MASAKO IKEGAMI ’01

“Without the teachers, administrators, and parents, and the Maret community at large, I would not know the value of kindness and humility that are the foundation to a learned and happy life.”

Possessing a natural artistic talent, Masako Ikegami ’01 has a knack for seeing the elements of design in all things. Although her current career as a financial analyst at a boutique investment bank in Manhattan is a far cry from her training as a landscape architect, she explains, “For me, finance begins with design…a highly creative thought process. As with designing the physical environment, the role of a financial advisor is to study precedents, craft a unique and effective perspective, then propose a method of executing on that insight.”

When Masako graduated from Maret, she continued on to University of Toronto to study architecture and soon after receiving her bachelor’s degree, she completed her master’s degree at Harvard Graduate School of Design. She now works at Environmental Financial Consulting Group (EFCG) with her former professor from graduate school, who still teaches at Harvard and also at Yale School of Architecture. A current and favorite project of hers involves developing the curriculum for classes that teach design students how to “design” their own businesses. Masako’s tasks include researching the curriculum, structuring course units and assignments, inviting guest speakers, and organizing lectures.

Every day, Masako thinks about what are the essential skills that a young designer needs in today’s world to be successful. She admits, “While in the beginning of the research, I focused on the technical aspects of running a business, I quickly realized how important it is to develop a course in which the ‘whole designer’ is enlivened by useful ideas and tools that help to navigate the business world. In today’s highly competitive market, much is required of a designer who desires to be successful and influential. A great designer needs to be a team player, an empathetic listener, and someone with ideas that exceed the requirements and expectations of the client to create a meaningful space.” Masako is thrilled to be able to use her skills as a consultant to help other young aspiring designers to be thoughtful about their approach to their work and their impact on the world and environment.

Masako firmly believes her desire to contribute and “add value to society and grow to be a resource for my community” was a lesson learned during her time at Maret. She comments on how her teachers at Maret demonstrated that you can “live for a calling.”

Masako sees this same desire to do “good” reflected in her classmates from Maret as well. “It seems to me that whenever I come back to campus, or see my Maret friends in New York, we speak about the importance of being purposeful in our work, and in our relationships with our partners, families, and friends.”

Another life lesson that Masako learned at Maret was to never hesitate to ask questions. She wasn’t afraid to ask questions when presented with a challenge including everything from “a difficult paper assignment, a high note in chorus, to a poor backhand in tennis.” She emphasizes that, “Without the teachers, administrators, and parents, and the Maret community at large, I would not know the value of kindness and humility that are the foundation to a learned and happy life…attending a high school that provides an educational experience that is difficult to be matched in college or graduate school is a pretty good head start in life!” As a consultant, asking the right questions, and not being afraid to get to the truth and heart of the matter, are valuable assets for Masako.

Masako hopes to pass on these beneficial lessons through her consulting, particularly through the work she is doing to create a curriculum to guide young design students as they enter the world of business. Masako works to create a solid foundation for future architects and designers to build upon and stretch their creative capacity. She is giving back something to the larger community and making her own impact in the world of design.

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