Proactive learning
increases options and
widens possibilities

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
School of Engineering
Tohoku University
Ibuki Masuda

© School of Engineering, Tohoku University

Improving the ability to
understand numbers Devising
business strategies as a team

Google/Amazon/Facebook/Apple (GAFA) are the four corporate giants leading the world today. Many of their founders have a knack for science and have studied computer engineering. They founded their companies on their specialized knowledge of IT and creative ideas, and have achieved considerable success. These four companies are leading the world, all unparalleled and unbeatable. As implied by the terms “faculty of technology” and “faculty of engineering,” a faculty of engineering aims to cultivate engineers who specialize in learning about technology and who can succeed in society. On the other hand, a corporate leader who is trying to be successful on the global stage is required to analyze world market trends, devise solid strategies for success, and possess the ability to accurately manage people, things, and money involved in their business. The School of Engineering of Tohoku University offers a special course called the “International Strategic Competence Training Course” for students who want to acquire the skills of creating strategies and understanding companies and the world from a numbers perspective while learning at a school of engineering. In addition to learning about international affairs and the basics of financial statements which reflect a company's overall soundness, this course mainly holds discussions and studies corporate analysis and business proposals while learning from managers and young employees. Ibuki Masuda, a junior at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the School of Engineering, is one of the students of this course. He says he decided to take this course because he wants to broaden his horizons beyond the mathematics, physics and chemistry he is studying at the School of Engineering. He explains, “The students in this course share a desire to succeed on a global level. Our ability to understand numbers has considerably improved from our studies thus far, but what is important is to examine for ourselves what companies think about and how business strategy is conducted by the way money is moved around. The challenge going forward is predicting how companies will act in the next 10 to 20 years based on past information contained in their financial statements.”In this course, students grouped in teams tackled the subject “Strategies for Softbank to Surpass Amazon in Business.” Masuda's team examined Softbank's telecommunications business which is its core business. Based on the concept of MaaS (mobility as a service) wherein all means of transportation such as cars and airplanes are connected by data, they devised a strategy for Softbank to lead the efforts to make MaaS a reality in Japan. He says, “Our team had three members, one of whom was a student at the Faculty of Economics. The other member and I who were from the School of Engineering tended to focus purely on logic and on analyzing whether it had any flaws, whereas the economics student was good at following numbers while at the same time maintaining a broad perspective on ethical and conceptual issues and contribution to society. When our discussions were stuck because we were too focused on some details, the economics student would say, “Let's ignore this for a moment and approach it loosely,” and that helped us to move forward. From this experience, I learned skills for role-sharing to move as a team by relying on other people's help in areas where you may be lacking. I also learned many other things such as information-gathering skills, and how to better communicate within a team when sharing information.

Learning the importance of
contributing to society
through an internship at


Having taken the International Strategy Leader Course, Masuda had another important experience. Senrei Co., Ltd. is a company based in Onagawacho, Miyagi Prefecture. The person in charge of marketing at the company was a professional advisor of the course. Masuda explains, “Many advisors are either from manufacturers with connections to the Faculty of Engineering or large companies in Tokyo. Senrei, which produces and sells seafood products, was unique among them. I was fascinated by the fact that they manage the overall flow of products themselves from production and processing to distribution to restaurants based on the concept of the “sixth industrialization,” so I decided to do an internship there.”During his month-long internship, he rode on boats with producers, worked with Vietnamese trainees at a processing plant, and systematically learned about marketing and quality control at the office. He was also given the opportunity to think with employees about ways of raising the company's already world-class, advanced sanitation standards to an even higher level. He says, “The biggest takeaway from my internship was that I realized I had a self-centered way of thinking. Personally seeing a town on the way to recovery from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, I was deeply moved by Onagawacho's efforts in attracting and supporting start-ups from all over Japan. After my internship, I had the chance to interact with some local people. When they told me that they were starting and doing businesses not to make money but to help with recovery efforts, I realized that previously, I just wanted to make money by applying what I've learned in college in order to live a stable life, but I needed to have a broader perspective. I began to think that making money should be secondary, and that the most important thing is contributing to society.

東北大学 工学研究科・工学部 Driving Force 明日を創るチカラ INTERVIIEW REPORT

My future vision changed
as experiences deepened
Including the development
of materials that reduce
environmental burdens in
my vision

Masuda says he was interested in airplanes when he was in high school. One of his uncles was a pilot for a private airline company, so hearing stories from his uncle about other countries and airplanes inspired him, and he began to vaguely think about working in aviation in the future. He says, “Becoming a pilot was one of my options, but I was also interested in airplane design and development. My uncle piloted the state-of-the-art Boeing 787, and when I found out that one of its biggest differences compared to conventional airplanes was the materials it was made of, I began to take an interest in the field of materials science as well.”So he searched which universities conduct cutting-edge research in materials, and the first one he found was Tohoku University. He explains, “I thought that if I attended this university, I would be able to study materials for airplanes in one way or another. This was why I chose Tohoku University. An airplane is an amalgamation of various cutting-edge technologies such as heat-resistant materials and lithium ion batteries, so I thought if I belonged to any of the laboratories in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, my studies would be connected to airplanes in some way.”Masuda is thinking of continuing his studies at graduate school after graduating from his undergraduate course, but now that he has become conscious of contributing to society, how has his future plan been affected? He says, “As an option other than aviation, I've begun to think about studying the development of materials that reduce burdens on the environment. At this university's Graduate School of Environmental Studies, there is a teacher in the Department of Environmental Studies for Advanced Society who is doing research on constructing a sustainable recycling system for materials and resources. I voluntarily attended her seminar, and began studying environmental science. Since phosphorous oversupply and resource depletion are hot topics in the field of environment today, I'm thinking that one of my future paths could be studying the recovery of phosphorus from refined steel slag in a lab at the School of Engineering that focuses on research about steel refining from my senior year onwards. And in the future, I also dream of being involved in ESG investment that takes into account the social responsibilities such as environmental burden, working environment, and human rights issues.”

Various options that cater
to the desire to learn can
be found here

Juniors in the School of Engineering are very busy every day, with experiment reports to write on top of attending lectures. Masuda says his schedule is extremely tight because he is taking the International Strategy Leader Course in addition to all that. But he explains, “I've managed to do both because I have a strong motivation to increase my resourcefulness. As I don't belong to any club, I have free time that I can use to invest in myself. It's all about time management.”His hobbies include mountain climbing and traveling, so he has done various things during his long spring and summer vacations. During his freshman year spring break, he joined a month-long language training program in Sheffield, England, under this university's SAP program. In the next spring, he went to Finland to study entrepreneurship and business strategies. In the summer of that year, he traveled to Thailand with a friend; and went on a moped tour of Hokkaido for two weeks after returning to Japan. In the summer of his junior year, he went mountain climbing all over Europe for one and a half months with a German exchange student. He says, “During high school, I was very busy with my canoe club activities, so I didn't have much time for myself aside from my studies. To make up for this, I wanted to try various things at university and deepen my knowledge. At Tohoku University, the more students try to learn, the more options they have available. By using this kind of support, I was able to have many experiences. The important thing is proactive learning and continuing to invest in oneself. Proactive learning increases options and widens possibilities.”