The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In Japan, a country where the glass ceiling is still very much frosted, making it to the executive level as a woman requires more than just a few years of experience. Post-graduate education is a highly sought after advantage for any woman looking to carve out a career in male-dominated fields.

The McGill University MBA Japan program offers an opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge, and experience to further a career in international business.

After 14 years in sales at Inficon, a provider of world-class instruments for gas analysis, measurement, and control, 2014 graduate Naomi Kumagai decided to set personal long- and short-term goals. “I was thinking, over the next three years, to either keep doing sales as a professional or change direction to management,” she said.

Her boss at the time told her that, if she wanted to be a successful woman in their field, she needed a good education. So she decided to get an MBA from McGill University.

Kumagai highlighted the global reach of the McGill program, from its eclectic mix of international students to the opportunities within the program to work elsewhere—even to go on the Study Trip to the home campus in Montreal.

McGill has a widely respected reputation—another element that appealed to her—and the quality of the program was a key factor. “I learned a lot of different skills. I can understand all of the business and financial aspects of my work now. We had a lot of team projects at McGill and there were people with different characters,” she explained. “I learned how to deal with everyone to bring out their highest potential.” These skills transferred directly to her current role and have been key to her workplace success.

She also highlighted the ability to consider issues from different perspectives when solving problems. As she explained, although challenges arise in her role as president, “I encountered harder things during my MBA and now I can get through anything.”

Kumagai owes some of her success and ability to deal with endless change, sleepless nights, and hard work to the MBA course.

“Without change, we cannot grow,” she said. “It was a good challenge for me to become the business unit manager first.” She achieved more than 10 percent growth for Inficon Japan after just two years, and in the third she was named president, becoming the first woman to hold the position with Inficon globally.

Her journey was not without its challenges. “As a woman, there is a ceiling, but you can’t break it in one day; it takes time,” she explained, noting that many were shocked by her quick rise to the position, especially in a technical field. “But I try to just listen, and think I can also do it.”

Many of her fellow MBA graduates have gone on to better jobs and positions. “Most of my classmates were very ambitious, high-energy people.”

Her advice to anyone considering an MBA at McGill? “Don’t hesitate, just jump in and you will reach your goal.”