她,翻轉日本百年品牌的公司文化 – 資生堂總部 Global Compliance, Risk Management Group Leader 婉芳


Hello 各位 CAREhER 的讀者大家好。我是今天的主持人 Tiffany.。每一個語音專訪我們都和不同產業、不同城市的優秀女性,聊聊他們在工作上的觀察,以及他們職涯上的決定。

今天要討論的一個工作是 compliance,也就是你要確保你公司的產品或是種種行為有符合這個國家或所在地區的法規,這個法規不管是真正的白紙黑字的法律,還是社會上的規範都有。還有 risk manegement,你要怎麼去確保你的公司、預防危機的發生,今天和我們在線上的是婉芳,她在日本資生堂總部工作,一個產值十億美金以上的日本美妝、個人護理品牌,這個品牌橫跨全球 120 個國家,因此如果你對於想在日本的企業工作,尤其是日企,或是對於做 compliance、 risk management 有興趣的朋友,今天我們和在東京工作的婉芳一起聊聊她對工作的一些感想以及她對日本職場的觀察。

謝謝 Tiffany。Hi 大家好我叫婉芳。

編按:以下為英文逐字稿,有興趣的讀者可參考中文逐字稿

Hello Wanfang, tell us about your job? What exactly does a compliant and a risk manager at a cosmetic personal care company do?

In terms of compliance means, I think we first need to establish that the meaning of compliance is very different in Japan versus probably what we are used to in the west especially in the America. Typically in the States when we say compliance it means adherence to laws and regulations . However in Japan the definition is not just restricted to law, it's much broader than that. A very typically response to the question what is compliance in Japan is we comply to the society.

It's very vague.

It is very vague and my first response is what does that mean? And this is part of my interview process actually, and it took me a while to understand what that means. So here compliance really means the ethical conduct and up bring to other person and the expectations of society, of how a business and how a professional should conduct him or herself.

So there will be a very heavy Japanese culture under those regulations.

Yes, and it's not a regulation by law, but an unspoken expectation of...and I'm going back and forth between Mandarin and English if that's ok?

Of course. 

做人處事的道理,社會是怎麼看待這家公司跟員工,你做這一件事不ㄧ定是犯法,但如果這個社會覺得這是不對的,那就是 noncompliance. But environment is a big deal, so if something is harmful to natural to water to plant, trees. That's a big deal.

Yeah, Japanese do care about their water a lot.

Exactly it is a very very responsible society here. And I just learn recently that Shintoism, which is a Japanese religion if you know, is rooted nature.

According to you observation, do you see that there's a certain personality traits that are more suitable to be working in compliance field?

Yeah, definitely. So a couple things that come to mind are definitely a cross culture sensitivity, a very high tolerance for ambiguity, because just like you said the culture tends to be ambiguous. The language itself is ambiguous as well. And I didn't know this since I started learning Japanese that by nature English is a lot more black and white, "he did this, she did that.", it is very clear accountability and subject.

But in Japanese it's very 模糊. And a lot of things are right between the lines which is not what I was used to.

Highly creative flexibility, a lot of patience and tenacity. I think are very important to work. Culture itself is vague and work tends to be vague, but the work itself is not vague, I guess. So my job has two parts. So the piece of actual laws and compliance that are very straightforward. It's laws, so its comply or you don't comply.The other piece is a little bit squishier what constitute to the society toward expectation and how to get things done within the organization is a lot more difficult.

So any other traits?

Being able to deal with different types of people, from very very local Japanese mindset to people from the young age to older. There's a lot of people I work with that don't speak English that have never work for another company before. Because with my company, it is a very established, traditional Japanese company where employees basically join the organization after collage and stay untill retire. So they've never done any other institution, never travel too much outside of the country. Never had exposure to other ways of thinking and doing things. And someone like me coming in who is completely different, trying to find that balance between how to communicate, how to meet each other half way is challenging.

So you previous worked as a branding consultant and also in marketing field, so what triggered you to transition to compliance?

Well I actually did compliance work a couple years back in San Francisco, been based in San Francisco for couple of years. And I have taken a sabbatical in Taiwan last year. And that's when I took the branding and marketing jobs to explore other things that I have never really done officially before.

And the compliance job kind of found me around of that way. The company actually found me on LinkedIn. Because I used to be associated with one of this companies subsidiaries. And so they found me, they were restructuring the company as well as the department that I am heading right now, it's actually a new department. And so they were looking for people to help build it and lead it. That's how it started. It's kind of a good great opportunity, so in the end I took it.

So you also worked at the companies in San Francisco, and also in Taiwan, and now in Japan. Do you see any differences between the cultures and working styles? Do you have to adjust yourself a lot?

Yeah for sure. In the States I'm much more used to direct conversations, discussion and brain storming. And these are very foreign ideas here. So my first couple of meetings were very one directional, the most senior person spoke, everybody else just nodded. And four hours later the meeting was over. And I was very confused. And so here the idea of harmony and conformity are very very important. What Japanese calls「和」 like 你和我的「和」 is paramount. So there's concern on being different on standing out, on maybe making someone lose face, or not being accepted. So the work here is lot more communal and communication is very indirect, very non confrontational.

In States it was very linear. You go from A to B to C, you know each step. But here in Japan it's a lot of unspoken rules or contests. I remember asking my team when I first came. So "Project A who was working on it?" and my answer was "Oh! it's kato san, susukisan, kimokuta san." I said "no, who owns it?"

"Well, it's kato san, susukisan, kimokata san." I said "No I need one person." It makes people very uncomfortable to be a person owning a project.

so are they also less result oriented or?

No I think the result is very important, but there's a lot of emphasis on the process in terms of how everybody else feels, and that everyone must be okay for us to move forward. If someone is not comfortable, if someone think someone is not comfortable, the projects become stuck.

There's a stereotype that Japans company culture does not encourage diversity or individual opinions?

We are changing that right now. So that's kind of part of legacy like I said before like changing. Senior management is definitely pushing for innovation, pushing for many many things that will take us into the future. And interestingly this company actually started as a extremely innovative company. And over the years I think the business grew hugely and things kind of slow down. I think we maybe got comfortable and now we are again trying to become the world front of the next wave of technology working into startups, to many things like other competitors are doing, acquiring startups, getting into tech, wearable tech, AI... a lots of those things.

And what about your gender, does being a female in such a traditional society affect you?

Yes, but because I am a foreigner, because I don't understand Japanese, and because maybe my westerner personality, I don't completely try to be Japanese. Partially because I can't, I don't speak the language, and I don't understand the culture as well. As I need to be in that rule. But because I'm a foreigner I found it a lot easier to get things done. Because I don't understand means I don't have to play by the rules. But there is a very fine balance between respect and playing by the rules, knowing when to pick your battles.

Like when you are in relationships. Understanding sometimes maybe I don't understand, I don't agree but I'm just going to wait and see what happens.
Other times I will make more efforts to push for something to go through. And I'm still learning, but finding that balance is very important.

Do you think there is also a difference, because of your senior level? Cause your are more manageable, so maybe they respect you a little bit more?

Yes, I think that is a great point you bring up an I should thought about that. The interesting thing on my team right now, so I'm head of my group, and within my team I actually have four managers. So they are managers but they report to more senior managers. And they are much older than me, they are much experienced in the company as well as a lot of things they do. However, because I'm their supervisor, whatever they deal or don't agree with me, they will do what I ask them to. It's good and bad, it's changing in a very good way, initially I could not get they true opinion on anythings.

They just agree with you.

They agree but I don't know if they really agree. They would nod or say "hai' like "ok I got it boss." But I've always wondered what do they really think. And after couple months they are much more open, and we have very good dialog. Although sometimes in a group setting, people still tend to be more quiet. One on one they are much more out spoken with me.

Do you think you can slowly change that dynamic? and encourage them to give you more feedbacks or join the discussion?

I think so. We definitely made a lot of progress, although it is a working progress. So a good example would be I've been here for nine months now. At my sixth month mark, I asked my team to give me a review which they thought was crazy. Because no subordinate have ever been asked by their supervisor to review. I kept pushing saying that this will really help me and I really need to understand. I'm not gonna hold it against you, this is not personal, this is completely work.
And I think in the Japanese culture, maybe in Asian culture. 台灣也許也是這樣,公私比較不分明。In the west, in the States, work is work it's very professional. It's not personal we get it done, but here the lines are very blur. So in the end I finally got the input from every person, but it was all positive. It's good but I know it's impossible to not have anything constructed to say about someone. 也不是說 criticize, just things you wish it was different. The only things I got was 「Oh! Wan san 請你講話慢一點,因為英文我聽得不是很清楚。」This was the only criticism I received.

Right. I still think it is very rare, because we interview different organizations in Japan, and most of them are younger or like startups, so it's understandable that they work more like the westerners I think, and more willing to change and to innovate. But I think it's was very rare that such a traditional cosmetic personal care company is willing to bring a "外人” into their, such a senior level also to really change the culture.

So what are some advices we will give to people who want to work in Japan, especially female?

I would said first think very carefully on what's your purpose you want to come here. I guess this is a general question. 這個人不一定會講日文,不一定熟悉日本的 culture. So it is quiet different. So understand what your goals are, purposes of being here. One thing that I would really stress, I can't stress enough is there's definitely big difference between how foreigners are seen, and how foreigners behave and Japanese way quote and quote.

And it is really important to find out, in your new work environment, what the expectations are? And what your personal boundaries are? Once you have that defined I think it would be a lot easier.

A lot of people have been saying that Japanese society is not very friendly to women especially at the work place. So it is very encouraging to hear you saying that you actually haven't encounter.....have you every encountered any?

The only time I did was when I first I started... but now I wondered if it was actually female. Maybe it was but it wasn't by the company, it was by a restaurant. We went to a very formal fancy Japanese traditional restaurant, for a business dinner. My table have maybe eight or nine men. I was the only female with my translator, she is a female too. Once dinner was being served, the restaurant waitress kept the sake next to me, implying that "You should pour."

Oh my god! That's so rude!

That's how it's expected, no matter what level you are in, it's part of the culture. 所以我就不碰那個酒。But in that situation, I don't think it is a reflection of the company it is more the society problem. Within my company is such extremely female promoting. So there's a big push for female leader, big push for women to embrace their motherhood and have a child. The company encourages you to leave earlier or on time to take care of your kids. And I think that's a wonderful thing.

But realistically, do the the mom get to come back to their position if they take maternity leave?

Yes, and no. So a position is guaranteed, but their exact position 就不一定, because the maternity leave can be quiet a long time. Maybe up to a year, so you can't expected the company 你原來的工作是不一定會在,但一定有份工作等著你。

So last question, what is the one thing that influence your career today ?

I think it was having attended in an international school, when I was younger in high school. I was born and rise in Southern California. And it was very typical ABC 的成長環境,然後因為家裡的一些因素,我和我弟弟高中跟中學的時後就到台灣讀台北美國學校,然後 because of that experience it really made me realize how small my world was before. And how a whole other culture, whole other language really exposes you to a whole different mindset. And because of that, 我日後的工作方向,人生方向都是往國際去走。

你現在完全是 multicultural, multilingual. And you're working at a very traditional company, that you don't even speak the language, so I think it's great that you push yourself toward the direction.

Yeah there's been days, now its no longer. My first two months here, sometimes I wondered why. Cause it isn't just work right? 我公司我有翻譯,that's great. But once I leave the door and office. I am on my own, 我聽不懂。

And especially, we look Asian, so they probably expect more。

而且又是女孩子,還長華人樣,It doesn't help.

好,我們非常謝謝 Wan 跟我們分享這麼多在日本工作的事情,我們要再次祝福 Wan,也希望她接下來還有更多有趣的故事,到一個工作,或是下一個階段可以再跟我們分享,謝謝!

謝謝!

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2017 / 4 / 4