I'm a network and infrastructure administrator with A.T. Kearney, its Asia-Pacific Region. I'm based in Tokyo and I wear a lot of hats:
I oversee daily technical support in our Tokyo office;
I develop and distribute A.T. Kearney's standardized computer software package for Asia in English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (simplified) and Chinese (traditional) languages;
I'm the main technical support staff for IT issues at our offices in Asia;
I work with our United States headquarters to maintain and upgrade our Asian offices' servers and network connections; and
I also do just about anything that I can get my hands into. We have a small team in Asia. That makes it easy to get a taste of the different aspects of IT support.
I turned 32 on Tuesday.
In four years at regional U.S. universities, I studied a major in psychology and a minor in Japanese
During my second year of university study, I was in a one-year exchange program in Japan. My parents weren't sure if they wanted to support this activity. Was I really serious or did I just want to take a year and goof off? As expected, It took me longer to graduate but it turned out to be an experience that changed my life.
After returning to the U.S. from my Japan exchange program, I finished studying but at the same time had several odd jobs -- gas-station attendant, waiter, factory worker, etc. I also fixed cars in my spare time to help pay for school. One twist was that I was the only Japanese-speaking car mechanic in my town. The exchange students from Japan would bring me their broken cars and I'd fix them. They were comfortable bringing their problem to me, because they knew I wasn't trying to take undue advantage of their problem.
After graduating from university, I decided I wanted to use my Japanese-language skill in my career. I felt this skill l would be more valuable in Japan (as a fluent English speaker) than in the United States.
A few months after graduating, I showed up in Japan -- jobless, with little money, but with many friends and relatives willing to give me a hand. I didn't have any computer work experience. Through an acquaintance, I was introduced to an IT services company -- but since I had no practical experience I had to convince them that I could do the job.
I speak Japanese fluently and my language ability was a major factor in landing this job. Also, my boss at that company said he highly regarded the "auto repair" hobby I'd written onto my resumé. I had put it there for lack of anything better, but it was instrumental in getting my foot in the door. (In his lexicon, the boss said, "Fixing cars and fixing computers uses the same part of the brain.")
One of my first clients was my current employer. Things went well and I was invited to be an A.T. Kearney employee. I'm very lucky to be in the position I have now.
Typically about 40 to 50 hours per week. Office hours are 9:30 to 18:30 (6:30 p.m.) but I'm always checking in with e-mail just about any time. Also I travel fairly frequently in the Asia region -- every few months I have a trip lasting about 4 to 5 days.
|"I was the only Japanese-speaking car mechanic in my town. The exchange students from Japan would bring me their broken cars and I'd fix them. They were comfortable bringing their problem to me, because they knew I wasn't trying to take undue advantage of their problem."|
I check my voice mail and e-mail for urgent messages. Since I work closely with Europe and America, my colleagues are working hard while I'm in bed, because of the time differences. This is an important time because if I hurry I can still contact my American colleagues by telephone before they leave the office. If I miss them, usually I can't get a reply until the next day. If I'm traveling, the schedule will vary -- usually some kind of meeting.
I prefer to stay away from the crowds so I usually wait until about 14:00 ( 2 p.m.) and then grab a snack -- some bread or pastry, a bowl of ramen, soba noodle, or some sushi -- in one of the shops in our building. During the quiet lunch hours at work, I can concentrate without interruptions from co-workers.
One of the big problems I see is difficulty in communicating across regions. The workers in Asia and Europe and America have different cultural backgrounds and different ways of solving problems and it's sometimes difficult to gain a consensus. People tend to get defensive of their viewpoints -- and forget that the other people are just as defensive of their viewpoints as well. During these times we have to step back and remember we all work for the same company. One of my strengths on the job is that I can work to bring the Asian and American viewpoints closer together.
I consider a good day to be one on which I made some kind of breakthrough happen. For instance: I was able to change the way someone thinks about an issue and make a process more efficient, saving time for hundreds of people. I could make something possible that had previously been impossible. Any other situation in which I know a "mini-revolution" has occurred
I can decide how much work I want to take home, but I try to keep it down to less than about eight hours per week. I could do a lot of my work at home, but working from home means less communication with your co-workers. I find that the face-to-face communication is extremely valuable.
My job is to support the main business line at our company. Their job is to make global corporations more efficient. Through this, standards-of-living will increase worldwide. Our company supports a truly vast array of corporations. Sometimes I can see on the news that one of our clients has made a major announcement and wonder if our firm had something to do with it.
I expect to remain in the IT services field but with the changes that are constant in this industry, I am not sure I'll remain at this company indefinitely. I plan to stay here as long as I can because it's really a great place to work and your work is valued.
Auto mechanic -- I love cars and miss being able to work on them. In Japan, cars are usually replaced before they break down. People sometimes tell me that I'd be a good teacher but I'm not sure if I'd be fit for that job.
Trying to hide uncertainty and/or not being truthful. When an employee doesn't know the answer to a question, he or she shouldn't bluff. If you don't know, just say, "I don't know but I'll do my best to find out." A close second would be inability to listen. Most of us love to talk but it takes skill to truly listen to the speaker's message and understand it.
|"I'm fortunate to be in a line of work that I enjoy. And even though it's not always obvious, I think I'm helping to make a difference. Probably my sense of responsibility -- to myself as well as the company -- is the biggest motivator. And the money, of course!"|
I'll take a short break, just a few seconds, and refocus. I'll see what I can do to lighten my workload. I'm probably doing something that I don't really need to do right now. I re-assess my priorities and put off things that don't need to be done now. Also I think: "This, too, shall pass"
I am not a big reader, but lately I have been reading Stephen King's "The Plant" and various baby books. I have a first child due soon and don't want to be a bad father. As a true technical geek, I do a lot of my reading on the Internet -- CNN, the tech sites, or just browsing around for something interesting.
I'm fortunate to be in a line of work that I enjoy. And even though it's not always obvious, I think I'm helping to make a difference. Probably my sense of responsibility -- to myself as well as the company -- is the biggest motivator. And the money, of course!
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4:30pm ET, 4/16
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