While Mizuho Kanai (MBA 2018) was fulfilling her summer internship at NPR, her manager recommended that she read an HBS case study about how the Sesame Workshop CEO, Jeff Dunn (MBA 1981), was changing the institution. “I was blown away,” she says, “by how Jeff and his team were bringing business rigor to the institution.”

The inspiration arrived at the most opportune time. “NPR was a formative experience in which I learned two things,” says Mizuho. “First, I discovered that I enjoyed working for a mission I believed in and surrounding myself with like-minded people. And I really liked the media space; it’s competitive and interesting – especially when you really believe in the content they make.”

Mizuho spent her internship summer deep in reflection, “struggling to move out of finance and find what I want to do long term.” As a child, she had spent formative years in Japan and the Ivory Coast. “Growing up and moving around, educational media helped me develop multi-culturally; it helped me continue to learn English and see what’s happening in the rest of the world.”

Mizuho Kanai (MBA 2018)

Her own parents have held key social sector positions in Japan and Asia, establishing a family precedent for service. “I turned to Leadership Fellows because I was interested in contributing to the social good,” says Mizuho. “For those of us entering the social space full-time for the first time, it’s a great place to start because of the exposure to leadership and the connections to other Fellows. It’s an opportunity unique to HBS – a chance to connect the dots between my aspirations and my need for experience.”

Taking it to the street

Through Leadership Fellows, Mizuho applied to a few organizations with educational missions, but Sesame Workshop “excited me most,” she says. “I’m really attracted to its mission to help children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder – especially the kinder part in this current age.”

Although she hasn’t discussed specific projects yet, Mizuho will serve as Director of Strategy for International Media and Education. “Sesame Street is strong in the United States, but it still has lots of potential outside the U.S. Given my background and my passion for contributing to my home country and the Asian region in general, this role is very appealing to me.”

Mizuho has three objectives for her Fellowship year. “I want to contribute to Sesame Workshop using what I learned in previous jobs and at HBS. I hope to get to know the organization – the people and what they do – more deeply. And I want to have one project I can own and see to its conclusion.

This article was originally published on HBS Social Enterprise Impact Stories.