Halfway through his undergraduate studies at UCLA, Toshihiro (Toshi) Masubuchi realized he’d chosen the wrong major. A few years later, the Leavey School of Business one-year Master’s program in Finance helped him make a career correction.
“In high school, I was strong in math, sciences, and biology,” he says. “I thought I’d combine that by majoring in bioengineering at UCLA, but by the time I got two years into it, I realized other people in the program were ahead of me. In talking to my roommate, who was majoring in business/econ and minoring in accounting, I found I was more interested in that.”
Changing the major would have required two more years in school, which was out of the question. So Masubuchi saw it through, graduated with his class, and began looking at other career options.
Feeling that he was good with people, he looked for a position in tech sales and landed a job with the Japanese firm Tanaka Kikinzoku International in the Bay Area. Fluent in Japanese and English, he traveled extensively for the company and worked with people in all aspects of the firm.
“It was a great job,” he says. “Sales is a great place to learn what a company really is, because you have the opportunity to interact with all parts of the business. That was my crash course in what it was like to work for a big company.”
Nine months into it, however, flying back from a business trip to Japan, he realized he still wanted to pursue business and finance. He began looking at one-year master’s programs and applied to Santa Clara. He got his acceptance notice on his smart phone while flying on another business trip in February of 2014.
Masubuchi says that his grades at UCLA were decent but not stellar, and that Santa Clara took time to interview him in depth and look at his career trajectory to see that he would be a good fit for the MS Finance program.
“I felt like I had a purpose going in,” he says of his acceptance. “I tried to have no expectations. My mindset was to have a sense of desperation about it, and that I was going to work as hard as I can. I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity the university gave me.”
What struck him about the Santa Clara program was how small the classes were, and how much and how effectively students in the Finance program worked together both in and out of class.
“The teachers were great and accessible,” he says. “But I also worked hard from the get-go to put myself in the position to work with the students who were ahead of me in their learning. I wanted to be constantly pushed by those who were more knowledgeable, and they were willing to share their knowledge and help me. They pulled me along, and I would say the interaction with classmates was the most important thing for me in the program.”
He started classes in the summer of 2014 and by summer’s end was applying for jobs. In July a former roommate connected him to the lead recruiter for a Business Valuation Associate position in the West Region offices at Deloitte Financial Advisory Services. After attending networking events, he was invited to an in-house interview in October and later that month, he was hired at the Los Angeles office beginning in October 2015.
That left him with several months between graduation and the start of the job, so he looked for an internship to pick up additional experience. In the summer of 2015 he worked 10 weeks for Softbank in its San Carlos office. Softbank is a large conglomerate, comprised of several components, including Sprint telecommunications, a significant stake in Yahoo! Japan, and a stake in the Chinese mega-ecommerce firm Alibaba, and a venture portfolio of overseas tech/internet companies. During the internship, he worked on valuing those separate assets, helping to come up with a sum-of-the-parts valuation of the company.
“The experience at Santa Clara was very beneficial,” Masubuchi says. “I was constantly on the grind — studying, taking exams, doing projects. But the condensed nature of the one-year program is great for people who come in with a purpose and want to execute their game plan. It’s probably the best investment I’ll ever make in my life.”