This interview was made possible by the cooperation of Mr. Nakamura who works at Panasonic.
This is the first interview in this media to be categorized as “ Business Person”. I just want to say first that, I personally feel that I can work at any kind of place, as long as a person like Mr. Nakamura is around.
Here is the interview!
(N:Mr.Nakamura, W:Writer )
W “ Thank you for sparing us your time for this interview. Could you tell us about yourself?”
N “ Sure. I entered Ritsumeikan University Faculty of Science and Engineering Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1998. Including my years in graduate school I belonged to Ritsumeikan University for 6 years. When I was in university, all I practically did was work part time at a yakiniku restaurant, play soccer at a circle, and play video games.
After graduating undergraduate school, I wanted to move up to graduate school, but I had not studied hard enough for it. My grades were very bad.
Also, since I spent junior high and high school in Germany, I entered Ritsumeikan University as a foreign student. This meant that I did not had a typical Japanese educational background. This circumstance was awful.
In Germany, all I did was play soccer.
I applied for graduate school and took the general test, but I failed on the first try. Still, I managed to make it in on my second try. Though, I probably got in with the lowest score.
It was really hard for me after I got in. Since I was not so good at studying, the professor told me “ You are bad” in front of younger lab members. I felt very frustrated. I think because of that I felt a strong sense of inferiority. I was not able to do things that normal people were able to do. I was abled to be appreciated in the laboratory by working step by step. I ended up feeling passionate about my studies.
By the time I was graduating graduate school, my lab members suggested me to get a doctors diploma. Above all, I was finally recognized from my professor.
I felt that I was the kind of person who needed to work step by step.”
W “ Wow… It reminds me of Dragon Zakura.(It’s the animation about students who try to enter Tokyo university.)”
N “In my first year in graduate school, I went to Matsushita Denkou for an internship. The people working there were very nice and the atmosphere there suited me. So, after graduating I decided to work there.
Although I first wished to work as a researcher I was assigned a completely different job. I was placed to a factory. On top of that, even though I wished to work at Kadoma head office in Osaka, I was placed to Ise Factory in Mie. It was just an unfortunate placement.”
W “So you experienced a typical‘ placement risk’!”
N ““Still, I could not spend my time being sulky about my placement. Being placed to somewhere you did not wish for was, in a sense, a rare opportunity. I started my job thinking, I want to learn everything I can here.
Like my years in university, I was behind everyone when I started my career.
It took me more than a day to finish a drawing, that others would finish in an hour. I worked step by step at here too.
At first my job was about production technology, but in my second year I was assigned a job about quality improvement.
One time, the young employees were to be gathered to the producing line in order to solve the quality problem for one of the products. Even though we had new employees in my division, I was sent to the producing line too. My boss told me, ‘ I am sorry, but you are the only one that we can move without trouble’.
My job to support the producing line lasted for three months. I worked in shifts at night with other temporary workers. After that I was placed back to ‘producing technology’ and at there I worked to improve product quality. At that time, my work was appreciated.
Why was my work appreciated? I am basically not good at doing one task neatly. But, no work is completed by a single task. Work is made up of many tasks and divisions.
Different tasks are done in different divisions, and they all add up to one job. If I were to give an example, it is like having different faculties in a university cooperating to create a single output.
If you want to change something, create something, you have to talk to people in different divisions. People stand in different positions, so most of the time the interest will not match. I was able to produce better results than others when it came to gathering opinions and organizing the interests. That made me realize that I was good at this kind of job.
I was then, appreciated by many people and I was selected to work on researching projects at the head office in Osaka. Coincidently, the boss in my division was the boss that to care of me in my internship. I experienced the word ‘There is no such thing is wasted work’. I actually, currently go to the Silicon Valley once or twice every two months for a developing project but this experience is still helping me.
I think that, if it were not for my first placement, the present me would not exist.”
W “ That story gives me a lot courage… I tend to think that, this has no meaning, but your experience tells me that I should do my best even if the task seems to have no meaning.”
N “I then was assigned as translator because I could do English, when there a consigned development project with an European venture company. And you know, a translator can know all the information. So with my strength, I ended up being the project leader”
W “ Wow…”
N “ When the idea to mass producing the product was finally brought up, I went back to the Ise Factory in Mie. I was the leader for starting up the product.
At that time, the company I was working for was absorb-type merged with Panasonic.
The company I was working for promised not to fire the employees, believed that sales meant growth, and business profit was high. But suddenly, I was moved to an environment where employees could be fired and deficits were high.
I felt like I was in a new company, even though I still belonged to the same company. I saw a whole new world. To be more precise, I was culture shocked.
I had to think up of products that would sell, and make sales and profit. Although I was an engineer then, I asked my boss to move me to the commodity planning division. But my wish was rejected. He said, ‘Do you have any experience or skill planning? You are an engineer’He explained very logically, an I gave up due to lack of experience.
That made me think, ‘All I need is the skills, right?’ Since, I could not obtain the skill with the work in the company. I decided to go to a business school called ‘Globuis’ with my own money. I went all the way to Nagoya.”
W “I can tell you were very serious about it…”
N “My boss also noticed that I was very serious, and accepted me to move to the planning division, but for only a year and half.
At that time, I did not think of myself as an engineer. My mind was set to fully use Panasonic’s resources and create a product that would sell. Just when I started working in the planning division for half a year, which was in the spring of 2014, I was told to move to another division.
The division I moved to was ‘project management’. This division was not a place a person from the producing technology division of a factory would end up in.
When I asked when the transfer was, I was told, ‘This noon. The transfer is immediate order’”
W “No way!”
N “This is a true story. I went to the division that noon and the boss greeted me by saying ‘Who are you?’”
W “You went through a lot!”
N “I suppose that knew that someone was coming, but did not expect me. Even at there, I could not do the job a normal person could do. Still, I proposed ideas to relieve the conflicts between divisions and ideas that other employees would not think up of. I think my coworkers and boss appreciated my strengths…
This all thanks to my experiences I went through in different places.
I was assigned to manage projects, but somehow I did not feel satisfied. I worked with worries. One day, I participated in ABC Hackathon, presented by Asahi Broadcasting, without much thought with colleagues from Globuis.
We ended up clearing the preliminaries, and winning the Yahoo Prize in the finals. After Hackathon, in private time, I developed new services for Kansai Collection. Mr. Inoue and Mr. Kishida of QUANTUM, a venture company from Tokyo, were mentors for the Hackathon. Their ways of thinking up commodity plans that was completely based on the users inspired me to combine that way of thinking with Panasonic’s technologies.
Afterwards, I forced myself to get an appointment with them, and went their office in Tokyo, with my own money. I explained my ideas to them. At first, they were like, ‘Who are you? Have we met before?’But, in the end we got along and decide to do the project. That was the summer of 2015.
The project started off from a project management point of view, but as the meetings went on, we wanted to make it bigger, maybe expanding it to the U.S. I then became in charge of the new business.
Thankfully, I am now in the commodity planning division for new business in Panasonic.”
W “I admire that you continued to work step by step in cases where others would probably want to quit. Speaking of which, could you tell us about the work you are doing in the Silicon Valley?”
N “I am the leader of the project called ‘eny’. Simply put, it is aimed to control everything around us, for example the door and electricity, by using IoT technology.
At the time this project was thought up, we had the technology to realize this, but we did not have the ability to create a concept. So we teamed up with a venture company that could create a concept. We were able to develop business with venture company as a project, participate in SXSW, a big event, for the first time for Panasonic, present Hackathon in the Silicon Valley, and start a new business developing program called ‘Shinsou-juku’. There are more to it, but I think it is safe to say that we were able to do everything we wanted to do in the first place and that we are doing well.
I personally feel, it is rare to see a major manufacturing company’s business division work together with a venture company, even more a corporate from the Silicon Valley.
In most cases, events with venture companies are done at places far from the actual ‘business site’, like a firework. I think it is very important for a division that promotes business, to do these kinds of projects.
In Japan, there is a trend where things without an example are hard to take into action. If there is such trend, I am motivated to make an example, and to succeed it.”
W “ I have the impression that you can do anything, With such capability, why do you not decide to start your own business?”
N “I would say that I am blessed with the people around me rather having a lot of abilities. I can strongly say that I am lucky. Getting back to the conversation about starting a new business, I think this is just another measure. The most important thing is to do what you want do in your circumstance.
Simple put, when you start you own business, ‘the subject is your company, and the resource supply source is the share holder’. On the other hand, when you belong to a company, ‘the subject is yourself and the resource supply source is your boss and colleagues’. There is not much difference since they both are basically doing the same thing. In my case, I thought it would better to make use of this company’s large resource and make bigger business. And cooperate with venture companies along the way.
I think starting a new business is wonderful, although I have never experienced it. I think what I am doing right now has an important meaning for the society.
I think what I am doing now, and my way of working is a new field. Not many people are working like this, and as I said before, I want to make a new example, or you can say a new role model.
Though, my boss tells me that having too may people like me is troublesome.
The other day, I spoke at a seminar with Mr. Fujimura from Suiyou Doudesshou, and he said ‘I completely understand! Mr. Nakamura, you are just so sharp’”
W “Awesome! I agree too. It is often said that starting a business just another measure, but in most cases starting a new business is becoming the goal.
What is your dream, Mr. Nakamura?”
N “I am just thinking broadly now, but I have a business I want to do, and if I could do that in Panasonic that would be the best.
I want to create a business that will enrich the heart of people. Even if we are pleased physically, when you look around, you do not see a lot of people saying that there are very happy.
I wish to offer values that can make people understand each other more. It would be great if everyone was happy!”
W “I understand. That is an issue that will surely become more important in the next decade or so. Thank you.
Finally, could you give a message to all the young readers and business people?”
N “First, to all the students out there.
It is important meet different kinds of people and do different kinds of things while you are a student. In my case, I did part time jobs, play soccer, and do videogames.
All of these are became a good experience for me! But, I wish I had done more, come to think of it.
When you meet different kinds of people and do different kinds of things, you start to see what you like and what you are good at.
Seeing what you dislike and finding your weakness is also a good approach.
The worst thing you could do is, not knowing because you have not done it. In other words, you should not think you won’t like it or you can’t do it before actually doing it.
This is to all the business people.
I think your failures are what you really concern about. Still, a mistake can’t harm you. I am about 40 years old, but I never care about failing.
If you feel ‘Tomorrow, I want to go to Brazil and do this !’I think you should go. I also know that there is an atmosphere that prevents you from saying things and doing things.
Still, you should take a step further. You can’t go forward without taking that step. After all, you have to move forward step by step. This is why I hope everyone would not be afraid to step forward.
When you do this, you might end up having an interesting career like me.
I am not saying the world is nice enough, that as long as you work hard you will succeed. But, at least there is a chance. Still, as long as you work hard and keep challenging, you can expand your field and exceed your limits. I hope you will keep that in mind.
The world will change, according to the evolution of technology. The future shall be fun. Lets enjoy it. Lets imagine an exciting future, and keep challenging!”
W “Mr. Nakamura, thank you very much!”