Japan is my home country and I worked in Japan for seven years prior to Tuck. When I was assigned to the OnSite Global Consulting project in Tokyo, Japan, I considered myself fluent in Japanese business culture and expected to primarily learn core consulting skills through this experience. However, through this OnSite experience I was able to both make a meaningful contribution to my client and deepen my understanding about Japan.
Our client is one of the biggest eBook brokers in Japan. They enable hundreds of Japanese publishers to digitize traditional paper books and distribute them digitally. Our project was to think of the global expansion strategy for this company.
It was my first experience working in a Japanese start-up culture, which is quite different from large corporate culture I already experienced. They had a very open office layout and the office had a beautiful view, which we were able to see the Japanese Imperial Palace.
During the first half of the project, we interviewed members of their top management staff and key business partners. One of my favorite parts of this project, was getting to know the company’s CEO.
The CEO spent a lot of time with us telling us the story of how he founded the company and his future vision. We learned that he founded his company while he was at college in 1994 and how he transformed the company several times into what it is now. He also shared his strong passion and pride for his hometown, Tokushima.
Cultural exchange was an important part of our project, and we learned a great deal away from the boardroom. On one particular evening the CEO hosted our team for dinner and shared with us his other business ventures that are aimed at sharing the culture of his hometown, Tokushima. We learned that the Kito region, where Tokushima is located, is known for growing exceptional “yuzu” or Japanese citrus. The CEO owns a yuzu farm, in which he reinvests some of the profits to his hometown to reinvigorate the city. In the office, there were lots of symbols and imagery of the “yuzu”. In the picture below, my team and I are sitting by a “yuzu” stuffed animal.
At the office, I could see his employees had tremendous respect for his vision and it was a great experience for me to learn about his leadership style and how he follows his passion towards his business.
Our OnSite project team had a mix of five Tuck students, two Dartmouth undergraduate students, and a faculty advisor, who is also a Tuck alumnus. The background of the team members was varied, and we learned from each other’s past professional experiences.
I also did my best to share my home and my time working in Japan. Outside the office, I wanted my team members to have an authentic Tokyo experience. I showed them around the places I typically visit in Tokyo, including Japanese bars (izakaya), shopping areas, and karaoke. Even though I had been to all these places before, it was a fresh experience for me to experience Tokyo with my teammates.
At the end of the project, I am proud that we were able to deliver a meaningful product for our client. The client thanked us and said, “the final deliverable is very much useful and helped us to clarify issues that are tangled inside our head,” which made our team especially delighted. I learned a lot about Japan through this experience and traveling to my home country with my OnSite team. I am very glad we were able to make a meaningful contribution to our client and have a wonderful cultural experience!
Kohei Suwabe T’18 is a second-year student at Tuck. He grew up in Tokyo, Japan and worked for Japanese insurance company called Tokio Marine before attending Tuck. During his time at Tuck, he also had a chance to travel to Nepal for his global First Year Project (FYP).
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