Cambridge Perspectives: Moving from the Japan Office to New York
Written by: Keiko H.
Having worked in the Cambridge Japan office for eight and a half years, I had the privilege to be transferred to New York last December to work in the US market for a couple of years. Although I still work in the same company where I know the products and the people, it’s been an exciting four months to find myself in a totally new role, working in a new environment. As a Japanese woman working for a British company in New York, here are some of my “discoveries” so far…!
Discovery #1: In America, you are required to make your choice!
In Japan, I never had a choice over health insurance and tax returns as they were all taken care of by the company. Things are different here. In my first week, I was asked to choose a health insurance plan. Of course…! I did some research on doctors, evaluated each plan, and made a decision that met my medical needs the most. The story is quite similar for my experience with tax returns. I had no idea how the whole tax return thing worked in this country, so I talked to several people to get advice, looked up some websites, talked to an accountant, and decided to use the accountant to have everything sorted in time. I was first daunted by the whole process, but by finding out on my own, I learned what working in this country is like, and actually felt a lot more responsible for myself and my life!
Discovery #2: In America, there is a lot of respect for you as an individual.
The Cambridge Japan office consists of staff with different nationalities, so I wouldn’t say it represents a typical Japanese organization. However, in the Japanese business world in general, there are certain expectations in the way you behave according to seniority and gender. When you talk to someone older or superior to you, you need to select an appropriate language to do so, and as a woman, although things are changing, I sometimes had to prove who I was to get appropriate treatment. Here in New York, I don’t even have to think about my age and the fact I am a woman! People respect you as a professional regardless. It is all about yourself and what you as an individual can deliver and contribute. It is up to you to take initiatives and speak out your opinions. It can be challenging sometimes, but it is definitely rewarding to strive for success!
Discovery #3: After all, America is big!
Gosh, this country is big! When I visited this country for the first time over 10 years ago, I remember feeling that everything I saw was “big.” It is so true about the country itself. One of the first things I tasked myself to do after I started to work here was to learn the geography of North America. It was kind of embarrassing to realize how little I knew about this country. Now I have a map in front to me at my desk, color-coded by sales reps’ territories, to help me learn where and in which state our customer universities are located. According to a quick research by one of my colleagues, Japan is about the size of Montana. There are about 780 universities in Japan, roughly a third of which represents a core market for foreign books. By contrast, there are 3,000 universities in North America and it is the biggest market for the Press. All of a sudden, Japan looks VERY small to me!
Discovery #4: This is the place to understand the “true” publishing!
Regional offices like the one in Japan are only sales and marketing operations where there are no editorial functionalities. We collect information from publishing branches and come up with a marketing plan to promote key subject areas and titles that are suited to each market. With New York being one of the publishing branches, the whole work dynamic is different. Sales and marketing are actually involved with the publishing process; we can make a request on the production schedule, on the title, and often on cover images, too. There is marketing plan for every single ISBN we publish! I get to work with editors, authors, various marketing colleagues, sales staff for different channels, distributors, and customers. Being part of this dynamic environment clearly is a new and different experience, and getting exposed to the overall publishing process helps me to see what I do with new perspectives.
While there are numerous things I can learn by working in the New York office, I also hope to bring in new values and ideas from my experience of working in Japan. After all, I believe it’s important to know and acknowledge the fact that there are different ways of doing business depending on the market you serve. It is amazing how much your perspective can change by knowing more! New place, new discoveries! How exciting.