Chieri Kimura, Head of North America Sector, EMEA & LATAM Sector and Senior Vice President of NTT DATA, talks to Gernot Kapteina, Founder of OYSTEC, about his individual leadership style as well as why it is necessary for a large Japanese IT company to grow globally nowadays.
Chieri-san, thank you very much for taking the time for the interview. Today we want to learn about your professional background and goals. Before we get to your current professional ambitions in NTT DATA Corp., let's start with the beginning of your career: your university studies. Where and what did you study, and did anything from then motivate you in particular until today?
Kimura-san: I graduated the faculty of education of the University of Tokyo in 1990 and my major was sport science. Personal computers were not common at that time, but I had the opportunity to use one and compile software as part of my studies. I was a member of the rowing team so to tell the truth I spent most of my time in the boathouse. An elder member of the rowing team worked for the recruiting team of NTT DATA, and he recommended me to join the company. It was a really great recommendation.
Between your studies back then and NTT DATA Corp. today: which professional career stations in between would you like to mention to our readers?
Kimura-san: I started my journey in NTT DATA in the system development team in the financial sector. In 1995, I was transferred to a small subsidiary of 20 people, as a manager of the IT team, but in such a small company, everyone must do everything. I worked in this company for 5 years, and it was a really good opportunity to understand and experience the various roles required to run a business, including service development, sales, customer support, procurement, and administration. This company worked closely with our US partners and exposed me to global business practices early in my career.
Your current role in NTT DATA Corp. is Senior Vice President (SVP) and Head of North America and Latin America, so it's a very global-reaching leadership role. Can you tell us a bit more about this role and your goals, as well as how you work with Kaz Nishihata, the Representative Director and SEVP in NTT DATA for globalization?
Kimura-san: The majority of NTT DATA’s business is basically local, and most decisions are delegated to leaders of each region. However, we need to leverage each regions’ strengths to compete in each market, and also act as a global company when dealing with global customers. NTT DATA is transforming from a Japanese company to a global company, and my role is to accelerate this change. Kaz Nishihata is mainly focusing on strategy, and I am in charge of execution.
What other roles have you taken on, for example as a Board Member in certain organizations?
Kimura-san: Most of my experience in NTT DATA is in the Japanese financial sector, in charge of new business expansion. Previously, I ran a business unit in charge of megabanks, broker/dealer, and credit card issuers/acquirers. Those are industry segments where NTT DATA is not the incumbent service provider. In order to expand in those markets, we conducted several M&As within Japan and I also served as a non-executive board member of such entities, such as XNET, Japan Information Processing, etc. From this experience I learned that it is very important to see NTT DATA from the point of view of acquired companies.
What is it like for you to work for NTT DATA Corp.; especially with your business background of having a strong Japanese headquarters but being in a very global role?
Kimura-san: It’s a very exciting opportunity with many new experiences. In Japan, NTT DATA already has a high level of brand awareness and well-established business operations. However, the situation is quite different outside of Japan. Since we grew our non-Japanese business through acquisitions, each country has a different background with a different business culture. When communicating with our non-Japanese colleagues, it is very important to try to understand issues from their point of view.
Now, I would be interested to know how you define your own leadership style. How do you lead people? For example, is your leadership style more autocratic, democratic, authoritative or other? And, do you make differences when it comes to different cultures; for example, how do you lead Japanese differently than Americans?
Kimura-san: I think the most important thing is to listen carefully and then make a decision. When I cannot make a decision, it is essential to clarify what information is missing. To achieve this, I believe that we need open and transparent communication. We are working in a very diverse culture, so clear communication is the basis for all business decisions. I have limited experience in a non-Japanese business environment, so I must listen carefully to our non-Japanese experts’ suggestions.
When we were preparing this interview, you said that talking also about "Global Growth" is a core interest of yours. What would you like to express to our readers about this?
Kimura-san: The question is whether to be a Japanese company with global operations or a global company; NTT DATA’s aim is the latter. In order to achieve this, the ratio of non-Japanese business, not only from a revenue perspective, but also from profit point of view, must increase dramatically. Each region must be strong and profitable enough to keep growing independently.
Then let's get to our last question, which also fits well to extend our previous one: Taking a look into the future, what do you or NTT DATA want to achieve in the current growth phase, which you call "Global 3rd Stage"?
Kimura-san: We are still on the path toward the Global 3rd Stage, where NTT DATA wants to be a truly global company. As I previously mentioned, before that our operations must be strong and profitable in each region. Our customers’ IT investment is shifting rapidly to digital areas, and we must focus on following this trend to remain competitive. Furthermore, our operations are still fragmented. We finally re-branded all legacy brands to NTT DATA this April and we must further accelerate our business collaboration to build a true One NTT DATA.
Chieri-san, thank you very much for this interview.
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