Class Year: 2016
Target Language: Japanese
Current Role: MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School
A Conversation with Sean Rickter (Huntsman 2016)
By: Jeslyn Li ’26
What did you study at Huntsman and when did you graduate?
Hi, I’m Sean, a 2016 grad from Los Angeles. I was a Japanese target in Huntsman and I concentrated in Finance at Wharton and studied abroad in Japan. First, I did a summer language study in Japan and I also went to Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo for a semester abroad.
What was your first job after graduating from Huntsman? What do you do now and where are you based?
Professionally, the summer after my junior year, I interned in the finance department at Disney in LA. It was definitely a non-conventional path compared to my peers, but I ended up really liking Disney—the culture and the people. To go back full time, I recruited again in senior year and joined a rotational program: a 3-year strategy and finance program based out of LA. After 3 years, I found my way to Tokyo Disney Theme Park and Resort, where I stayed three and a half years doing finance. After that, I switched to the Japan Disney+ Office and have been here for around 6 months. As for my next steps, I’m going back to the US this fall to get my MBA at Harvard Business School.
What was your favorite part of being part of Huntsman?
I would say that my favorite part of being in Huntsman is the smaller community you have within Penn. Penn’s a relatively big school, with tons of students coming from all over the world. So coming in with this immediate community was definitely nice. Also just having special access to the lounge and dedicated academic coaching was also a plus to being in Huntsman.
My Japanese studies and my study abroad in Japan was definitely the highlight of my time at Penn. This experience really cemented my plans to work in Japan in the future and the Huntsman Program helped me realize this.
How do you think the Huntsman Program impacted your professional and personal development?
Huntsman’s language study and the international experience and exposure really impacted my professional and personal development. This paired with the Wharton side of things was definitely really helpful for me in my professional endeavors in the corporate world.
I think Huntsman prepared me super well and gave me the skills and the leg up in the workplace and put me slightly ahead in terms of recruiting. Of course, without Huntsman, I would have definitely had a much harder time if I wanted to make the switch to Japan.
What was your experience like pursuing a less conventional career in the entertainment industry, especially given Wharton’s strong pre-professional culture?
At Penn, it was definitely difficult to see beyond the traditional pathways in banking and consulting. This may sound cliché, but I genuinely think that whatever is meant to happen will happen. I actually tried to recruit banking and a bit of consulting as well, but I kind of struck out. This led me to pursue a “Plan B”. I wanted to find something in finance in LA, and Disney really jumped out at me when I did my research. I applied, heard back eventually, and secured it right before summer-time. I ended up really liking the culture at Disney and it felt like it was really meant to be. The people at Disney were all very smart, but at the same time also very nice. I definitely wouldn’t have discovered this, had I dedicated myself to pursuing a career in banking or consulting.
In terms of the pre-professional culture at Wharton, I agree that it’s hard to navigate that. I would just say that while banking, consulting, and private equity are great careers to pursue, it is also important to explore the world. There are all sorts of functions and divisions in the corporate world that could all lead to really great careers, so I would just recommend everyone to keep perspective and know that it’s totally okay to go a different direction from those around you.
Working on the finance side of entertainment, how do you think the work you do differs from others working in finance in other industries?
At Disney, I would say that a lot of power is with the creative side of the company. Especially recently, Bob Iger came back late last year and wanted to put power back with the creatives.
I feel like the creatives have a lot of power in deciding (1) what direction Disney’s content should take and (2) how to address and respond to the audience today. At the end of the day however, I still think the buck stops with the top business executives.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career? What was the most rewarding aspect?
The biggest challenge in my career was acclimating to life after school. Even though I went to Penn, I still feel like there was a huge learning curve when it came to navigating the real world, which was really challenging for me at first. The biggest thing is to not be afraid to ask questions and ask for advice. It’s much better to get any questions out of the way earlier, rather than asking them two years later.
As for the most rewarding aspect, it would probably be being able to come to Japan. Making this a reality is definitely a huge reward for me. I didn’t plan on coming to Japan when I first joined Disney, and I really had to carve that path for myself through talking with people around me in the company. In essence, having this vision and making it a reality was definitely the most rewarding aspect for me.
Was going to Japan a challenging decision to make in your career?
It was definitely a little bit tough because I had to make a decision regarding which direction I wanted to take my life and career in. I was actually thinking about going to business school at that point because the vast majority of people in my 3-year rotational program went to business school after.
Japan came up and I realized that (1) I want to cement my language skills while I am still young and (2) this was such a unique experience. I decided to go and I already knew I loved the country, so it wasn’t as much of a risky choice since I had studied abroad already. Fortunately, it all worked out at the end.
Where do you see the Program going in the next 25 years? How is Huntsman preparing the next generation of International Leaders?
I’m not super knowledgeable of the recent Huntsman curriculum, but I think the program is going really strong. I’m still in touch with some of the more recent classes of Huntsman and my peers and the talent that Huntsman attracts never fails to amaze me. I think the future of Huntsman is really bright and it’s really a privilege to be a part of this program. There’s definitely a lot of pride that comes with being a Huntsman grad.
Top 3 Disney movies!
- The Lion King (2019)
- Soul (2020)
- Inside Out (2015)