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I want to use the power of the lens to bring smiles to the faces of people facing illness

Takashi Kato
Sony Corporation Medical Product Design Div. Mechanical Design Dept.

I was fascinated by cameras and loved them when I was a boy

When I was in elementary school, I joined a swimming club, and would often dropped by a nearby camera store before practice. Iridescent lenses, shiny dials, and piano-like glossy black bodies... I was captivated by the beauty of cameras and have loved them ever since. I also collected illustrated camera reference books and catalogs. I think I can still name all the models made by all the manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s.

I studied precision engineering at university and had a vague desire to design consumer products that many people could use in the future. One day, I came across an article in a camera magazine about a tour of a camera manufacturer's' plant. The article talked about how to become a camera technician, and I was shocked to learn that I might be able to realize my dream of doing just that. Although I was willing to design any consumer product, I decided that I would be happiest if I could design cameras for a camera manufacturer.

My hobby is travel photography. I have visited around 25 countries with my beloved camera

Working hard to design lenses in my dream job

I started my career as designer of interchangeable lenses for SLR cameras. This was in the days of film cameras, and I knew how significant it was for me as a newcomer to join the team designing the interchangeable lenses that were so important in the SLR camera business, and to gain an understanding of the optical characteristics of cameras. The basics of lens design that I learned at that time remain the foundation of my engineering career. Fifteen years later, I transferred to Sony and became involved in the design of digital SLR cameras, which were expected to become a new pillar of the company's business. Overall, I remained in charge of lens design, serving as product manager and project leader for a total of 20 lenses, including those I worked on in my previous job. One of my enduring impressions is the lens unit for the DSC-RX100 digital still camera. When it was proposed that we should create a compact camera that takes beautiful pictures like an SLR camera, I thought it would be impossible, but after repeated trial and error, we somehow managed to develop it into a product. I am proud to have been involved in the design of the DSC-RX100, which has become a hit product and attracted worldwide attention.

I was subsequently transferred to the medical design department, where I became product manager for the lens units of 4K surgical endoscopes and 4K 3D surgical microscopes. As this was my first involvement in designing products for professionals rather than general consumers, I was a bit confused at first, but I really enjoyed working on creating something new from scratch and experienced the real thrill of design work anew.

I was so happy to get the job of my dreams at the camera manufacturer I joined as a recent graduate

From a diagnosis of tendinitis to stage IV pulmonary adenocarcinoma(lung cancer)

In 2018, I was put in charge of designing the optical module for the Cell Isolation System CGX10. The Cell Isolation System uses a laser beam focused by a lens to fractionate targeted cells with high precision and purity. It is to be used in producing the cellular drugs necessary for cellular immunotherapy, which is attracting attention as a therapy for cancer and autoimmune diseases. I found this job to be very rewarding because it enabled me to contribute to saving people's lives in the most advanced areas of medicine.

When trial manufacture of the CGX10 started in 2019, I began to feel pain in my upper right arm. As it did not get better, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon and was diagnosed with tendonitis. Following a later full medical examination, there was concern that the figures for certain blood components were several times higher than normal. When I was referred to another hospital for a more detailed examination, it was discovered that pulmonary adenocarcinoma (lung cancer) had metastasized to my upper right arm. Even though the results of my chest X-ray during the physical exam were completely clear, I was stunned to receive the shocking diagnosis that I had Stage IV cancer.

Handing on my knowledge of lens design while supporting team members

My cancer treatment started with hospitalization for radiation therapy for about two weeks. I subsequently took leave of absence for about three months as I underwent repeated treatment at home and in hospital. Before taking leave, I had worked on the CGX10 full-time as the leader in charge of optical module design, but after returning to work, my boss asked me to pass on my extensive knowledge of lens design to team members in my own and other departments. I have since been providing guidance and support for lens design to designers of products other than CGX10, giving instructions and checking drawings. The CGX10 was introduced on TV as "Sony's Cell Isolation System! To reduce the cost of state-of-the-art healthcare." It was announced that it would go on sale in the fall of 2022. I wept tears of joy when I looked back on my work designing the optical module and the many hardships I had undergone in the process.
I am currently receiving chemotherapy and will need to be hospitalized for 2-3 weeks when I start using different types of drugs. I took paid leave initially but have also begun to use Life Vacations(special leave granted to support a good work-life balance)under the Symphony Plan*, Sony's work-life balance support scheme, which was expanded in April 2020.

*The Symphony Plan has been further expanded to cover cancer prevention, detection and treatment as well as ensure an appropriate work-life balance. Early detection is extremely important for cancer treatment, and the Plan has reinforced the system for individual follow-ups by tying up with medical institutions providing physical check-ups, health insurance associations and the Health management department to raise the detailed examination rate. To increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of cancer, an e-learning program entitled From prevention to cure prepared under the supervision of a cancer specialist has been made compulsory for all employees. The company has introduced shorter working hours and flextime so that employees can adopt a more flexible work style to balance cancer treatment with work.

*This support scheme applies to certain companies in Japan, including Sony Group Corporation. The schemes may differ according to country or region.

I will not interrupt treatment or work to spend time smiling with my family.

My motto in life is "Never go against the flow." I believe the flow is a message from the environment at the time telling me what I should do. I followed the flow when I was assigned to design lenses as a recent graduate and when I was transferred to the medical design department. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I decided not to go against the flow, but to look straight ahead and walk the path of a designer. Besides, I have a family. In order to spend good time with my family, quitting my job was not an option.

One of the reasons I continue to work is my desire to create solutions to ease the worries and hardships that only cancer patients face with . During chemotherapy, side effects such as fever, numbness in the legs and other symptoms tend to occur in cycles, so I thought it would be useful if my smartphone could notify or alert me in advance. This experience led me to invent the Chemotherapy Side Effects Forecaster app. The idea won the Innovator Award in an internal audition organized by the Sony Startup Acceleration Program.

Also, having cancer has made me want to make my family smile, not cry. This thought has supported me during my own cancer treatment. As it happens, my mother recently passed away from the same pulmonary adenocarcinoma(lung cancer) that I have. I felt as if she had entrusted me with her life, telling me to create products that will help people. While feeling that my mother is protecting me, I want to take on the challenge of creating new products and businesses by utilizing the knowledge of lens design that I have accumulated so far to bring smiles to the faces of people battling illness and their families as well as my own family and people around me.