Sony Interactive Entertainment Brazil
Masanobu Kubota is expanding his activities globally irrespective of language, culture or disabilities.
Masanobu currently works in Brazil, and Kiyoshi Akutsu of Sony Music Axis Inc., has known him since he joined the company. I spoke with both of them about Masanobu's story and his life today.
Kubota: From my student days, I wanted to build a career in the accounting profession. I chose to work at Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) because I loved games as a child, and found the business of creating entertainment attractive. SIE was created as a joint venture between Sony Corporation and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. (SME). When I joined the company in 1998, I remember the momentum and enthusiasm we felt as we worked to create the new business while respecting the different corporate cultures of the two companies. The very fact that SIE was engaged in opening up the world of entertainment meant that the corporate culture encouraged us to think it was only natural to adopt a proactive attitude to our own work. After I was assigned to the Finance Department, I was initially astonished that the atmosphere there was so free and lively, nothing like one might expect from “Finance.” My colleagues all had professional knowledge and experience, and I learned my task from them while being stimulated by their cool, appropriate and rapid Act to the various issues that came up.
Akutsu: I first encountered Masanobu when I was seconded to SIE's Finance Department from SME. Right from that time, he thought for himself and showed the determination to deal with his work in his own way without simply following the instructions of his managers or senior colleagues. Since the company was just beginning to grow, none of the operating manuals or company rules that we use today had been established, and we found ourselves feeling our own way around our business. I suspect that Masanobu and other new employees had a particularly hard time entering that sort of environment.
Kubota: Actually, I didn't find it especially difficult because I felt I was doing what I wanted in the way that I wanted to. It took time to get used to the work, which was mostly new to me, but the corporate culture seemed to suit me, and I enjoyed working every day on rewarding and enjoyable tasks in a very comfortable atmosphere.
Kubota: My desire to work overseas arose when I was working on transfer pricing Rule, which relate to international transactions among group companies. My curiosity about becoming better-acquainted with overseas workplaces increased as I got involved with business, accounting and tax processes that differ from Japan's, and my dealings with overseas personnel increased. I told Akutsu-san and my colleagues that I wanted a foreign posting. After about two years, I was approached about a post in the United States. To be honest, I was worried about my English-language ability, but decided to accept the post anyway because I might never receive such an offer again.
Akutsu: It's certainly true that Masanobu's English was not very good, but his desire to convey his ideas was very strong. Whenever he was unable to express himself clearly in English during meetings with members overseas, he worked hard to get his ideas across by drawing on a whiteboard. If he faced doubts or uncertainties relating to his work, he would go to speak to the persons in charge directly, whether they were within the department or elsewhere. By proactively promoting communications in this way, he made every effort to ensure that his work progressed smoothly.
Kubota: I believe I'm suited to accountancy because I have always had a strong sense of curiosity. Confirming the facts is an extremely important part of the job of an accountant. When I receive an invoice from another department, for example, I have to confirm whether the payment is for goods or services, why it is necessary, and whether the amount is reasonable. For these and other reasons, I cannot process a transaction unless I clearly understand the actual situation. I would often visit other departments to ask people to share their time and talk with me. I believe such experiences have been very useful in facilitating my communications with people overseas. I always face language barriers during meetings, and I often had to ask speakers to repeat themselves before I understood what they were saying. People in Japan do not like it if you ask too many questions, but people overseas are relatively relaxed about explaining things repeatedly until you understand. When necessary, I also went to other departments and divisions to listen and learn. I now make a conscious effort to listen carefully to what others say because I have realized that this is vital for communications. Given the language differences and the importance of confirming the intentions of the other party, especially overseas, I attach great importance to both conveying my ideas and listening to what others say.
Kubota: During my first year in the United States, I was put in charge of hardware cost accounting and revenue recognition. From my second year onwards, I asked to be put in charge of accounting operations relating to the network business because I wanted to build up experience in various areas. Since business flows and product lineups were handled differently, it was a really good learning experience for me because I was able to learn about new businesses and acquire accounting knowledge. From my fourth year, I was put in charge of a wide range of duties in the Financial Planning & Analysis Division, including the budgeting process, comparisons between results and forecasts, and analytical operations.
During my fifth year, my boss in the United States approached me and asked me if I would be interested in working in Brazil. My duties would involve supporting hardware manufacturing projects for PlayStation®3 and PlayStation®4 in Brazil from the Financial side. This meant establishing new goods purchasing and sales functions for the Brazilian company, involving the management of inventory, assets and liabilities, cash flows, and funding. The prospect of launching a new project was very attractive to me because I have always enjoyed developing my career through the work I was doing. Although Brazil was still an emerging economy and there were some concerns over security, I willingly agreed because of the market's huge growth potential, and my own long-standing interest in the country. Moreover, since the staff of the Brazilian company was small, my duties were not limited to accounting, but extended to providing indirect support in areas such as HR, legal, IT and customer services. For me, overseeing the company as a whole and managing it while working together with the sales country Head and team was both enjoyable and fulfilling. Brazil also has a great deal of complex tax legislation. A company's earnings fluctuate widely depending on business strategy and how distribution and other functions are set up. For this reason, I found it very fulfilling to work with the team on how to maximize profits and meet the company's goals through discussions, studies, decision-making and implementation.
Kubota: By its very nature, accounting is the kind of work that ultimately brings together all the company's activities. Since the financial statements make it possible to have an unbroken view of the overall business, I find great delight in being able to uncover and resolve various issues, or make proposals that will take the company in a better direction. That said, there are many areas where it is necessary to cooperate and coordinate with people from related departments, so I visit them directly myself. This is also stimulating because it enables me to make new acquaintances and new discoveries.
Akutsu: I had no worries about Masanobu's going overseas because he had met many people in other departments when he lived in Japan, and visited many different departments where he solved problems while chatting away amiably. Even with the disability in his legs, there was nothing to worry about, and no signs that it impeded his daily communications. I gave him no special treatment, and had a completely natural relationship with him irrespective of his disability.
Kubota: Today, I personally have no particularly concerns about my disability, though this was not always the case. I think quite a few people with disabilities have complexes about themselves. There was a time in the past when I used to worry about what others thought of me. However, I gradually stopped thinking about my disability as the surrounding environment changed after I started living by myself as a student, then got a job. I don't think I would have been able to interact naturally with my colleagues if I had still had this complex after I started work because I would have been worried about what they thought. I certainly would not have come to know so many people, or visit other departments to speak with my colleagues there myself. I have been able to behave without worrying about it because the atmosphere within the company allows colleagues to accept me naturally as I am, irrespective of any disabilities.
Kubota: The joy of working overseas is that differences in language, culture, business environments and working methods allow us to discover new things in ourselves, absorb them, and grow day by day. I am delighted to be able to go to work every day and be stimulated by coming into contact with new things.
I do not see much difference in the way people deal with the disabled in the United States, Brazil or Japan. However, I feel that the people around us are more likely to offer support in the United States and Brazil. Treating children and the elderly with kindness is deeply rooted in Brazil, especially, and the people there are also considerate towards the disabled. Since people generally commute to work by car in the United States, in particular, the roads are wider and easier to travel than in Japan, and even office passageways and aisles are wide enough for wheelchairs to move with ease. People tend to think that working overseas poses many hurdles for the disabled, but I have found the reality to be completely different. If you are interested an overseas posting, please give it a try without worrying about any disabilities.
I am able to do the work I want to do overseas right now because SIE gave me the opportunity to take up the challenge. The company's strong frontier spirit creates a corporate culture that encourages employees to be bold, and enables them to steadily expand their horizons as much as their efforts and aspirations allow. This is both the attraction and the strength of SIE as a company. In an environment like this that encourages initiative, I will continue to search for the kind of work I want to do while making sure I make contact with new characteristics that I do not possess already.