the beautiful springtime weather in Japan.

In between their business visits in Tokyo and Kyoto, the tours focused more on culture, including a guided Tokyo city tour with stops at the Meiji Shrine, the Shibuya shopping and entertainment district, and Harajuku, known for its extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles.

In the historic city of Kyoto and nearby Arashiyama, students were invited to explore, relax and meditate with guided tours of Tenryuji Temple and Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves; Kinkakuji Temple, known as the Golden Pavilion with its top two floors completely covered in golf-leaf; and Fushimi Inari Shrine, known for its thousands of red torii gates leading up and around the sacred forest of Mount Inari.

Foster MBA students enjoy touring Japan
By combining company visits and cultural enrichment, MBA students elevated their learning experience in Japan.

Nearly every night at least one group of students could be found singing karaoke, and students also traveled far and wide to experience Japanese culinary delights, including upscale tonkatsu don, whole grilled unagi, Kobe beef, and even a visit to the Pokeman Café that student Jane Wu coordinated months in advance.

“I didn’t know my friends could sing so well!” Mahapatra said. “When you spend time with them for one week, you see a different side of them.”

Read more about past International Study Tours that MBA students in Foster’s Technology Management MBA participated in, and explore other opportunities beyond the TMMBA classroom.

Avatar photo Mai Ling Slaughter

Mai Ling Slaughter is Senior Associate Director of the Technology Management MBA program at the Foster School of Business.