Go Global But Stay True To Your Roots

Eighty percent of new engineers joining Rakuten are now non-Japanese. This is a number I am very proud of. Wherever I go in the world, people ask me why this is. They ask me if this is about ‘diversity’, or whether a Japanese company should be looking inside its own country to build a workforce. All fair questions, but it’s not that simple. The real question is: in the age of global business, can you recruit internationally and still keep the cultural values that built your brand? I believe that you not only can, but you must.

The truth is the greatest business risk Japanese companies face is staying at home. Japan does have incredible home-grown talent, but we simply do not have enough engineering talent graduating from universities in Japan. Japan is a country very focused on manufacturing and because of that, education is geared towards industrial and machine engineering, not computer science. In Japan, there are only 16,000 graduates who majored in computer science, whereas there are 60,000 in the US and 300,000 in China. As a growing company that needs talent, we have to find out where it is, and go and get it. It’s that simple, and the same is true of all growing businesses.

By recruiting talent from outside Japan, we are naturally creating great diversity within our business. That means new ideas, skills and knowledge that we wouldn’t have had before.

Of course, people will always ask if by doing this, we are losing our ‘culture’, or diluting the values that sit at the heart of our business. I believe the opposite is true, and that goes for all businesses that are trying to achieve real globalization. To open our doors so widely to international talent, the very Japanese cultural values that helped us start our business have to be more present than ever. Japanese culture has a very high sense of hospitality, which means we have the depth of culture to absorb different perspectives. Combining our own values of teamwork, committed professionalism and constant improvement with talent and inspiration from around the world, I believe we are building a stronger, better company.

Eighty percent is indeed a big number, and there’s more to come.

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