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Gen Kimura: Why You Should try Everything Once

Gen Kimura is a graduating senior majoring in Finance and Spanish and entering a career at Oracle. He is passionate about international business, and we discuss how growing up as a Japanese-American shaped his outlook on the world. Gen interned in Bolivia with the Global Fellows program last summer, and he currently works in business development for Rakuten USA.


In this conversation, we discuss Gen’s improbable journey from soccer player and pre-med student to international traveler and businessman. He shares the formational stories and experiences from his four years at Santa Clara that have put him on his current path.


Interview Highlights

Gavin Cosgrave: You grew up speaking both Japanese and English. Did you ever travel to Japan growing up?


Gen Kimura: During 2nd grade, my parents sent me to Japan to go to school. I got to study at a Japanese school for a month, and they really took me in. That was my early adventure into experiencing a completely different culture.


GC: Did you know you wanted to travel or spend more time in Japan?

GK: Until college, I was a homebody, and I didn’t want to travel. I wanted to play soccer and stay home with friends. After I quit playing soccer at Santa Clara, it gave me a chance to use the summer to relax and hang out. I organized a trip with my friends, and that changed my outlook on travel. We went to Japan and Thailand, and that showed me how great travel was.


GC: What role did soccer play in your life coming into college?


GK: Since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to play Division 1 soccer. I played for the Portland Timbers Academy teams, and we would be traveling every weekend. When I got the opportunity to come to Santa Clara and play soccer, I had to take it.


GC: What did you enter Santa Clara wanting to study? 


GK: I came into the school as an College of Arts and Sciences student, and I wanted to go to med school. But I knew I wasn’t meant for staying in school for 10 years. I found passion in the side of business that unlocks different types of potential.


GC: There are so many changes that have happened over the last four years… you came in playing soccer and taking classes for med school, and now you love international business and writing. What about the Santa Clara experience changed those things in you?


GK: I think just being exposed to so many different kinds of people, whether it be from around the country or international. What Santa Clara does really well is forcing you to take different types of courses. Through that, I was able to find things that interest me. How are you going to know what your passions are if you don’t try something once?


GC: What did you get out of your Global Fellows experience in Bolivia?


GK: The company I worked for was called AHA Bolivia, and they are an ethical and sustainable manufacturer or knitwear and plastics. I was interested in working for a conscientious business. I applied, thankfully I got in, and this last summer was really eye-opening. Being able to experience a developing country was something that I had never done before. Not in the way of seeing how much your life is better or anything like that.


At the end of the day, we’re all living on this same planet and most people really are the same. We laugh at the same things, and find happiness and anger in the same things. Shout out to professor Tanya Bunger for that experience.


GC: What moments will you remember from Bolivia?


GK: In Bolivia, lunch is a fundamental part of the culture. Every Friday at lunch time, our boss would take us to a house with all the employees and interns, and we would eat lunch for two hours. She had the most fascinating guests. Whether it was a personal chef for Magic Johnson, Ronald Regan or even at the playboy mansion for Hugh Hefner. Whether it be an Argentinian guitar player, a survivor of the Dirty War in Argentina. Easily the most fascinating group of people I’ve ever met. Being able to converse over local Bolivian foods and hearing those people’s stories was something I’ll never forget.


GC: How did you think about your career differently after working in Bolivia?


GK: After coming back from Bolivia, I had a really strong conviction that I wanted to pursue a career in international business. I really found value in living in a different country and appreciating things that you grew up with.   I want to spread that message through business.


GC: What advice would you give to a first-year student?


GK: The biggest piece of advice I can give is to do what you want in the moment and don’t worry about what might happen in the future. When I came into college, I wanted to play soccer all four years but realized that wasn’t what I wanted. Do what you feel passionate about and don’t worry if you want to do it for the long-term. To find your interests you have to try a multitude of things.  


GC: What will you be doing after graduation?


GK: Right after graduation, I’ll be traveling to Colombia for a month. I applied to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program, but unfortunately, I was placed as an alternate. However, I’m just going to make my own Fulbright and go there for a month. After that, I’ll be moving to Austin, Texas and working for Oracle.

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