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Find what you are picky about: An entrepreneur and ultra-multitasker’s message for IB students

Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Ishanaz Bahar shares her advice to find what they are passionate about through trial and error and holding her values close. This is ­­her third story in our graduate voices series.

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There was no in-person graduation ceremony, so I went to my favorite place: The Tokyo Station.

By Ishanaz Bahar

“Your principles are a set of core values and beliefs that become a guiding framework of how you decide your tasks. What makes you take action? What are you picky about? How do you find out?”

The other day, my manager pointed out that I would probably die of boredom if I didn’t have multiple things going on at once. He was right. But it took me a long time to figure out how to prioritize and choose my tasks.

IB students, whether we like it or not, we learn to multitask. By the end of IB Diploma Programme (DP), we learn to balance many assignments from our six subjects in different disciplines, the extended essay, theory of knowledge, and extracurriculars associated with creativity, activity, service (CAS) and more. As I mentioned in my first article, there is nothing like the repetition of learning, practicing, reflecting to get you into the habit.

I am now wired to multitask. To this day I struggle at finding one single label for my profession, but I can definitely proudly say I am an ultra-multitasker.

After graduating university, I found myself running a business, working full-time at an innovation firm and studying to open a café all at once. I have come to realize that you really don’t have to choose one single career path.

This is an article for you, if you’re a student juggling all the studies, many extracurriculars, and are lost at the thought that you might someday have to choose one discipline to study or one job to work at.

But you do have to know what you are picky about. So, how do we find out, and how do we use them to make decisions?

Here’s a little bit about my year.

“Spend a lot of time as a student to find yourself. Keep questioning yourself and create a habit of acting according to your own research questions and hypotheses”

As mentioned in my previous articles, I founded and currently run an internationally-minded tutoring business Kokusaba Learning Partners, based in Tokyo. The pandemic gave me a lot of time think of ways to expand Kokusaba. Taking online courses from my university made me realize that once the pandemic is over, there had to be a place where students can bond and reconnect. As more and more human interaction goes online, the value of face-to-face human connection will most likely increase in the years to come.

This led me to the idea of opening a Kokusaba café & headquarters. This is going to be an important goal I will work towards in the next few years.

In June 2020, I enrolled myself into Café’s Life Tokyo, a part-time hands-on café startup course held once a week to learn about café management, planning and operations.

In October 2020, I started working full-time at IGNITION POINT, INC., an innovation consultancy firm.

IGNITION POINT specializes in consulting for large firms seeking to innovate, while producing their own technological innovations. I chose to work there full-time, because 1) I wanted experience working full-time in an organization, 2) I wanted to be part of innovation and first-hand witness the growth of a semi-large company, and most of all, 3) I felt love at first sight with their vision and their people (not to mention the office looks like some of my favorite cafés). I work in the Work Design Unit, aiming to shape the future of the way people interact with work. This was a place I could dream and grow together with the company.

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The IGNITION offices.

This brings me to the topic of finding your guiding principles. Your principles are a set of core values and beliefs that become a guiding framework of how you decide your tasks. What makes you take action? What are you picky about? How do you find out?

The answer lies in the same old IB research method: Hypothesis testing.

Going back to the scientific subjects, the first thing you set after a research question is always the hypothesis. Your experimental method ultimately relies on whether it can test your hypothesis. Working at a consultancy, I found out that this approach is used not only in academia, but also in strategic consulting and problem solving in the business world.

I used the hypothesis testing approach to figure out my core principles and ultimately my career path.

It was really important for me to use my time as a student to explore and try a lot of new things. I first started simple, with things I knew I liked: teaching, the arts and driving. From my passion for teaching, my first hypothesis was that, “I can start a tutoring company”. This hypothesis was supported, overwhelmingly. Kokusaba just celebrated our 3rd anniversary, and we couldn’t be prouder.

Next, I realized I loved to make human connections, so my hypothesis was that, “I would enjoy working at a human resource related company”. So, I got an internship at a recruitment firm. Although I enjoyed the internship, it brought another conclusion that I wanted: That I wanted a workplace where I can grow fast at and have a role in the company’s growth itself. These conclusions help you plan your next move, so note them down.

For my love of driving, I took an internship at an automotive company. This made me realize that I did not want to work in a big company—again, I wanted to be part of its growth. I also learned that I could not focus on one desk for the whole day. I wanted to work at a flexible office with free address seating.

Additionally, throughout my time in university I’ve worked part-time as a boxing instructor, model, vocalist, joined the jazz club and even founded my own international music club.

All these experiences as a student made me realize that I wasn’t picky about the job itself. I was picky about the company’s vision, potential and most of all, the people that created the work environment. My criteria for commitment and loyalty to work largely depended on its vision, and the people behind it.

More specifically, people’s energy, emotions and dreams. This brought me to a full-circle epiphany because being driven by vision and emotion was largely influenced by my background in the arts. As an artist, I am wired to dream.

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Once an artist, always an artist; Creating and performing continues to be my favorite outlet for emotions.

Now when I make decisions, I know to listen to my emotions. Whenever I feel overwhelmed because I cannot choose, I don’t choose the tasks itself. I choose the people and visions that I feel the strongest love for.

This is just my example. I know many people who light up because they love their field of work itself.

So, my message to all students, IB and beyond: Your time as a student is the best time to experiment on yourself and go beyond your comfort zone to find your limits. Spend a lot of time as a student to find yourself. Keep questioning yourself and create a habit of acting according to your own research questions and hypotheses. Keep testing until your find out all the things you’re picky about. Make your decisions accordingly, and don’t forget to act on it.

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A self-proclaimed professional multitasker, Ishanaz Bahar is the founder and CEO of Kokusaba Learning Partners. Upon graduating with a BA in Economics from Waseda University, she joined the innovation firm IGNITION POINT INC. as a Work Design Analyst, pulling off a balancing act between full-time work and Kokusaba. On off-days, you will find her lifting weights, hunting for her next favorite cafe in Tokyo or singing her lungs out on long distance drives.

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