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Talking with Our Global Employees

akebono continuously develops its business with the aim of establishing a global network
across Japan, North America, Europe, and Asia.
Our overseas sales ratio exceeded 70% in 2015.
We aim to become a truly global company, and thus consider the creation of a work environment in which employees can grow and work to their utmost capabilities, utilizing their diverse cultural as well as private backgrounds and values, as indispensable.

  • Takuya Takada

    Takuya Takada

    Foundation Brake Engineering Department

  • Thibault Dropsy

    Thibault Dropsy

    AIMS BU

  • Talena Grimme

    Talena Grimme

    HR Group

  • Muhammad Razif bin Zainudin

    Muhammad Razif
    bin Zainudin

    HP BU

  • Naomi Abo

    Naomi Abo

    Project Management Office

*Names of departments and contents of interviews on this page are applicable at the time of each interview

Tell us about your career and main work tasks

Takada

I joined akebono in 2005. After the New Hires Training, I was in charge of developing brake pads for endurance races and European automobile manufacturers. Already in my second year at akebono, I had the chance to go on a business trip to Europe, where we did a joint trial test with one of our customers at a testing course. There, I personally installed the brakes on the cars, and while talking with the customers, we carried out a high speed test in which we drove faster than 200 km/h. It was a great experience.

After that, I developed motorcycle brake pads and corner modules - a three-piece set made of the brake caliper, brake pads, and a disc rotor - targeting ASEAN, followed by two years as an expatriate working at our R&D Center in the USA. There, I developed brake pads targeting Northern-American automobile manufacturers. Even after returning to Japan, I’m still involved in developing brake pads.

Thibault

After graduating from my university in France, I did an internship at akebono, and then became a full-time employee. Currently, I'm in charge of overseas sales at the AIMS Business Unit.*

In Japan, akebono has a high market share with rolling stock and industrial machinery, and we are trying to enter the global market to ensure sustainable growth for AIMS. To acquire overseas business, we do marketing, confirm customer needs and issues, and refine our targets (customers, products, and prices). After a new project has been decided, we start working on development, process surveys, and consider the sales price in cooperation with departments related to the project.

Also, customer service, including suggesting products, reporting on the progress of tests, and price negotiations, is one of our essential tasks. Nowadays, I often go on business trips to Europe to carry out face-to-face meetings with customers because we need to build good, trusting relationships to build our European business. At work, 30% of the time I use English and 70% of the time Japanese.

*AIMS:Akebono Infrastructure & Mobility Systems

Razif

Talena Grimme

I, too, started with an internship before becoming a full-time employee.

I’ve been working at HR ever since I joined akebono. At first, I was in charge of translations, interpretations, and supported our in-house training events, in addition to teaching English to our employees. Now, I’m in charge of planning and operating most of our in-house trainings (including trainings by job levels, selective trainings, and ‘open courses’ that our employees can participate in freely) as well as creating a foundation for the training system.

As akebono also has a variety of global trainings, I plan new English curriculums based on the requests from other departments and hold language and cross-cultural trainings for employees who are going overseas as expatriates. Overall, I make sure that our trainings are based on our employees’ needs and requests.

Razif

I joined akebono in 2013 as a new graduate. For my first 2 years, I worked on the design development for disc brake calipers for Japanese automobile manufacturers. Now, I’m in charge of the design development for brake calipers installed in vehicles targeting the European market. Within my current work, I use English for 30% of the time and Japanese for 70%.

I got to know akebono after discovering that akebono provides products to McLaren, a Formula 1 team. Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to do a job related to Formula 1, so I do my job every day with the dream of working with Formula 1 related products in the future.

Abo

After joining akebono, I was assigned to the Purchasing Department. In charge of buying materials, I negotiated prices with the suppliers to reduce costs and eventually purchase better products at an even cheaper price.

While working at the Purchasing department, I participated in a 5-month-long training at our Suzhou facility in China. My training objective was to localize the purchasing of materials used for brake pads, and I did a survey on local suppliers for that.

In January 2016, I moved to the Project Management Office, where I'm in charge of managing the schedule, cost, and technical specifications for new orders for volume production of brake pads for High Performance vehicles. My job is tough but fulfilling because I can learn about the whole manufacturing flow, as well as communicate with people from many departments.

When do you think feel your work is worthwhile?

Takada

Takuya Takada

We still have to learn many things to fully understand brakes, and there are times when I struggle to solve issues related to new, unknown phenomena/situations. However, there are many new discoveries, which make my work worthwhile. Also, seeing products I’ve worked on being installed on actual vehicles on the road makes me very happy.

In my interview during job hunting, I said that I wanted to design brake pads! Now I’m happy I can do the job that I’ve always imagined.

Thibault

Product technology, testing and evaluation are essential in the rolling stock market. Testing methods and standards differ considerably between Japan and other countries, which is why they form a challenge for obtaining new business.

There are many things we cannot judge based only on papers, so we need to verify the actual products on location to confirm issues. A happy experience for me personally was being able to be present when akebono carried out rolling stock tests outside of Japan for the first time.

Entering the overseas market has been a big challenge up until now at my department. However, by thoroughly differentiating our technology from others, maintaining quality and adhering to deadlines, we could build good partnerships with our overseas customers.

Talena

Our in-house trainings are tailored towards akebono’s situation, so when I need to plan trainings or teaching materials from scratch, or when a lot of training events are held at the same time, I feel it’s sometimes difficult to come up with new ideas and at the same time manage all my other tasks efficiently.

However, as we try to discover our employees’ needs and plan all of our trainings accordingly, the happiest moment for me is when employees thank me and tell me later that the training was useful for them. This motivates me a lot.

Razif

Zainudin Mohammed Razif

There are times when I feel like designing in R&D is a tough job, but we can get involved in all parts of manufacturing which makes my department interesting. It feels both worthwhile and challenging for a designer to realize the demands from the customer as well as the manufacturing side. Also, brakes are a crucial component for safety, linked directly with saving people’s lives, so creating safe products is always on my mind at work. It’s a happy feeling to see cars on the streets with brakes I’ve worked on.

Abo

Overseas customers from akebono ask for things I had not even imagined, which has made me realize the cultural differences. We need to understand a different perspective from our usual point of view. It was difficult to find solutions together with related departments to satisfy our customers. However, the people from the related departments (Sales, R&D, Production Engineering, Purchasing and Manufacturing) are doing their best to cooperate to satisfy customer demands. At these times, I feel a sense of unity and realize how I’m supported by all the members, which makes my work fun. Meeting the shipping deadlines is an achievement which motivates me to do my best to reach my goals.

Are there any differences in your image of akebono if you compare the time before and after joining the company?

Takada

akebono has a long history, so I had thought the company would have an old-fashioned corporate culture, but my impression after joining akebono was that it’s easy to communicate with supervisors and senior employees, and I think we have a nice workplace.

I knew that akebono provides products to a wide range of fields such as automobiles, motorcycles, rolling stock, and industrial machines as a brake expert, but I was surprised when I learned that akebono develops brakes targeting high end and high performance vehicles such as Formula1 and sports cars, too. (It hadn’t been made public at the time I joined akebono in 2005.)

Thibault

Thibault Dropsy

akebono is an automotive parts manufacturer with a long history, so I imagined akebono as an old-fashioned Japanese company with a strict working environment. However, there is an atmosphere where it’s easy to talk with supervisors and people from other departments, and I have learned many things from them after joining akebono. Also, akebono really values about employees’ private lives, so I think it’s a great company that promotes work-life balance.

Talena

Talena Grimme

I applied for akebono directly from abroad, but didn’t know much about the company back then, so I searched online and learned that akebono has business and facilities all over the world. I thought the company was very big and global, which is why I imagined there would be a competitive atmosphere, with a strict performance-based system and a lot of overtime work.

However, looking back at 5 years at akebono now, I think we have a warm, family-like atmosphere, as is associated with Japan. Also, we have a flat organization that allows easy communication without having to mind titles or age, and a work environment where people support each other. In addition, I feel that the company values its employees, so as long as you do your very best, everyone will support you even if you cannot reach the expected results or make mistakes, and that’s one point why I feel comfortable working here.

As for a global work environment, it depends on the department and your position whether or not there is overseas-related work. However, one of akebono’s good points is its flexible approach on balancing work and life, which is also considered common overseas.

Razif

I first got to know akebono during job hunting. I thought akebono has a high level of engineering skills because it supplies brakes in a wide range of business fields, for example for automotive manufacturers in and outside of Japan, for rolling stock, industrial machinery, and Formula 1. After joining akebono, I’ve met engineers I respect, including my supervisors and co-workers, and I’ve been able to personally confirm akebono’s high level of engineering.

Abo

Before joining akebono, I had the image there would be a lot of opportunities to take on challenges. That image hasn’t changed after joining akebono, and I feel that the company really encourages motivated employees. Furthermore, these opportunities for challenges are offered regardless of gender, and in general, employees are friendly, and supervisors as well as members from related departments will give you proper instructions and advice.

Right after joining akebono, I would vaguely say “I want to go overseas”. However, after being to a different country as trainee, I realized I hadn’t known anything before: Without a wide range of knowledge you’ll have a hard time abroad, so now I want to build a proper foundation for going overseas.

Based on your experiences overseas,
please tell us about any differences you’ve noticed compared with the work style in Japan.

Takada

People overseas are strongly committed to keeping deadlines, and when submitting documents, they first submit, and fix any mistakes later. In Japan, people tend to try to perfect documents before submitting, even it requires extending deadlines. Also, overseas, the transfer from decision-making to taking action is quick. In Japan, many people take action only after considering things through thoroughly, so although it takes time they don’t make many mistakes. I think those are the differences in work style.

Thibault

Overseas, individual tasks are clearly allotted. In this work style, after finishing your own part, you leave complete responsibility of the next part to the next person.

However, at akebono, we can work together as a team from product development to obtaining the business. This allows you to gain a variety of experiences in addition to your own work. For example, you can join a project where you take on new challenges with members from other departments, thus increasing your network. At AIMS's project for young employees, we involve the customers when thinking about new products, and sometimes also hold exhibitions.

Abo

Naomi Abo

During my overseas training in China, I discovered surprising things every day. Japanese common sense didn’t apply in many occasions because of differences in the way of thinking. For example, there were issues with delivery, quality, and contracts. I noticed that people started gradually trusting me after I understood their way of greeting, thinking, and their culture.

Also, in Japan we can keep working even if the conditions are somewhat vague, however outside Japan, the work conditions are clarified through contracts. I felt I had to be careful to avoid for example the risk of leaving out any necessary items and confirm even the small details in the contract while working in China.

Message to students in the middle of job hunting

  • Takuya Takada
  • Takuya Takada joined in 2005, Foundation Brake Engineering Department
  • To all international students: In order to become more global in the future, we need new perspectives and an abundance of ideas. If you’re good at expressing your ideas, this is an environment where it’s relatively easy to challenge yourself in what you want to do. So please do join akebono so we can work hard together.

    To students interested in working abroad: Before I joined akebono, I didn’t have any experience of going abroad, not even traveling. Before joining, I had heard there were opportunities to work overseas, so by taking that step I thought I could grow, and I joined akebono to challenge myself in many things. A big change after working overseas is that it widened my perspective as I met different types of people from different cultures for the first time, and had to deal with them flexibly. I feel I’ve been able to grow greatly both as a person and an engineer, so join us to have a chance to work overseas, and to grow together with akebono.

  • Thibault Dropsy joined in 2013, AIMS Business Unit
  • akebono is a Japanese company, focused in Japan. However, more than 50% of our sales profits are from North America. Also, at my department, we are trying to expand our business overseas, so we need to communicate with customers and sites outside of Japan. That is how people with experience from abroad and people who can become a link between Japan and the overseas are becoming increasingly important. Let’s work together for akebono’s growth!

  • Talena Grimme joined in 2012, HR Department
  • akebono has both a typical Japanese side and a global side. Our work style, the friendly atmosphere, and the company support system are typical for Japan. The work-life balance, overseas connections, and career opportunities given based on efforts represent the global side. akebono’s corporate culture mixes both Japanese and global elements, and I think it can be both a strength and a weakness.

    After understanding this aspect, it is important to have a mindset where you know what you want to do, how to take actions proactively, what you want to learn, how you want to grow, and where you want to work (if you want to do overseas-related work in Japan or if you want to work overseas). As long as you have a concrete image, I think you can find your ideal work place at akebono.

  • Muhammad Razif bin Zainudin joined in 2013, HP Business Unit
  • akebono is one of Japan’s top companies in engineering and manufacturing. It is important to show some appeal if you have a goal and want to work overseas. This is a company where everyone regardless of nationality, gender, or background can work to their utmost, so let’s work together to make akebono global!

  • Naomi Abo joined in 2011, Project Management Office
  • This company lets us take challenges, so anyone who has a variety of interests will fit in. The Japanese common sense will not apply with overseas customers. To understand others, we need to keep a wide perspective, and consider things from different angles. That’s why I think people who are flexible, who can deal with things according to circumstances, and who have patience and toughness are suitable.

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