Cinderella Stories – Story 1: Yoko Masuda

Cinderella Stories – Story 1: Yoko Masuda

A year and a half ago, my work contract with my former employer, an advertising company, was terminated. My youngest child was about to enter kindergarten, and I was feeling motivated to finally fully concentrate on my job. But the company suddenly decided to terminate their remote working program, in which I was taking part.

Just like that, I left the company and devoted myself to my children and housekeeping. Then last summer, I ran into an old friend of mine.

“Hey, you were tele-working from home, weren’t you?” she said. “There’s this place called Trist. They are doing something exciting. I think you are suitable for their project.” It was the first time I had heard about Trist.

I could not even imagine that I would be working like this back then.

I tried to find a job close to my house after I left the advertising company. One opening was a staff position at a new shopping mall. In the job interview, my successful past sales record and my knowledge of the copyright business that I had obtained in my former position did not mean a thing. They seemed reluctant to waste their precious time on me. For them, what mattered were my hair color not being too bright, or the transportation costs they would have to pay for me. That was the reality in working close to home.

I knew I didn’t have many options because I couldn’t commute to the city. But I wanted to go back to work when my younger child entered kindergarten. I chose a kindergarten that had extended day care service. I was preparing anyway.

I was stumped about what to do. I could not even figure out what I really wanted to do. Time went by.

In the middle of September last year, I met Eriko Ozaki, a representative of Trist, through a friend. Knowing that she had started her own company by herself and was really active in the community, I expected her to be a lady my age, who had finished the toughest time of child-rearing. But in reality, she was much younger than I’d thought, still taking care of her preschool children, yet she was quite an active businesswoman with a broad vision.

I told her about my past career, and my tele-work experiences. Working at home is seen as an ideal way for mothers to work, but in reality, it can easily be too insulating, and actually quite frustrating. Opportunities to seek the latest knowledge or continuing education are limited. I felt anxious about not being up to date with information. I was under pressure to show them results while they could not see progress on my side. I had limited chances to update my skills, and was feeling desperate about not growing as a worker. I wished to work with my colleagues in the office many times.

I thought these things were meaningless to others, but Eriko was taking notes while passionately nodding at my words. It made me feel like I could be of service for something.

“I know it is out of the blue, but are you interested in taking part in our remote work training program at Trist?” she said. “You may be able to work for something meaningful, making use of your career, locally. We are in this together!” A week later, I was in their training program.

I took the 2-week training program, while I did PTA work for my daughter’s kindergarten on the side. Seven more mothers who were in similar situations to mine participated in the program. I’d always thought telling my work experience to other mothers sounded too arrogant. But at this training, everyone was talking about nothing but their work experiences, and about themselves as workers, not about their children, nor about themselves as mothers. It was so encouraging to have teammates who were trying to think about their future careers positively. It gave me energy for daily living.

Through the training for software skills and communication, I found out that some of the stuff that I thought I could do easily I couldn’t do at all, or it took more time than I thought. It was more like experiencing than learning.

The lectures given by people from actual companies on presentation techniques and work environment made me feel a bit tense, and reminded me of the days I was actually working in the office before I gave birth to my child. It was refreshing to feel like myself again, not just somebody’s mother.

Microsoft taking part in the project had additional effects on me and my family’s perspective. I could be sure that what I was doing was serious. And my family thought, “Mom’s doing something new. We don’t know much about it but it seems like something great.”

It was so exciting to visit the Microsoft office in Shinagawa. The visit showed us big possibilities in tele-working. “With this new workstyle, I can work like I wanted again!” I thought.

The Trist program gave me the skills and knowledge, but the best thing I got was this energy for “wanting to do something.” It made me start doing something right away. I started taking English lessons, and became more positive about taking independent contract offers than before.

So, when I got to know about Space Market, an innovative space rental venture, I thought, “Well, let’s give it a shot and talk to them!” I found the company quite interesting, but I’d never worked for a startup before. I was a little anxious. But when I walked into their office, I felt more relaxed. From my experience in corporate sales, I knew that when the atmosphere of an office was good, the company was good. I decided to go with my hunch.

As the series of job interviews moved forward, I felt like each piece of my past experiences fit, one-by-one, like playing a puzzle. The pieces that I thought were so disorganized and irrelevant to each other came together like they were all meant to be used for working here. Nothing was meaningless. I was stunned.

Through the interviews, I discovered some assets I never knew I had. In the past, whenever people asked me if I could operate certain Excel functions, I hesitated to say yes for sure. But after finishing the Trist training, I could confidently answer, “Yes, I can.”

Finally, I got to the interview with the CEO. I told him that I wanted to work while I raised my children, and that I could not commute every day. “Children always see how their parents live,” said the CEO. “Your kids shall learn something seeing you working.” His word inspired me. I wanted to work for him.

I was anxious about working in a venture company at first. But being in a new position they never had before means that I’ll be able to leave something in the company’s history. I was amazed to find myself being so excited. I am going to work for my future career, not as a part-time worker just to earn some money for a short span.

Now I am receiving training in the head office for a month. In March, I’ll start to tele-work at their remote office at Trist 3 days a week.

I’ll be free from the loneliness of working by myself at home. I’ll be free from commuting into the city every day. At a satellite office where workers from the community work together, I’ll take on the challenge of a new style of working—taking part in creating a company together with colleagues, even from an office physically away from them, and continuing my career, not only in the city but also in my local community. I will do my best to be a successful model of such challenges.

Q: Why did you hire Ms. Masuda, who needed to work as a tele-worker?

Shunpei Takabe: Regardless of whether it is a full-time position or part-time, what we value the most when employing is “what kind of a player the person is going to be in our company.” In that regard, Yoko had wide experience in working in different kinds of companies, which fit the position we were hiring. She did have blank spaces in her resume after she left her former job, but by talking to her face to face, I was convinced that she would use her experience to the fullest for my company.

She is a mother of two, so she needed to tele-work. But in our company, many employees are in the middle of their child bearing years, so some work shorter hours and sometimes they have to take time off or tele-work from their home when their child gets sick. It’s a part of our culture. It’s usual. So, that was not an issue for us. To have talented employees perform their best, employers need to be flexible about the way their employees work, so that people can work appropriately to their life stages. So, I am excited about creating successful cases like the case of Yoko.

Translated by nagareyama pencils