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Otsuka People Talk

March 2013

Senior Operating Officer Responsible for the Cosmedics Business

It makes me happy to think that younger people might see me and understand that they also have the opportunity to succeed.

She was hired outside of Japan and joined Otsuka as an executive administrative assistant. She then became the Assistant Product Manager for InnerSignal, before being given responsibility for InnerSignal and UL·OS brands. As a Senior Operating Officer in her thirties, she leads Otsuka's cosmedics business.

  • In collaboration with NHK Enterprises, Inc.

How would you describe yourself?

Rather than describing myself, I can tell you that those around me joke about how I will not allow anything to stop me. I know it's a compliment really. Even if a decision by my team is initially rejected at an important meeting such as an executive conference, I will make it work and see it through right to the end, without giving up halfway through.

From an administrative assistant to the frontline of business

Because I was in the U.S. before joining Otsuka, I was hired through the overseas recruitment process. I joined the company as an executive administrative assistant in 1997, and then, after working for almost 10 years at the head office, was transferred to the business frontline. I became the Assistant Product Manager for InnerSignal before going on to join the project to start marketing UL·OS, the brand for which I have been responsible since.

An empowering work culture

When I joined Otsuka I soon realized that it was a company with a very empowering and outward-looking culture. Otsuka started its international expansion early on, and the executives had a genuinely global outlook. It began to promote employee diversity a long time ago, and there were no barriers based on gender or nationality. In terms of career opportunities, people like me who joined as administrative assistants have been able to transition to frontline operations, and Otsuka continues to provide equal opportunities to a lot of people. That is something I didn't realize until I actually joined the company, but it's a very flexible organization.

Otsuka has a lot of female executives

I'm not talking about just my own experience; overall there is a very fair work environment here. Perhaps in Japan women still aren't being offered enough opportunities, and elements of the seniority system still remain. I'm grateful that I was presented with a very challenging opportunity, and although there have been some struggles, Otsuka has been a really great place for me to work.

Having the freedom to choose how you work brings challenges

I am often criticized. There are a lot of people both inside and outside of the company whose opinions differ from mine, and that can be challenging to deal with. However, I think that if you can't work through those kinds of situations then you won't be offered challenging roles. Although I may feel disappointed by someone's negative reaction, I just remind myself that the company has put its confidence in me, and this makes me want to work even harder.
Whenever there is a situation where I can be useful, I head to the front and ask to be put to work. Since I like to take charge, I always want to be in that kind of position, and it makes me happy to think that younger people might see me and understand that they also have the opportunity to succeed.

The advantage of having a female perspective

Naturally, in the case of products for women, since I use them myself I have a deep insight into many aspects of the range. With Otsuka's UL·OS skincare products for men, my perspective as a woman enables me to see men's habits that could potentially be transformed. Although some people may not agree when I use my perspective as a woman to create products for men, I carry out my work in the belief that men also want to improve themselves.

An opportunity to develop a whole new skillset

I have learned a lot in my role. As a part of my training I developed a product formulation from scratch, something I had never done before. At the beginning of the project I visited the research institute every week, and had in-depth conversations with the researchers. They explained everything to me, and with each new product formulation I learnt a lot more. It's been a long road, but now I can confidently say that I know more than anyone when it comes to Otsuka Pharmaceutical's cosmedics business.

The main principles of skincare

There are three main principles to keeping skin healthy: cleansing, moisturizing, and UV protection. These are the same for both men and women, but many men have no idea about these elements. Although dressing well and looking fashionable are important, a proper skincare routine is just as essential for looking good. I think it would be great if we could instill this habit in Japanese men. UL·OS products have been designed to provide men with the basic support they need for these three elements. They're not cosmetics to cover anything up, rather they are cosmedics to promote skin that is healthy, looks good and feels great.

The challenge of introducing a new skincare routine

In consumer interviews, a lot of men tell us that they wash using soap and water, and that they think it's normal to have dry skin flaking off their arms and legs in the winter. But if they took proper care of their skin, it would improve and become healthier. That's easier to grasp for a man that has no skincare routine than for the average woman who does.

The biggest hurdles can become turning points

One of the most difficult experiences for me was when I had a new product almost ready for launch, only to see it suddenly rejected at a meeting. It was so frustrating, and it's still hard for me to forget. But I think in the end it became a really positive turning point for me, because it gave me the confidence to clearly explain why the product was necessary, and what the concept and vision for it was. After overcoming that, I developed a lot of confidence in my project team, and everyone felt comfortable following me even as I moved quickly on.

Plans for the future

Since I am currently in charge of cosmedics, I have decided to focus all my efforts on that. Although my current focus is clear, if at some point in the future I was assigned a job that was completely different and I had to start again from scratch, I would readily agree to it. New challenges are rewarding, and the more difficult they are, the more rewarding they are, so I really look forward to seeing what kind of challenge I will be given next! A few years ago, I would never have dreamed of being where I am today, so I have no idea what the future will bring. Whatever job I have, I will make sure I build the solid foundation I need to do it properly.

A message to those interested in working at Otsuka

If you come and work at Otsuka Pharmaceutical, know that you too can pursue the career that you are hoping for.

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