Employee Interview - Kanako Sakai -

Staff Introduction: Kanako Sakai

At work and at home raising my child, I always want to be myself.

Joined the company in 2006. After working overseas in the UK and Germany beginning in 2013, she currently works in the Marketing Department, Media Service Division. She is responsible for overseas sales in Europe, with a focus on headphones, and is involved in a wide range of work, including ordering production, handling shipping, and planning new products.

Assignment to the UK to open up new channels as part of overseas sales

I was assigned to go abroad in my seventh year with the company. Feeling like I had been recognized for my work in overseas sales, I was very happy. That's why I wanted to do everything I could to meet the expectations of the company that had given me this opportunity. In the UK, I approached work with a spirit that I should not be just an average employee but should be more proactive and take initiative. Even when asked to make management decisions, I did not leave it up to my superiors, and when something went wrong, I stepped forward. My work was as a conduit to the head office in Japan. I always tried to take a step back to gain a better perspective at work.

At times, I would disagree with the local staff. We would class over ideas to find a solution because there are certain areas where we could not compromise on how to achieve sales results. In Japan, we tend to hide our feelings, but if you don't say what you need to say, it's impossible to convey something clearly. Often, we would call each other and apologize after leaving the office when we said something sharply at work. Ending something with a simple apology and not backing down are things unique to environments outside of Japan.

Stagnation, then changes expected with a pregnancy

I found out I was pregnant about two years after returning to Japan. At the time, I wondered how to make use of the experience I had gained while overseas and how to further my career. The quality of my work was getting better, and if that's the case, I wondered if my next job title should be higher? I wasn't working for the sake of gaining a managerial position; I thought the work would come first and then a managerial position would follow as a result.

It was during this period of uncertainty that I learned I was pregnant. The new challenge of working while raising a child made me wonder if changes were around the corner... I found myself expecting something.

Learning that I could put to use in the future. I attended outside training up until the last minute before my maternity leave.

The start of my maternity leave was slowly approaching, but I did not have my next goal in mind. It was at this time that I participated in a level-specific training program set up as part of measures to promote the advancement of women. Through six months of outside training, I was able to verbalize and systematically learn from my previous work experiences through reading about leadership, watching videos on coaching, and working with people from different industries.

In particular, during the team-building lectures, I was reminded that it is important to create a comfortable environment in order to maximize team members' potential. Don't be stingy with words but instead verbalize your gratitude clearly. I wanted to take basic ideas that tend to be overlooked and apply them to my work. The outside training provided me with a valuable opportunity to envision myself in the future.

Returning to work with the desire to be independent as a mother and as a professional woman.

Upon returning to work, I was filled with a sense of liberation and the joy of being able to re-engage with society through work. Of course, my child is irreplaceable and I love my child, but I somehow feel like only raising my child and doing housework is just not me. I think I can also be myself when I'm working. Maybe it was because I started to feel more comfortable, but instead of relying on my husband for everything, I became more determined to use my judgement and be financially independent.

Working hard while using the childcare support system.

To be honest, it's still hard to balance work and childcare, and I always feel flustered. Shortly after returning to work from childcare leave, sometimes I had to leave the office and dash over to pick up my child at daycare. At that time, a senior female employee who was raising children like me gave me advice regarding the childcare support system, such as nursing leave. She said, "If you can't finish the work today, you can do it tomorrow. Don't push yourself too hard." It was such a relief to hear.

At our company, in addition to nursing leave, employees are also allowed to pause in the middle of work for childcare reasons while working from home. I use this system to prepare dinner to accommodate the child's preferred time. I am very grateful that I can decide my own work style at my discretion, whether working from home or going into work.

Also, my husband, who was a colleague when I was overseas, understands my job very well, and I am grateful that he also takes advantage of working from home so that we can care for our child and do housework together.

Nursing leave system: Five (5) days of leave a year (to be used as full days, half-days, or in hourly increments) for the purpose of caring for a child (Taking care of injuries/illnesses, getting vaccinations, and receiving medical examinations).

A way of working that does not waste finite time.

Those days of balancing work and childcare truly depend on the child. Sometimes I get a call from the daycare center while I'm working, and I have to rush over to pick up my child because the child has a fever. As there are many things that can go wrong, I have a stronger sense that time is finite. If I put things off, they get more and more buried in my day-to-day work, so I try to prioritize every task. In my case, I write down a to-do list and review it before starting my daily work. That's because the time needed to think of what's next after completing each task is a waste.

But I still feel like I don't switch on and off well. Being the kind of person whose life has always revolved around work, I always seem have work in the back of my mind when doing housework... The next thing I know, I'm standing in the kitchen thinking about needing to send off an email. So, now I try to switch off that part of my brain when my child comes home from daycare center.

I want to communicate the importance of putting thoughts into words.

I am able to work at my own pace now thanks to the support of many people. So, now I want to give back to everyone around me. It's easy to understand how hard it is to raise a child like me, but everyone has different circumstances. I want us to understand every individual's circumstances as much as possible and expand the circle of consideration so that workplace members can respect and support each other.

People's individual circumstances are often invisible. That's why I think it's important to communicate what we want people to respect. But I think there are people who are too considerate about those around them and therefore are unable to speak up. I would like to take the initiative to make it easier for people like that to put their thoughts into words.

Also, I want to think more about my career going forward. I wonder if I could have done so much more when stationed in the UK or Germany. In order to not have any regrets, I plan on pushing myself to grow with the goal of one day being assigned overseas again.

* Job titles and affiliations are as of publication time.