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Dolphin Tales

Making the world a better place for us all!

Kumudra, Class of 2014, is inspired to work on the tough issues at the crossroads of mobility and environmental sustainability helping to make a difference for a brighter future.


Where are you living now?
After graduating from NIS, I spent 4 more years in Nagoya attending Nagoya University.
I finally left the comfort of Nagoya in 2018 to pursue my master’s degree and have been living in the San Francisco Bay Area since. 

What kind of work are you doing?
Throughout my NIS days, I would often visit my family in Myanmar and witness how the lack of mobility options would limit an individual’s ability to achieve their goals or reach their full potential. This served as the foundation for my ambition; I strive to make mobility accessible for everyone through my work. However, this increased and improved access to mobility should not come at the expense of our beautiful planet. I received a shocking reminder of how real climate change is back in 2020 when I woke up one morning to see the sky a deep orange, due to the smoke from the wildfires (search "San Francisco Orange Sky" in Google images to see what I saw). It was apocalyptic, it was painful, and it set me on my path to combining my passion for mobility with sustainability and carbon neutrality. 

I am currently a Technical Program Manager at Toyota Research Institute (TRI) in the Energy and Materials division, working to accelerate the path to carbon neutrality by innovating in the research, manufacturing, and adoption of emission-free vehicles. Specifically, my team's mission is to optimize battery manufacturing through a comprehensive data-driven approach. 

In order to realize this, my primary responsibilities include aligning and managing project expectations, deliverables, and deadlines across stakeholders, and being a liaison between our team in the US and our counterparts in Japan.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
It is definitely energizing to work in an environment where those around you are also equally as passionate and determined to make a change. I truly enjoy working with my team to generate innovative solutions and approaches to the problems at hand, and nothing motivates me more than knowing that my daily small successes contribute to making incremental changes to tackle this very urgent problem. 

What kind of challenges does it hold for you?
There is a lot of pressure around time (particularly as an increasing number of countries and governments push for radical transformations in the next 5-10 years), and that poses the greatest challenge for myself and my teams' project timelines and workflows. On a more day-to-day level, harmonizing the contrasting ways in which work is done in Japan and the US (particularly, Silicon Valley) has also been a challenge. 

Did NIS help you prepare for your current position in any way?
One of NIS' mission is to enable students to articulate their dreams, and be confident and comfortable in doing so. While I was a student at NIS, I had a wide range of "dreams" and NIS provided me with the support and opportunities to learn how to really give each dream or idea a shot and quickly adapt if I found it was not really what I thought it would be. Today, I am still applying this strategy in the workplace, in which being confident in expressing/articulating my ideas/vision is crucial.

What’s the one thing that you are really enjoying or getting most excited about these days?
I really enjoy being out in the open, and exploring the beautiful nature California (and neighboring states) has to offer; it reminds me of how important sustainability efforts are.

What’s the one thing you miss most about Japan/Nagoya?
I miss the ‘omotenashi’ culture of Japan tremendously. It is something so unique to Japan, and I had taken it for granted.

And of course, we need to know, what words of wisdom do you have for today’s Dolphins?
Celebrate your small successes (and failures!). It is so easy to focus on what did not go right and let that overshadow the success and progress you are making every day. Take a moment to reflect on all of the success you have had thus far, no matter how small, and embrace it! (I also read this article about celebrating failures very inspirational and hope it will encourage more students to take risks without shying away from the fear of failure or rejection: The Atlantic - A Toast to All Rejections)


NISにいた頃から、ミャンマーの家族を訪れるたびに、交通や移動の不自由さが個人の夢や可能性の実現を妨げているさまを目の当たりにしてきました。このことが、全ての人が利用できる交通手段を実現するという、私自身の大きな目標の土台になっています。でも、交通の利便性の向上のために、私たちの美しい地球が代償を払うのは間違っています。このことに改めて気付かされたのは2020年のある朝、山火事の煙で不気味なオレンジ色に染まった空を見た時でした(Google 画像検索で「サンフランシスコ 空 オレンジ」と検索してみてください)。まるでこの世の終わりのような痛ましい風景に、私は自身の夢に、持続性とカーボン・ニュートラル化を合わせて実現できる道を選ぶことにしたのです。








小さな成功の(そして失敗も!)大切さを忘れないでください。失敗に気を取られ、実はその影にも成功があり、毎日進歩を積み重ねていることを忘れてしまいがちです。どんなに小さなことでも、自分がここまでやってきたことやその成果を振り返り、誇りに思ってください。(失敗を恥じず糧とすることについてのこの記事にも感銘を受けました。失敗すること、拒絶されることを恐れず挑戦する勇気を持つことをお勧めしたいと思います: The Atlantic - A Toast to All Rejections