Although he already holds a Ph.D. in electronic and electrical engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology, as a manager in charge of research and development operations in his lab, Kawai came to believe that his training as a researcher was not enough. In collaborating on product development and maintenance with colleagues at NTT operating company Acess Network Service Systems Laboratories and with corporate customers on solution sales, he realized that he had developed strengths not commonly held by other NTT researchers.
Kawai explained that while he and many of the other NTT researchers have very strong engineering skills, simply developing technology is not sufficient in today's business world. "The research needs to guide the company in the right direction, so even technological managers must be trained in strategy and corporate management perspectives," he said.
Consequently, he began to explore pursuing yet another degree.
"Initially I considered MBA programs that could help me gain a corporate management perspective," Kawai said. However, when he discovered MIT's System Design and Management (SDM) program he was especially impressed that it was offered jointly by the Sloan School of Management and the MIT Engineering Systems Division within the School of Engineering. Because he could study both technology and business at MIT, he chose SDM.
While Kawai's first and most important learning goal will be to gain insight into global innovation management, corporate management, and organizational strategy, he also wants to learn leadership skills for a global business environment.
The reason? Although Kawai's research for NTT has been in fiber optic systems, he believes that no single laboratory or company can conduct research on the scale needed for present-day applications. In the long term, he is interested in globalization of research and development. He believes that collaboration with research institutions in other countries is especially important because cultural factors must be considered in conducting research. For example, people in different societies will place different value on various telecommunications services, and may be willing to pay more—or less—to receive them. In short, successful collaboration with research and government institutions, as well as with local telecommunications firms, is essential to creating the added value his company needs to survive.
When Kawai is not working, he enjoys scuba diving off Japan's Izu peninsula and has taken about 100 hours of underwater video of rare fish and other unusual sights.