People of Takenaka
An Overseas Assignment In My 20s
Naoko Umeda
Singapore Office, International Department
My Desire To Work Overseas

When I was in in elementary school, my father worked in New York so I lived there for four years.

My brothers often went overseas to work, too. So I knew something about countries other than Japan. It was natural for me to want to work abroad, too. When I joined the company I requested an overseas assignment.
After three years of doing accounting work in the Tokyo Main Office, I was transferred to the Singapore office for two years.

I have always been interested in English and studied the language since elementary school. My parents and my brothers always told me that the English I was learning in school was quite different from the English used in a workplace. Now, in Singapore and working with local staff, I know how right they were.

The Example Of Seniors

The Singapore Office has 27 Japanese expatriates and about 270 locally-hired staff members are from various countries including Malaysia, India and the Philippines in addition to Singapore. I am in charge of administrative work, covering a wide range of areas from general affairs, human resources and accounting to legal affairs, cost control and IT. I was appointed as a manager on arrival and am in charge of 16 staff members carrying out business management.

I attend a weekly meeting with managers of all departments. In the meeting we not only check progress of our projects but also discuss how the Singapore office should be run and what issues we have. I am inspired all the time by my seniors, especially by their sense of responsibility managing their departments, as well as their sincere commitment to improving the organization.

Meeting at the office

Work Satisfaction

I was not directly involved in projects in Japan. In Singapore, I am deeply involved in projects--everything from budgeting, contracting, invoicing, profit and loss management, and development of financial statements to preparation for events and ceremonies. My involvement in such things stimulates my interest in the whole business of construction.

In one IT-related project, I was in charge of the whole thing from procurement to PC set up, cooperating with local staff, local IT vendors and ICT personnel in Japan. I was nervous about doing this project in collaboration with so many different people. But I also enjoyed it and I gained confidence.

Our staff members vary according to workplace and nationality, but we share a lot at the annual party where the head of the office talks about plans for the future. In the office, we share the company’s “philosophy” with Singaporean staff the Japanese way, with the corporate motto translated into English. We also have morning assemblies similar to those in Japan.

Meeting at a ceremony site

Friendship And Tennis

I chose to live about an hour away from work so I can use the train. This allows me to stop on my way and take time out to learn about Singaporean culture.

On my days off, I play tennis, which I love. There are many young Japanese expatriates in Singapore and I play tennis with them and Singaporean friends.

I have also expanded my circle of friends to those working for other companies in the same business as well as other Japanese women abroad by attending meetings organized by Japanese organizations and associations. It is good to enjoy meals and discuss my troubles with Japanese friends.

With tennis partners on a day off

Renewed Interest In Overseas Work

I have six months left on this assignment. Then I will go back to Japan.
I want to work even harder in my remaining time here so that I do management well just as my seniors do. From now on, I will expand the scope of my work but also develop my skillset and expertise, to improve my core competence.

In Singapore, many women work while raising children. These working mothers encourage and inspire me. I want to continue working like them when I become a mother.

This opportunity working overseas has strengthened my desire to work abroad. I am proud to have been given a position with responsibility at such a young age, in my 20s. I want to keep on developing and acquire the kind of knowhow that will make it possible for me to work anywhere the world. I want to work overseas again if I can.

With Singapore Office Colleagues