Early in her career, Satoko heard something during a leadership training session that stuck with her. A member of the management team “told us that the expectation isn’t that we become superheroes, scoring 10 out of 10 on all business competencies,” says the Operations Vice President in Morgan Stanley Tokyo, who joined the firm in 2007. Instead, “He encouraged us to focus on developing our own unique strengths—not to try to be a Wonder Woman or Superman. The point was that having diverse people with different core competencies and strengths is the best way to make an organization stronger.”
The message resonated with Satoko, who has spent a lifetime embracing diversity and her own multicultural background. Born in Korea and raised in Hong Kong to a Japanese father and Korean mother, she had a natural curiosity about her heritage that led her to Kyoto University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. She was originally a little apprehensive about finding her place on campus, but she immediately felt right at home. “My university is known for its motto, ‘spirit of freedom,’ which is more than just a theory. There was a lot of diversity there, with people from different regions and countries. I really liked it that way,” she says.
Satoko says that the value placed on diversity links her experiences in college and her professional life at Morgan Stanley. At the firm, diversity comes in many forms, including the diversity of ideas, which is embraced as “an inclusive way of thinking,” Satoko notes. It’s the kind of environment where she feels there’s nothing—not even being a superhero—that’s better than simply being herself.
How would you describe your role to someone outside of the firm?
I’m a project manager in our Operations division. My role is to lead mandatory projects initiated by external stakeholders, like regulators, as well as discretionary projects, which are driven internally. Discretionary projects are usually associated with revenue enablement, cost savings, innovation or risk management.
What is a typical day like for you?
I spend a lot of time on analysis and digesting project requirements. I also work very closely with our Technology team, because when a project requires a system enhancement, I need to have a good understanding of the system itself. Planning, budgeting, writing business requirements, testing and implementation of a project are all things that I’m responsible for.
Is there a project that you’re most proud of?
In 2019, I led our firm’s implementation of a mandatory industrywide project called settlement-cycle shortening. The goal was to decrease the amount of time it takes to settle equity trades from three days to two. I coordinated the program across all of our stakeholders. It was very stressful at points, but I learned a lot—like how to be resilient and to work under pressure. It was a great opportunity for me. Even when unexpected challenges came up, we coped with them because we had strong partnerships across the firm.
Can you tell talk a bit about your experience with career mobility at the firm?
When I initially joined Morgan Stanley in 2007, I was working as an Analyst for the Security Settlement team. A few years later, I was approached about a promotion into a role in Cash Management, in part because of the commonalities between the two teams. I led projects for both teams, and I discovered that what I learned in the early days of my career was still useful in my new role.
What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding?
I was influenced a lot by my father, who worked in sales and marketing in the hospitality industry. He used to say to me that I need to do something that is beneficial to others—to try to be of help to people. I always have that in mind and try to think about things from other peoples’ point of view. If someone on a receiving team appreciates my efforts, I really feel that I’ve done my job well.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like the arts, especially painting and writing. I take a Chinese calligraphy class on Saturday mornings, where we use brush and ink to write characters. After a hectic week, it helps me reset. I think it has an effect similar to meditation.
How do you like to give back through volunteer efforts at the firm?
I’m a member of our recruiting working group, and we often meet with college students to promote the firm and interview job applicants. It is very exciting to demonstrate to interested applicants the possibilities of working at the firm. I also enjoy learning from the students and seeing their passion and energy.
What characteristics do you think help new team members be successful at Morgan Stanley?
I would say resilience and the ability to overcome challenges. In today’s changing environment, you will definitely encounter unexpected difficulties. You just need the confidence to know that you can cope with them. And at Morgan Stanley, there are always people who can support you.