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20 January 2020

Our Incredible Life Journeys: Mathieu COMBELLAS (TBS 2008)

Please say a few words about yourself?

My name is Mathieu Combellas. I’m 34 years old and have been living in Japan for 10 years. I decided to go to Toulouse - and TBS - because I was instantly attracted by its atmosphere and the welcome I received during the oral exams. I’m also originally from the South-West but hadn’t actually lived much in France because my father had chosen to live abroad, so I was seduced by the idea of returning to my origins. I specialised in Management in High Tech Environment and did a minor in architecture with INSA Toulouse. My goal was to move towards automation, which I ended up not doing afterwards. I was involved in the student associations: BDM and teaching Japanese language courses with Ecstasia. I had passed my oral exams in Japanese for the bac.

Who are you today?

After I got my degree (Class of 2008), I decided to get a Master in Financial Analysis at ESCP-EAP because I didn’t want to enter the working world at the time. Then, I did an end-of-year internship at EDF, which made me want to deepen my knowledge in finance and management control. After that, I found a VIE at Sanofi in Tokyo and left for the land of the rising sun, whose language I’d studied since high school. (French seconde. Similar to UK year 4 and US 10th grade.) I’ve been working in what is called FP&A abroad (Financial planning and analysis) for ten years now, which encompasses management control, financial analysis, and revenue management.

After my internship at EDF, I immediately knew that I wanted to work closely in figure analysis and the creation of systems, as well as to prepare reports to decision-makers to give them strategic visibility. That’s what I did, first at Sanofi, then at LIXIL (a Japanese building materials company), and Heinz. I currently work at bioMérieux as a Controller Manager. Additionally, I co-founded Au Fil Du Japon, a 100% Japanese travel company that offers trips to Japan for Francophones. I’ve also launched a podcast, Mensetsu, to help people who want to move to Japan to understand what it means to live there. It quickly became clear to me that working in a company requires a state of mind that may seem to be natural for a former business school student, but isn’t for everyone. It was living in Japan that made me realise this because hiring in Japan is multifaceted. I was actually managing a new recruit in finance who had a major in philosophy! So, at TBS, I learned how to understand how companies work, which made it possible for me to move around without difficulty. In 10 years, I hope that Au Fil Du Japon will be successful and that I’ll be a CFO whether in Japan or somewhere elsewhere. Who knows what the future holds?

What role do you play in the Alumni network?

How has the Alumni network been a support to you?

I’ve met former TBS students in Tokyo (we still meet regularly) who connected me to some opportunities. I recommend being as active as possible in your local network. You have to be proactive!

What advice would you give to the Alumni of TBS, whether students or graduates?

The advice I’d give is that your time as a student period is the opportune time to learn. Not just through taking courses, but also by doing other things on your own initiative. Go further. Time is precious, and once you are in the working world it becomes rarer. Be proactive in your education; that's what will make the difference!

Finally, would you be okay with our Alumni contacting you directly if they are interested in your career?

All you have to do is contact me. Knock on the door and I’ll open it :) 

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