“Let’s change the workstyle in Japan. In the way that when your daughter grows up, she won’t be able to even imagine what you did in the past.”
Susanna Makela, the Assistant General Counsel of Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft Japan, said to me in her meeting room.
Her words made me cry later in Yamanote-line, going back home from her office. Three months have passed since then.
Four months before that meeting with Susanna, in March 2016, I decided to create a place for people to find career opportunity locally, which is the present Trist, and I was preparing for crowd-funding. Then, I started to approach Microsoft Japan. Back then, I was simply looking for someone to rent me some lap-tops to use for job training for local mothers.
I wasn’t expecting much. Trist was nothing back then. Even I couldn’t find any benefit for Microsoft, the leading company of workstyle innovation, would find in my project.
I was lucky, really lucky.
First, the person I initially contacted was a former employee and a leader of Microsoft’s workstyle innovation business, and he found my vision to be worthwhile for Microsoft to cooperate with.
He made every effort to find a way in the company, and introduced me to the person in charge of regional revitalization affairs.
And then, I was introduced to a person who was in charge of Microsoft’s initiatives on local community empowerment. He became the key person who forwarded this project on Microsoft side since then.
Even though he had no reason that he had to take care of my business, he made every effort to make this happen, believing his company should give it a try.
So, there I was, three months ago, in a neat, fully loaded meeting room of Microsoft, making presentation for Susanna, an executive of Microsoft.
“For many mothers who have been away from work for a long period of time, lack of skills in Excel or PowerPoint is one of the main problem preventing them to go back to work. If you, the Microsoft, take those people seriously and find possibilities in them, how encouraging it would be? Working with you means so much to us,”
I said to her.
God, how nervous I was. Even though there was an interpreter, being unable to communicate directly with my own words made me feel anxious. I couldn’t have slept at all the night before..
But Susanna was a really gentle, warm person, and told me “I don’t want to shoot off a firework. Let’s make it something consistent.”
That’s how she gave me a chance.
I could have burst into tears in front of her, but the clock was ticking, I had to start the project as soon as possible. It was a rocky road ahead.
Just ordinal software trainings for Excel and PowerPoint were not enough for our educational content. We discussed over and over about what really is needed for people who had to give up their career for taking care of their parents and/or children.
- First module for “Mind” to address their attenuated sense of self-affirmation after long period of time away from work environment.
- Second module for “Software Operation Skills” to update their office skills.
- Third module for “Remote Working Skills and Information Security Basic Understandings” to equip them with skills and knowledge for working effectively and securely away from their main office.
With these 3 modules in place, we conducted a trial training for 8 local mothers in Nagareyama.
Five of them are remote workers-to-be, and 3 are local freelance workers to be our trainers. One of the trainees has already started to work for her new employer with half of the work-days at the main office in Tokyo and the other half at their satellite office in Trist. There are several employment processes underway now.
For local freelance workers, also, I expect this training to be an opportunity for their new career as trainers.
Last week, I and those trainees were invited to Microsoft building in Shinagawa. They gave us a wonderful office tour and showed us their leading edge work environment (They allow their employees to tele-work from anywhere in Japan, 5 days a week!). Susanna kindly took her time to have a discussion with us.
“You are the pioneers. It is natural for you to feel lonely, because you are the ones leading the workstyle change in this country. Our support is with you,”
she said. All of us were trying hard not to cry.
Susanna quoted a speech of JFK for us.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
You cannot just wait for country or companies to proceed workstyle innovation. You have to take part in the innovation.
Not only the major impacts matter in workstyle innovation. We can start it one by one, from this small office in a small city. I really believe so.
I am so grateful for my encounter with these passionate people from Microsoft.
I really, really appreciate their support.
In near future, also with cooperation from other companies, we plan to deploy our training not only in Nagareyama, but also to many places in Japan.