In the Media BD division where I work, we are continuously trying to advance and improve the “quality information” part of our mission. SmartNews currently handles a wide range of information including weather, coupons, news reports, and entertainment, but we are faced with the challenge of how to deliver information we cannot yet handle or even capture. Information is constantly evolving, so we need to keep our antennas up, continuing to improve through a process of trial and error as we consider questions like, “what does it mean to deliver information to people?” and “what is ‘information’ in the first place?”
In Media BD, we mainly try to understand how the world and information has changed and the ways in which it is continuing to change. As part of that, I believe that we have a responsibility to verbalize what SmartNews should be, to share our ideas, and to create a forum for discussion within the company. In order to advance the information we deliver to our users, we need to work with many colleagues within the company, so I think it is important that our communication goes beyond the boundaries of departments.
In Media Solutions, we mainly stand between the business side and the engineering side within the company and play a role in communicating with each team.
I’m currently working on the business side as a media BD, but I personally feel that my background as an engineer has come in handy in my current job.
For example, let’s say that the engineering side wants to revamp the background system. The changes made might have a huge impact on the engineers, but that impact might not be visible to the business side. Furthermore, for our colleague who don’t have technical knowledge, they might have considerable concerns about how things will change.
In cases like these, I first hear the engineers out to understand the reasons they want the change. Once I understand the situation, I explain the objectives and particulars to the business side, providing supplementary context as necessary to facilitate communication. I’m always popping into different divisions, asking, “are you having trouble with this, that, or the other thing? Okay, let’s make a tool real quick.” I do this so much that sometimes people ask me what division I actually belong to (laughs).
That’s not the case for me. The company accepts my way of doing things; regardless of the department or team, the company encourages me to do things as long as they have an impact. So even if I’m doing something that’s not explicitly covered by the scope of Media BD, no one frowns upon it. It’s really reassuring.
It was just the thought of wanting to make the Internet more fun. I have loved the Internet ever since I first encountered it in junior high school. My interest in how much fun the Internet could be led me to choose an engineering school. There I thought, “if I just change some things, I can probably make the Internet even more fun. If that’s true, I’ll develop it myself!”
At the first company I worked for, I was involved in server-side, application-side, and infrastructure-side development as an engineer. I changed jobs and joined an advertising agency to work on advertising sales, service creation, and media management with the idea of spreading the word so that more people can enjoy it.
From that point on, though, I decided to focus on making the Internet more fun and have continued to work with this same mindset after joining SmartNews. It just so happened that SmartNews was a client of the advertising agency at which I had been working. Among the many clients we had, I remember that SmartNews was very much unique among the others in terms of their communication style.
Being in the advertising business, the conversation usually centers around money, right? “How can I increase my sales?” or “How can I acquire users more efficiently?” Things like that. However, SmartNews was the only company who would say something like, “this product your company has is great, so we want to see it spread. Why don’t you try doing something like this to make it happen?” I was very impressed that they put themselves in the position of a business partner and talked to me as if we were thinking together. I wondered what kind of company SmartNews was so that it could develop talent like this. That’s what made me want to join the company.
I spoke a little about this before, but I think that SmartNews has a culture of trying to understand other people and their positions. If someone wants to do something here, the first thing they do is raise their hand and try. Even if they fail, the company will recognize that they tried and that will become the basis of people coming together to think about where to go from there. As long as you don’t lose sight of the company mission and core values, you can try out new things at this company regardless of your position, and everyone will teach you what you need to do. If you are troubled by the dilemma of not being able to jump over the boundaries of your department or role and not being able to try new things or take on new challenges, I would like you to jump into SmartNews.
First of all, I grew up in the countryside of Kagawa Prefecture, and I was the youngest and so-called selfish child. (laughs) I was aware that I had a sharp personality and I experienced a lot of conflicts with my classmates in elementary and junior high school. It was during this time that I first encountered the Internet and discovered the fun of non-face-to-face communication: E-mail, chat rooms, and bulletin boards. By simply changing the place and means of communication from face-to-face to text, I was able to confront my challenges with communication and conversations that had previously not gone well began to go smoothly.
Since my mid-teens, I have been able to communicate better in the real world. There are so many societies and values in the world. There are still things that I don’t know yet that I can get interested in. That’s how I began to think. At that time, a friend of mine said they had an interesting person to introduce to me. That person was Mr. Hirotsugu Mori, who wrote the book that I have brought with me today: “Everything Becomes F.”
My friend said, “Mr. Mori is an assistant professor of architecture at Nagoya University. He knows a lot about the Internet and wrote a book about the C language. He’s also the guy who created the otaku culture with events like Comiket where people come to buy and sell self-published comics.” My friend recommended a mystery novel by Mr. Mori, but I was already interested just from the introduction. I was more interested in reading the words written by such an interesting man than the actual story itself.
What was your impression of the book after reading it?
The protagonist of this novel is also an assistant professor at a university, but he sees things completely differently when he is working compared to when he is enjoying his hobbies. He even changes the way he speaks depending on whether he’s working or doing his hobbies. However, the reason the character does this isn’t that he is very good at communicating. Rather, he uses different ways of communication to reduce the burden on himself. I found this particularly striking.
It is a mystery novel, so it is an easy book to read in terms of content. In the first few pages of the book, you may think that he is an intellectual as he is an architecture professor, but soon the story unfolds about his multifaceted way of life, such as how he uses different conversation techniques for different people he meets at work and in his private life in order to reduce the cost of communication (as he talks about in the interview). The story of his way of life unfolds. If you read some of Mr. Mori’s other essays, you will see that he practices this way of life for his son and wife. He says that each person has their own way of doing things, and says that it isn’t something that you should imitate, nor is it something that you should judge as right or wrong. When I first read this book in high school, I borrowed it from a friend, but it is such an important book that I bought it again myself because I wanted to read it on a regular basis.
Everything Becomes F
Author: Hiroshi Mori.
Publisher: Kodansha Ltd.
Publication Date: April 1996
Overcoming differences in language, culture, and time with empathy for the mission
Creating autonomous engineering teams to achieve ambitious targets
Data-driven decision making at the center of SmartNews
From English teacher to engineering manager