留学生インタビュー

BACK NUMBER
No01 Alumni working in Japan
Yuwun Chai
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
No01 Japanese Companies employing international students
Yoshinobu Izumi
Taisei Corporation

Coming to Japan and Learning the Most Advanced Automotive Engineering

I have liked cars since I was a child, partly due to my father’s influence, and I went on to the Malaysia Institute of Technology in 1995 because I wanted to engage myself in work related to the development of cars. In those days, however, the Institute did not have departments or courses to learn automotive engineering, and I took a mechanical engineering course instead. I had to go to Japan, the United States, or Germany to learn the most advanced engineering. Cars made in all these countries attracted me, and finally I decided to go on to a graduate school within my region of Asia, in Japan.

While I was considering various ways to go and study in Japan, I happened to see an advertisement from ASJA International (Asia Japan Alumni International), which was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Then I applied for it, had the good fortune to pass the recruitment selection process, and came to Japan as a member of the inaugural class.

I arrived in Japan in 2000 and spent a year attending Japanese language school, and now I think it was good training for me to get used to Japanese society. When you enter university, the range of people you come into contact with becomes narrower, but in a Japanese language school, you are able to meet a wider variety of people across society. It is very important for foreign people working in Japanese companies to understand Japanese society.

Clarifying What I Wanted to Do

There were many universities where I could have learned automotive engineering in Japan. I was interested in Professor Masato Abe’s research on automobile movement and control, and I chose the Department of Vehicle System Engineering, at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology. Some people recommended a different university, but I had no hesitation in selecting this university, because I had already decided what I wanted my milestones to be before I came to Japan - i.e., learning what I wanted to learn in university, working for an automobile manufacturer after graduation, and achieving results based on what I learned.

In the event, my study at the graduate school was very practical, and Professor Abe kindly taught automotive engineering from the basics to me as a student who had never learned automotive engineering in the past. In the master’s course, I majored in steering active control (i.e., control technology using electronic devices). By the time I had almost completed the course, I felt that I had attained my first milestone, and I was thinking of working in a place where I could make use of what I had learned.

At that time, a Nissan staff member, who was interested in a presentation that I gave in a student dispatch program held in Thailand by the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan, advised me to apply for an interview with Nissan. I thought it was a chance to achieve my next goal, i.e., working for an automobile manufacturer after graduation. I applied for, and I was granted an interview with Nissan and was successful.

It was a big decision for me to go and work in Japan, but Japan has a great environment for me to conduct targeted research and work because I had clearly decided what I wanted to do, and I thought that there was no better choice for me than to get a job there.

Things Only Non-Japanese People can Achieve Working in Japan

Nowadays, Nissan has Japanese and foreign workers assigned without any distinction to various positions, ranging from officers to development engineers. Many permanent foreign employees work at the Chassis Technology Development Division, where I belong. Around 2004, when I joined Nissan, however, less than 1% of the employees of the Nissan Technical Center were foreigners. I, however, did not have any difficulty working. For example, sometimes I could not grasp the nuances of my supervisor’s instructions, and I had to confirm them with my seniors and colleagues, who always kindly helped explain them to me. I think that the people around me showed great kindness in accepting me.

Then I spent 10 years continuing research and development in automobile movement and active control, which I learned at university, for steering systems. In 2014, I was able to mount the next-generation steering system that was the fruit of this research and development onto Nissan’s mass-produced Skyline models, thus making them the world’s first mass-produced automobile models incorporating that system.

I struggled with the nuances of Japanese expressions in the past, and only recently have I become able to “think like a Japanese person.” As a result of the global expansion of Nissan’s new Skyline models, I can work as “a bridge” between Japan and overseas because I can think from both non-Japanese and Japanese perspectives. I can see things from the viewpoint of a non-Japanese person working in Japan, which Japanese people have difficulty seeing, and I would like to continue working in Japan.

Do Not Be Indecisive, but Try It

All international students studying or thinking of employment in Japan have a chance to pave their way in the country depending on the effort they put in, although each student has a different situation. The most important thing is that, before coming to Japan, they should plan the way in which they want to proceed, including deciding on milestones they would like to achieve. It would be useful for them to listen to the experiences of people who have studied in Japan or who have been living in Japan. Their experiences will be of help to international students to make decisions at important times, including the decision to find a job in Japan or the decision to study in Japan.

They should not be indecisive, but just give it a try. I do not think there is any disadvantage in working in Japan in terms of acquiring career skills, ideas for advancing one’s career, and ways of thinking. Above all, it is fascinating to share ideas and visions and work with team members supporting Made-in-Japan brands, to get good results, and feel joy in doing one’s work.