Language Barriers and Milestones for a Director in a Global Company (Part 2)

Language Barriers and Milestones for a Director in a Global Company (Part 2)

I am Takeda, the Director, Group Executive Officer and Money Forward Business Company COO. I will share my shift of thoughts when Money Forward advances its Englishnization and globalization efforts.
Language Barriers and Milestones for a Director in a Global Company (Part 2)

Conflict and turning points

In the summer of 2022, I only had 3 options for my English goal. There are three options.

Completely goodbye English

Quit my job

Make up my mind and study English

After 2 months of serious consideration and worrying, I finally chose option 3

So I started studying English. It didn't bear fruit immediately and wasn't fun. My English was even behind the translation technology. So I made myself up with "I have to do it, or I'll be ruined" and just faced English. To be honest, self-improvement was a self-inflicted wound.

But one day, something happened that brought about a big change in my feelings about English. It was interacting with non-Japanese members of the company.

Interaction 1: Lunch with in-Japan members

In 2023, I had the opportunity to have lunch with non-Japanese members in Japan.

I was worried about what to talk about, whether it would be an awkward time, and whether they would just be disappointed. I was so always thinking about various things that could not walk lightly. (fyi, I'm shy, so I'm always nervous when meeting someone for the first time, regardless of nationality or language.)

In fact, at the beginning of our first lunch, I was the only one sweating even though it wasn't hot.

However, once we started talking, it was surprisingly easy to understand what they were saying. I could understand what they were saying quite well. It was fun. And everyone was really nice. It was the best! And so, before I knew it, lunchtime was over.

After the third lunch, I learned that even the members who are using English at Money Forward are not native English speakers. English is just a second language, and they have learned and used it. Aren’t they just like me?

The third lunch at the msb Tamachi office

No, they're not the same. They've faced English, come to Japan, and started working at a Japanese company. I shouldn't say they're the same as me.

But by interacting with everyone and talking like that, I was overwhelmed with a desire to get to know everyone better and to express my thoughts. And so my perspective of English changed from “something to learn” to “something to use”.
Interaction 2: Session with Vietnamese members who visited MFC in a short time
In 2023, the COVID-19 pandemic went down. Members were able to move between Japan and Vietnam more actively. As a result, an "Onsite Working Program" was implemented in which managers from Money Forward Vietnam (MFV) would work in Japan for three months.
In August, I finally had the opportunity to talk to them. For the first time, I was able to listen face-to-face to the challenges and thoughts that the Vietnamese members face daily.

With six Vietnamese members at the msb Tamachi office

(From the picture, it looks like I speak English very fluently)

I felt that everyone was excellent. What makes them excellent is that they have a broad perspective.

"What should we do to deliver the best output as one team despite the physical distance?"

"What challenges do we need to clear to achieve that?"

"What should we do to make the vision and strategy of the Money Forward Group crystal clear?"

Such inquiries made me feel "We want to grow together as part of Money Forward!"

Through this experience, I knew that the value gained by creating an environment where the Vietnamese members can fully utilize their abilities would be extremely high.

And before I knew it, I shared them right away, "I'm going to Vietnam next time, so let's talk again!" (laughs)

Interaction 3: Visit to Money Forward Vietnam

In October, my long-awaited visit to Vietnam came true. I finally could discuss with key managers at the Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi offices.

Currently, many of Money Forward Cloud's products are developed jointly between Japan and Vietnam. (For example, Money Forward Cloud - Project Cost)

However, as corporations, Money Forward and MFV are separate companies, and the Vietnamese side is not under my management line, so I lack clarity. Therefore, I wanted to, first, be aware of the actual situation by having the frontline managers in Vietnam speak their minds.

At each of the two offices, I was given time to greet all the members working there, and what impressed me there was that the atmosphere was inclusive and welcoming.

A general session at the Hanoi office

I also assumed MFV’s members would see me as an exotic Director and have a distance from me.

However, there was not even a trace of that kind of atmosphere, and the moment I entered the office, they greeted me, and called out to me, and the atmosphere was welcoming, with people saying, "Finally, we've met, colleagues who work together!"

I was also impressed by how they responded clearly to what I said during the session. I felt that each person had a high sense of participation, and they laughed a lot and responded with a wide range of gestures. Some members spoke, and it was a place where interactive communication naturally occurred. I honestly felt that it was a very good atmosphere.

In the following, we had a discussion with the manager about the situation on the ground and the issues we felt.

The most common issue raised was the collaboration between Vietnam and Japan. There were many issues directly related to the so-called tangible development work, such as different development tools, the lack of information in English from Japan making it difficult to keep up with specifications, and security and authority issues that prevented people from viewing the same information. I felt that these issues needed to be addressed properly.

On the other hand, as a more intangible collaboration issue, we received opinions and suggestions on the need to understand the goals of the group and the business with higher clarity, and before that, to advance mutual understanding of what each other thinks.

These opinions and suggestions were exactly what I myself thought should be. Whatever your job or nationality, the most important thing is "Why are you here together?" We talked about how we think that empathy and mutual understanding are the most important things in terms of the basic premise of what mission we are trying to achieve together.

With the managers in Ho Chi Minh City

Return from the dark side

As you've seen from my writing so far, I'm sure you've noticed by now that I'm already having a lot of fun talking to global members (laughs).

I simply feel that "if I could speak more English, we would be able to understand each other better" and "if I get better at English, I'm sure I'll make more friends."

Through my interactions with the global members last year, I simply felt that there were more wonderful friends than I thought, and I felt that there were many excellent people among the global members in Vietnam, India, and Japan.

Just by taking on the challenge of speaking English, there were more scenes where I felt happy to be able to become friends with such members, and I felt more excited than when I was working only in Japanese. I had the opportunity to truly feel that it was great to be able to take on challenges with so many friends, and 2023 was a year in which the world expanded greatly for me.

I wanted to share what I felt with the Japanese business staff, with whom I have little contact in my work, so at last month's MFBC Park Session (※), I introduced our global efforts from various angles to the company, with the theme of "The Path to Realizing One Team Globally".

※"MFBC Park Session" is an internal webinar that MFBC continues to distribute. 

Last month's MFBC Park Session "The Path to Realizing One Team Globally" Money Forward Vietnam CEO Nagai (Emma) also participated online

I truly want to turn the idea of “OneTeam Globally" into reality, and as one step toward that goal, I plan to visit Vietnam again next month and hold a "team building" session for Vietnamese managers in the MFV version of the "Leadership Forward Program (※)."

※"Leadership Forward Program" is a program implemented by Money Forward to develop leaders. (Reference note)
It's very exciting to have colleagues not only in Japan but also around the world who make you think, "I want to understand these people better", "I want to get to know them better, and even have a drink with them and have fun", and I think it's a happy environment.

I would like to continue to move forward with these colleagues, "Moving business forward. Moving employees forward."

~~~ Thank you for reading ~~~

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