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I am working towards becoming a specialist in the Middle East and North Africa region, so that I can be a valued employee who keeps his eye to the future from a global perspective.—Junya Matsuno, Joined Hitachi in 2008 after studied in Alabama, USA, and now works at Europe, Middle East, Africa & Americas Center, International Strategy Division.

What are you currently working on?

I am in charge of planning, formulating, and promoting new business opportunities for the entire Group from for the Middle East and North Africa. I look at what is happening in the environment surrounding our businesses and the constantly changing conditions, while working closely with each company and Group companies in the Middle East and North Africa region. Specifically, I formulate business strategies for the Hitachi Group in the Middle East and North Africa, review the details of contracts for companies seeking expansion overseas, share information during our regular Middle East and North Africa Meetings, and make proposals on business opportunities.
Although I participated in the opening of a new branch in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, for about half of a year starting in May 2009, there were a lot of unique circumstances in Saudi Arabia due to its culture as an Islamic nation. Although I had a hard time trying to communicate with the Saudis at first , I eventually earned their trust by visiting their offices many times, building up a friendly relationship that was vital for business. Being someone who knows the local conditions, one of my important tasks these days is to coordinate arrangements for when top sales representatives and other executives visit the Middle East.

How was life as an exchange student?

I decided to study abroad while still a high school student, after a few exchange students came to visit my home, which inspired my interest in other cultures. Although my English was not bad, the English used in the place where I studied abroad, Alabama, has a unique accent, which caused me much trouble when conversing at first. Never being one to admit defeat, however, I persevered, working at a part-time job as a janitor at the university dorm, and eating with the local students, which greatly helped me improve my English.
As I immersed myself in English while living in Alabama, I often missed Japan, and since the environment was full of Japanese products, this gave me the idea of introducing living Japanese culture to those around me. During my sophomore year at the university, I started a Japanese society, and we held a Sakura Festival event each April in order to introduce the local people to Japanese calligraphy, food, the Awa Odori dancing of my hometown, and so on. This festival was very popular among professors and students, and this showed me how high the level of interest in Japan was. I think it was my time living abroad that made me feel my identity as a Japanese person so strongly.

What did you focus on while searching for a job?

When came the time to look at prospective companies where I could enjoy a steady career, I looked for a Japanese company with a global presence but where I could still work as a Japanese person. During my time studying abroad, I was surprised by how many Japanese products such as cars and electrical goods had found their way into daily life, and the sense of pride it gave me led me to seek a career at a Japanese manufacturer where I could rest assured that my efforts were contributing to the enrichment of society.
I considered Hitachi as a prospective company from the beginning, and of the several companies I took interviews at, Hitachi was the one gave me full and thorough answers to all my questions. At the end of my first interview, I asked the interviewer for a little time to let me think about whether I really wanted to work there, to which the interviewer replied: "It is your future, so spend as much time as you need , and if Hitachi stays in your mind, please come back and work for us." The kindness and thoughtfulness of his approach made such a good impression I felt like it would surely be a place where I could find something worthwhile to do, and with people who were pleasant to work with, so in the end I decided that Hitachi was indeed the company for me.

Is there any strength you acquired while studying abroad that you can apply to your work now?

During my time studying abroad, I became better at "talking" , that is, clearly expressing my opinion to others. During my junior and senior years at the university, classes would often involve group discussions. During these discussions, I would often be given the task of bringing the whole group to a consensus. This required me to tenaciously yet politely explain my opinion to convince the other members. As some of you will have experienced while studying abroad, in foreign countries you have to state matters plainly and clearly to get things done, unlike Japan. Unless you make an effort to state your opinion, you will be seen as not actively participating in the class, which can also lead to poor evaluations.
I think that my ability to acceptvarious cultural differences and handle my business tasks smoothly today has much to do with the time I spent as an exchange student, especially the times spent communicating with others in various debates.

How did you go about searching for a job?

First, in order to find out how to go about finding a career, I went to in the Boston Career Forum, which was held for exchange students in October of my junior year. I also went to the orientation session at the Tokyo Career Forum in April the following year, where I also attended a number of interviews, one of which was with Hitachi.
During this first interview , the interviewer and I got into a vigorous discussion and he told me that "your vigor shows that you are keenly conveying your ideas," and with that I passed the first interview. This left me with the impression that Hitachi is an interesting company. After that, I spent about a month during a trip back home during summer vacation actually visiting Hitachi and several other companies, taking written exams and being interviewed, until I received an offer. The Internet was my main source of information during my career search on this occasion, and I visited many recruiting sites aimed at students.

Message to Exchange Students at Universities outside Japan

Make sure to come into contact with a wide range of people while studying overseas, while taking in a lot of knowledge.

Daily Schedule

6:30 Wake up
8:50 Go to work
Check for urgent e-mail. In order to improve work efficiency, verify today's to-do list.

Department meetings
Always share the latest information while adjusting the schedule as needed.
11:00 Internal meetings
Review and make adjustments regarding concerns and other issues.
12:00 Lunch
Lunch with work friends in the employee cafeteria is an important source of nourishment for both body and mind.
13:00 Attend seminar on Saudi Arabian economic conditions outside the company
This is an invaluable opportunity to acquire information about the latest economic conditions, while exchanging information (and business cards) with people outside the company.

Go over work questions with employees in other departments
In order to communicate nuanced details, I go over questions directly with the person, rather than on the telephone.
15:00 Create trip report regarding aforementioned seminar
It is important to share information with related parties as quickly as possible.
16:00 Telephone conference with base of operations overseas (Riyadh branch)
Adjust conference schedule based on time difference with other country, as well as local holidays and other considerations.
(In Saudi Arabia, Thursdays and Fridays are non-working days.)
17:00 Break
Senior employees teach me a lot of multifaceted lessons. This is a time to rest my tired mind and body
17:30 Wrap-up meeting
Organize details of telephone conference, verify future action items, and so on.
18:45 Leave work
Verify tomorrow's schedule and leave work.
19:00 Attend Arabic course
Study Arabic one a week as the person in charge of the Middle East and North Africa.
21:00 Return home
24:00 Go to bed