February 2, 2021
February 2, 2021
Gaining skills and building lasting friendships
Working for Satake can be fun and engaging. When we think of Japanese companies, the usual picture is of a bleak and monotonous office environment with little flexibility in its working arrangements. Yet Satake is one of those companies that shatters our usual perceptions of Japanese working environment. I am a foreign member of Satake's International Management office with a different cultural and professional background. I joined Satake around ten months ago, and from my still short experience here I can tell that every day in Satake is a revelation of something new, unusual and interesting about doing things "Satake way".
In late October I was sent for a two-month period to support Satake expansion project of a milling facility for Satake`s long-established customer in Yamanashi Prefecture. The very fact that I as a member of International Management Office, whose main responsibility is to provide marketing support for Satake group companies overseas, was sent to not only observe but also actively participate in installation works at the site testifies to a special "work philosophy" of Satake on what it really means to be part of Satake. Rather than being solely confined to a kind of 'away-from-real-practice' type of work of the office environment, employees are actively encouraged to go out on the field and 'feel the pulse' of the installation sites where Satake comes into contact with the actual customers it serves. The most valuable take-away from this kind of temporary personnel rotation schemes is to bridge the communication gap with colleagues with whom you might otherwise never have any other possibility to meet but whose knowledge and skills are indispensable for Satake's competitiveness. And bridging the gap in inter-departmental communication for more effective cooperation is one of the areas Satake puts special emphasis on.
The city where the facility is located, is in itself a pleasure to be for its stunning natural beauty. Majestic view of snow-capped Minami Alps, on one side, and an awe-inspiring view of Mt. Fuji with its ideally balanced shape, on the other, already filled me with sufficient amount of energy and enthusiasm to get down to real work when I arrived at the facility. Still, rather than my impressions with beautiful surroundings, I was even more impressed with a genuinely friendly attitude and a strong team spirit of Satake colleagues who were responsible for the installation works. They had little knowledge of me and my culture yet took great interest in every aspect of my background throughout the whole period of my stay there up to the point of even showing consideration for the food I could not eat due to cultural factors.
Mr. H - a person in charge for installation works - approached his duties with a 'Zen-like' attention to the slightest details that could compromise overall quality of the processing line. Tall, with rugged facial features which seemed to reflect his twenty-year field experience in Satake, Mr. H was more at home doing hard work rather than just only managing. His quick and efficient intervention was indispensable whenever installations works ran into trouble. Throughout my two-month stay rarely I saw him being puzzled by a technical task at hand. And even if puzzled it just took him a bit more time than usual to come up with an effective practical solution.
Smooth and effective work environment I observed in this location was not only due to Mr. H but also the team working behind the scenes. They all worked in unison to produce a surprising show of complementarity in finishing the installation works on time but without compromise to installation quality. Each member had something I could learn from. Things not only related to work but also about their life outside working environment. With Mr. T who works for Satake Electric, one of Satake's subsidiaries, we had mutually enriching 'lesson sessions' on technical Japanese terms used in Satake. Aware of my weak familiarity with complicated technical terms, he took more time than usual to explain it. I, in turn, returned him the favor in explaining him the same terms in English and other languages. Mr. T also gave me a whole baggage of new suggestions on Japanese anime and drama hits to watch that culturally enriched my otherwise official trip. The same culturally enriching 'discussions' I had with Mr. S who in addition to teaching me on how to deal with various working instruments (I was rather clumsy with them) also gave me tons of suggestions on a type of Japanese food I have not tried before.
So, what is the most important take-away from my trip to Yamanashi, and how does it relate to Satake's work environment? As it trickles through my story, Satake, as a machinery manufacturing and plant engineering company, is placing technical skills and knowledge acquisition for each member of its team to guarantee cutting-edge technological supremacy in the future at the top of its priorities. Inter-departmental rotation plays a facilitating role in achieving this priority by forging bond-connecting relations with Satake colleagues from other departments that turns an otherwise cold and impersonal work environment into a socially satisfying experience for each member of Satake.