Komaki Foster wants to make an impact on the lives of women all over the world.
Her first job – working for a member of the US Congress on Capitol Hill – was certainly leading her in that direction. Tasked with talking to constituents on the work the party was doing to enable the full participation of women in the economy, Komaki felt she was moving an important agenda forward. “Professionally, it was great. But on a personal level, I got involved. Instead of being behind the scenes, I wanted to be the person that was hiring those women, putting programmes in place that support women having families and pursuing professional opportunities. The MBA has given me the confidence to do that now.”
Fascinated by how technology can aid governments in translating complex information into plain communications for the public, she did an internship at a tech firm before her MBA. There, she realised that business has an important role to play in changing society. She says: “After that internship, I had questions: I wanted to know how innovation really worked, and how business can be part of it. It shouldn’t just be guys tinkering away in their garage!” At London Business School (LBS), as Co-President of the Tech and Media Club, Komaki is finding answers.
“Immersing myself in the network of the Tech & Media Club made me realise exactly what it is that I want to do, and the MBA is giving me the complete all-round skill-set to be able to do it,” says Komaki. “It allows me to go through a ton of doors: opportunities I would not be able to pursue otherwise. I wanted a global career and an MBA was really necessary for me. It would have been impossible to break into the world I wanted without it. LBS was the right place to do it.”
Komaki is a global citizen: she is from Japan and the US, grew up in Tokyo, Manila, Brussels and Washington DC, and did her undergraduate degree in London. To break into the global career she wanted, London was the only place to start. “I was really focused on being in London,” she says. “London is home to anything and everything. For tech start-ups, it’s a great city to be. And it’s so cosmopolitan. LBS has over 65 nationalities in its student body and everyone is so globally-minded and curious about everything. I might get a reality check in the outside world when I leave!”
Four years later
After graduating from LBS, Komaki joined American Express in the London office. She says, "Amex was the right fit for me given its global operations, its strong support for diverse, female leadership development, and the opportunity it provided to work at a cross-section between marketing and payment innovation." Her first role was focused on developing relationships with co-branding and fintech partners in Europe, which gave her the chance to learn how to structure complex deals and find opportunities in nascent markets. She then progressed to a chief of staff role, supporting the head of Amex’s international consumer business. She says, "I didn’t think I’d wear a “politics” hat again, but found the opportunity to drive a cohesive business agenda across a lot of stakeholders and markets exciting." Her role today is still focused on the international consumer strategy for Amex, helping to scope the business’ response to regulatory developments and opportunities within the fintech space.
Komaki Foster was a recipient of the MBA Forté Foundation Fellowship (LBS Fund)