Summer School Alum story: "The Digital Business Master Class helped my business to take the leap into digital"

This summer’s Digital Business Master Class (DBMC) by Aalto University Summer School taught Chisako Ogiwara from Tokyo how important knowledge sharing and collaboration is, especially while her business took a giant step into digital during the pandemic.
Chisako Ogiwara Digital Business Master Class alumna from Aalto University Summer School standing outside a restaurant at a street with some lush and green mountains in the background. She is wearing a short-sleeved white blouse and is smiling towards the camera.

Summer School alumna Chisako Ogiwara is working as an international sales manager in a real estate tech startup in Tokyo and holds a master's degree in political science from Keio University. She attended the online edition of the DBMC at Aalto University Summer School in summer 2021 to gain insights into how digital technology could take her business further during the pandemic. Having spent a total of two years studying in Finland, first at Kajaanin lukio and then exchange studies at Tampere University, Finland holds a special place in her heart.

‘My secret dream is to open a Japanese restaurant, a yoga studio or a studio focused on sustainable dietary education in Finland.’, says Chisako.

Chisako’s main focus work-wise is to persuade and support overseas companies to do business in Japan. ‘I used to travel around the globe for work, but these unusual times have made it challenging. I think I finally understood how important it was for our business to take an even bigger leap into digital. The DBMC included everything I felt I needed in my toolkit to develop our sales activities in the era of digital transformation.

The DBMC included everything I felt I needed in my toolkit to develop our sales activities in the era of digital transformation.

Chisako Ogiwara, Digital Business Master Class alumna

The importance of collaboration

‘Before joining the course, “being innovative” or “digital business” sounded like enormous concepts to me. While working on the assignments as a team, I realized that collaborating and sharing the knowledge and experiences of people from different fields can open a lot of doors for innovation.’, Chisako comments.

The DBMC focuses strongly on challenge-based learning and teamwork. Challenge-based learning is a pedagogical approach used to bring work-life relevance to teaching and learning. Challenges from companies, the public sector and society are integrated deeply into teaching and learning through collaboration with real-life partners.

‘The main goal for our company project during the course was to find a solution for how to collect greenhouse emission data from individuals. Especially in Europe, there is no well-established way in how to collect data on greenhouse emissions caused by individuals.’, says Chisako. Her team successfully worked on the task with a dynamic group consisting of students from China, Pakistan and Japan. 

‘The engineers in our team gave us advice on how to carry out our idea technically, I looked at how to make the idea profitable and our designers played an important role while presenting the idea to the clients in an appealing way. We all used our strengths and collaborated throughout the project.,’ says Chisako.

Chisako Ogiwara, Aalto University Digital Business Master Class alumna in a white kimono with blue flowers, standing and smiling into the camera.
  1. Being disruptive may be the key to innovation. Before taking the course, all I was thinking about was how to satisfy existing customers. But during the course, I started to think about how to satisfy future customers and how to meet their requirements as well. With this way of thinking, we could come up with ideas that may be disruptive in current circumstances but innovative for future business
  2. Stay agile. I now have first-hand experience from how collaborating with people from different backgrounds is the key to success. A successful product is the result of putting together competencies from several different areas. A great product is nothing without user-friendly design or a sustainable and profitable sales strategy.
  3. The importance of being an orchestrator. The era where salespeople only sell and designers only design has come to an end a long time ago. During the course, I learned the importance of being an orchestrator and building bridges between different business functions. The team project gave me hands-on experience of how to do that in real life.

Have you had use for your learnings in your work-life?

I try to be an orchestrator and collaborate and listen to the opinions of people from other fields more than ever. In fact, with this little change, I am already feeling a big difference. I am actually confident that any idea can be realized as a business once people with different skills get to collaborate!

For whom would you recommend the DBMC?

I would recommend the course for anyone who is seeking new ways for their current business to take advantage of digital technology. I was able to truly connect with people through lots of teamwork and discussions, which made the course a fantastic learning experience.

Any tips for future DBMC:ers?

Make sure to take time to discuss and build relationships with your teammates. It is definitely worth it!

The application period for this spring's Digital Business Master Class is now open!
Read more and apply before January 7 2022.

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