I never did jump onto Facebook, so I’ve never had the chance to “cybercreep” on strangers’ personal lives. I do however have LinkedIn and I can tell you, with absolutely no shame, I look at strangers’ profiles and examine career progressions all the time. Once in a while, I come across a profile that I find unique and I reach out to the individual with a request to hear their story. This is the first of what I hope will be many articles sharing the stories of the individuals behind those interesting LinkedIn profiles. As with all my articles, regardless of whether you are interested in their particular career choices or not, I hope there are underlying ideas which you can utilize in your own career development. And so I will begin with the story of Tetsuhiro Harimoto.
Tetsu always knew he wanted to study Biology. After completing his secondary school education in China, Testu’s father, who had moved to China from Japan for his work as an Industrial Chemist, sent him to pursue his undergraduate degree in Canada at the University of Toronto. Following his first year in general life sciences, Tetsu decided to pursue a specialist degree in Biomedical Toxicology after discovering a strong interest in the Pharmacology & Toxicology field of research.
During his first summer of undergrad, Tetsu decided to get some hands-on lab research experience. He reached out to labs in Tokyo and was able to find two labs, one in Waseda University and the other in the University of Tokyo, who were willing to take him as a summer research student. Faced with a difficult choice between two interesting options, Tetsu made one of what I am sure are many unique decisions of his life: he chose both. Tetsu spent each week splitting his time between the two universities, which luckily are quite close by. He spent his time at Waseda University researching cardiovascular disease mechanisms and at the University of Tokyo he studied cytoskeleton molecular biology. During his second summer, Tetsu decided to seek further opportunities for molecular biology research in the city of Shanghai. When interviewing for a summer research position at Jiaotong University, he encountered another interviewee who was currently working in a lab at Tongji University and so he took a chance to interview there as well. That chance encounter led to him spending his summer at Tongji University where he conducted stem cell research.
In his third summer, Tetsu would’ve been a perfect candidate for any molecular biology lab looking for a summer student. However, staying true to his personal philosophy of reaching out for unique experiences, Tetsu decided instead to try venturing out into the world of management consulting. He contacted what was at the time Booz & Company (now called Strategy&, after being acquired by PricewaterhouseCoopers) and was selected as a consulting intern and was actually one of the first undergraduate student ever employed as summer intern by their Tokyo office. Tetsu was placed into a team working on a project for a major Japanese semiconductor company who was looking at potentially entering the Chinese market. The client wanted the team to evaluate the opportunity and, if market entry appeared positive, create a strategy for entry (ie. which products in which regions, etc.). Tetsu tells me that at the time he had no clue about business and didn’t even know the difference between sales and profit! Yet I believe he clearly possesses one of the most critical skills an intern can have: he is a motivated and fast learner. Tetsu worked with very logical, intelligent people and he enjoyed the pace of the project along with the different aspects involved. When asked about the main differences between scientists and consultants, Tetsu states two key distinctions: (1) the depth of knowledge, with consultants usually being generalists and scientists being specialists, and (2) the time constraints, consultants must research selectively while being able to think quickly and prepare answers on the fly. Though Tetsu enjoyed his time in consulting, he realized that he still had a desire to be a specialist.
Before returning to finish his final year of undergraduate studies, Tetsu took part in the Professional Experience Year (PEY) program offered here at the University of Toronto. He began his PEY in the laboratory of Dr. Krista Lanctot at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Tetsu was primarily focused on pharmacoeconomics, utilizing big data sets and SPSS to try and identify disease factors. During his 10 months there, he was able to get involved with 4 papers (3 of which have been published, thus far) and attended 3 conferences. However, Tetsu eventually realized that he preferred research on the molecular level.
Wanting to experience as much as possible before returning to school, Tetsu decided to reach out to one of the biggest investment bank in Japan at the time, Morgan Stanley. When he was given an opportunity to spend 3 months there as an Equity Research Intern, he encountered some resistance from the PEY office. PEY was intended for a student to spend a full twelve months in a single placement; however, Tetsu was able to push through and make the move to Morgan Stanley. During his 3 months there, Tetsu spent half his time working with associates and analysts from different sectors. The other half was spent preparing for two presentations which he made for managing directors. The first was a presentation on the display industry with the focal question being whether OLED would replace LCD technology, and if so, what percentage and how quickly. The second was on the motorcycle industry with the focal question being who would end up being the biggest player in this diversified market, involving both Japanese and international manufacturers, and how much of the market would they control.
After returning to Toronto and completing his final year of undergraduate, Tetsu started to interview with various companies, including Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company and ZS Associates. Though he received a few offers, the one he was interested in required him to stay in Toronto for a few years before being able to return to Tokyo. He also considered directly pursuing graduate school and had a lab ready to accept him but in the end Tetsu wanted to experience new life in Japan. He decided to return to Morgan Stanley in Tokyo as an Equity Research Associate on the condition that he was allowed to focus on the Pharmceutical and Medical Technology industries. Thus far, Tetsu has enjoyed his time at Morgan Stanley working with very knowledgeable people, many of whom are PhDs. Though he is in equity research, he enjoys the fact that it involves learning much of the science and management aspects of the industries he follows. Tetsu would like to stay at Morgan Stanley for at least a few more years in order to have a solid foundation in the industry and business skills. Yet he remains flexible and open to future opportunities when the time comes, whether it is another position within Morgan Stanley or even returning to school for a graduate program.
From my viewpoint, Tetsu has definitely had a very unique career progression. I ended our conversation by asking him what it was that took him through these various experiences. His answer was fairly simple in theory and yet in practice is a rare trait: he always sought out unique experiences even if it meant creating his own opportunities. He believes the reason he was hired at Morgan Stanley was because his resume was unique from the normal applicant (ie. Ivy League graduate with degree in finance). He had studied in Canada, had a undergraduate in Biomedical Toxicology and had experience in various research labs, management consulting and equity research. His final word of advice to students thinking about their future careers: BE MEMORABLE! In my mind, Tetsu has definitely done just that.