MBA Corner with Naoko Miyamoto

Naoko Miyamoto is a Haas MBA and management consultant at Deloitte who refinanced her student debt through WeFinance. We got to catch up with Naoko to discuss her experience at Haas, tips on breaking into consulting, and how she evaluates financial products.

MBA Corner with WeFinance is a regular series that looks at alumni, their experiences, and what they’ve learned.

Are you looking to raise money for trips, treks, or living expenses during your MBA? WeFinance is the fastest way to crowdfund a personal loan.

What were you doing before you went to Haas for your MBA?

When I graduated from Georgetown, I worked in research for the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco. At that time, there were crazy state budget crisis and cities in California were going bankrupt. The job was to monitor the situation and to see what was happening and what state legislature was doing to remedy the budget crisis. I realized it was good to have the information, but I wanted to be part of the solution.

After that, I moved into public finance consulting where I spent 3 years before starting at Haas. It’s pretty different from what most people think of when they think consulting. I was basically a financial advisor to government clients. It was really interesting to learn about things like municipal bonds since it’s a really niche market. I got to develop my hard skills and understand how the government operates, especially during very traumatic times.

I ended up specializing in airport finance. Most airports are run by a city and I ended up working a lot with SFO. It was interesting to learn about how airports operate, airlines, and finance related to terminals. The best part was that it was a combination of public and private sectors, since any changes to the airport required buy-in from the airlines.

You’re heading to NYC to start as a management consultant this fall with Deloitte. What drew you to management consulting?

I was super focused on management consulting even before starting business school. Up until that point, my career was very focused on public finance and government but I was worried about being specializing in a niche industry before getting exposure to other industries.

Management consulting seemed interesting as a way to expose myself to different industries, jobs, and functional roles. I obviously new what these roles were — marketing, operations, finance — but I didn’t know what I might like or what I would be good at. Consulting, especially with a large firm like Deloitte, allowed me to cover all the industries, all the functional roles, and I got to dabble in everything to figure out what I would like. I was in it for the education.

What do you think the biggest misconception is people have with management consultants?

I think a lot of people don’t know what management consulting actually means. It’s hard to define since every firm and project are different. Certain firms might focus on strategy, some implementation, and some both.

A processor once told me that, when he was a consultant, whenever he went to a client site, people immediately thought that someone was getting fired or that there were going to be a round of layoffs. Projects don’t even have to relate to manpower — sometimes it’s about organization efficiencies, M&A, or things like pricing.

The way I like to think about it — and the way I explain it to my mom — is that we help companies solve their biggest problems.

Why NYC after staying in the West Coast for so long?

New York is a city I’ve always wanted to live in, and it’s somewhere I considered moving to after undergrad. Right now, it seems like the perfect time.

Part of it is industry based. Post-MBA, it was easy for me to go to New York since consulting is a big industry there. A big part of me figured, “if I don’t go now, then when”

I don’t want to look back in life and have regrets. I’ve been in the Bay Area for 7 years now and sometimes it’s good to get a change of scenery, so why not New York? I love California but I would also love to cross New York off my bucket list!

What tips — life, professional, or anything else — would you give to incoming Haas students?

Definitely have a willingness to explore and push yourself but don’t forget to stay true to yourself. It’s easy in an MBA to lose yourself since there are so many great opportunities for trips and company visits.

The hardest part of an MBA is to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Most opportunities will come again within your MBA, so don’t feel that you need to do something every single time.

I saw a lot of people burnout and I was close to that myself at a lot of different points. Try not to lose yourself in the experience. Have fun but know when to say no — sometimes you just need a night at home with Netflix and popcorn.

More personal well-being advice, but I think that’s the hardest part. You don’t want to leave your program totally exhausted.

What advice would you give to MBA students thinking about consulting as a career path?

Two pieces of advice: #1 practice, practice, and practice; #2 get to know the firms.

1) In order to get the job, you need to do quality case practice. I had a group of 10 and we rotated partners every week and did a case. This allowed us to practice consistently. This helped because it was a support system and it was a good way to get the cases in and to learn from prior mistakes.

The coolest thing about this was being able to see people improve over time.

2) Really get to know each firm. A lot of people forget that when you’re job searching, it’s not just about getting hired, but about finding a company you want to work with. I meshed really well with Deloitte people early on — whether it was classmates, people I met through networking, or recruiting — but everyone is different. Really get to take the time and know the people and the culture. You could get a great offer but if you don’t enjoy working with them, you’re not going to enjoy your time there.

The question I always asked myself was: “if I had to sit in a conference room with the people every day, would I be happy?”

Do you think there are any big personal financial mistakes MBA students make during the program?

I’ve heard of people digging into their retirement funds to finance their personal lives, which I don’t think is a great idea.

Some people signed up for everything and spent a lot of money. I don’t think if you would call it a mistake though. I do remember that I was organizing the disorientation — all the trips that led up to graduation — and a couple of people were like, “I don’t have any money left.”

As long as you don’t regret what you spent your money on, it’s not a mistake.

What was your experience with WeFinance? How did it compare with other services you’ve used in the past?

In one of my classes, we were looking at another online lender to see what they were doing, opportunities, and to understand the student loan market. For the assignment, we interviewed Willy and WeFinance just jumped out at me as really unique.

Willy was saying that WeFinance was trying to change how we think about student debt. Right now, it’s still considered very taboo to talk about debt — I love that you guys are trying to change that culture. Also, I love how I could leverage my own networks to raise funds, and to give friends and family a great return.

How was it different? I had to reach out to my friends and family and my network on Facebook. People already know that you’re going into debt if you’re going to grad school — and especially business school. It just opened up the conversation.

I liked that WeFinance was very personalized, which isn’t the case with other financial products. I like having control over the whole process. It’s eye opening to be able to set my own interest rates, payback periods, and months of deferral. I also love tha it’s my story that I’m telling to friends and family.

If I had to list one reason on why I chose WeFinance from my other options, it would be the control. You won’t get that anywhere else, especially in financial products.

What do you look for when you consider financial products?

I think customer service is really important. If I have a question, I want to be able to talk to a human being.

I also get really annoyed if you don’t have basic information on your website. It shows a lack of transparency to me. Also, if I can’t figure out what your service does from your website, that’s silly.

Another thing I look for in financial products is fairness. Do I think it’s fair and does it make sense to use it? With WeFinance and my student loan situation, my biggest question was whether I would get a fair interest rate. We all know the federal government rates are unfair for certain degrees based on their risk.

So to sum it up: customer service, transparency, and the fairness of the product/service.

Do you think you would ever use WeFinance in the future? For trips, mortgage, or something else?

Hopefully I won’t need to raise money again but if the opportunity presented itself to list again on WeFinance… why not?

I really like how WeFinance isn’t just a mechanism for raising money. It’s trying to change the culture of how we think of lending, loans, and debt — that can only be a good thing.

If you’re willing to crowdfund to people across the world you don’t even know, why wouldn’t you be willing to lend to people you know and trust? The foundation of WeFinance makes sense and I’m a huge supporter and hope it continues to grow.

Would I lend to people on the platform? Definitely! I would be interested in lending to people in my network, Haas students, or maybe even other business schools!