McGill MBA Japan is graduating business leaders who can fit into the new global economy – and help to change it.

Japan’s position in the international economy is changing rapidly. Until recently, the country has looked to the United States and Europe for its international business interests. But in recent years, global business trends have inspired the Land of the Rising Sun to face west – towards the rest of Asia.

This is a dynamic that Philip O’Neill, Director of McGill MBA Japan Program, has noticed, for incoming and outgoing students alike – many of the program’s newest entrants hail from Asian countries, and after they have completed their programs, McGill alums often go to work in China and countries in Southeast Asia.

As he points out, the issues that come up in this new business world have very little to do with accounting or the more technical aspects of management: “How you run a factory is pretty much the same wherever it is in the world, but how you get the people to work in that factory is different, depending on the country. If you have factory workers in China and Japan, their expectations are completely different, and their expectations will be different from those in India, or Thailand, or Vietnam.”

Students in McGill’s MBA program take courses in cross-cultural management and global leadership, but O’Neill cautions that there are no “one size fits all” solutions being offered in the classroom. “We don’t give cookie-cutter answers – ‘you’re in Vietnam, so do this.’ It’s more along the lines of, ‘you’re in Vietnam, so how can you understand your Vietnamese employees’ point of view: how do you build mutual respect and work with them?’ That capacity is extremely important. And I think that our alumni are quite successful in this.”


Philip O’Neill

Another area where the business climate is changing in Japan is a gradual recognition that the country needs to appreciate – and better employ – the many women who are looking to take roles with greater leadership responsibilities than they have had before. McGill MBA Japan program exemplifies this new development. Over the years since the program was launched in 1998, class balance has been roughly 65 percent male to 35 percent female – an impressive ratio even when compared with overseas business programs – while last year’s entering Class of 2016 is nearly 50 percent women.

Of course, as important as it is to recognize economic changes and the slowly shifting demographics of Japan’s workforce, an MBA program still needs to offer a quality education that is grounded in the fundamentals. McGill MBA Japan offers a curriculum that combines the flexibility of Saturday and Sunday classes – courses meet two weekends during the month – with a unique multidisciplinary approach that allows students to put business concepts into practice across subject boundaries and, for those students who are working, to test those ideas out in a “working laboratory.” As O’Neill points out, McGill’s business curriculum, which is delivered entirely in English, is built around the Integrated Management concept. Rather than a single professor teaching a class about finance, several professors from different fields share their knowledge in one class, an environment that encourages students to see, “for example, how IT, finance, and economics interact to create value for a company … it’s about trying to get the students to not think in silos, but to have a more integrated approach to management.”

We asked O’Neill what seemed to be the common thing that McGill MBA Japan grads – who have gone on to such diverse paths as craft beer brewing and improving the lives of factory workers overseas—have developed over the course of their two years in the program, and his answer was clear: “Confidence and courage. Students learn the vocabulary to be able to talk about business and finance, so they can handle themselves in a business environment. But courage is key, of course: without that, you can’t do anything. And this is what people develop through our program.”

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