Continuously taking on the challenge to see how far I can go in a global business
Building my own career
There are approximately 400 employees working at IKEA Kohoku where I serve as store manager. I manage the whole place to see to it that every one of the staff are fully demonstrating their own capabilities and working comfortably and effectively to deliver quality products and experience to the customers.
When I joined IKEA immediately after graduation, my wish was to work in the logistics department. I engaged in warehouse operation for 5 years and learned the fundamentals of how a store is run while doing background work. When I was in university, I never imagined that I would obtain a forklift operator license and load/unload packages, but it was an exciting and fulfilling experience to work together with people of diverse backgrounds. Later, I applied for a training program offered by my company and got a chance to work in a store in Finland and a distribution center in California. After working as manager of the logistics department for two and a half years upon returning to Japan, I was given a chance to become a deputy store manager. About two years ago, I was promoted to store manager. I am so grateful of having been appointed a management position at this age. It was the result of various factors: not only my work performance over the years but the support I received from people around me. Women are seldom promoted to management positions at a young age in the Japanese society, and I feel that my case was meant to be a challenge to the status quo.
My mission as a store manager is to secure business profit, support staff growth, and to align those activities with the company's growth strategy. I am also active in marketing activities such as communicating information on IKEA as the representative of the store and generating new ideas for customer approach. It is said that, while all IKEA stores have lots in common, the atmosphere of a store changes when the store manager changes. This must be because the different preferences and priorities of the store manager are shared among the staff, which inevitably manifest in the store environment. This is what makes being a store manager so exciting. I personally believe that "we wouldn't be able to satisfy the customers unless the staff are highly motivated and satisfied with their work." Although it's only been half a year since I was assigned to IKEA Kohoku, I can't wait to see how my colors would permeate the staff and show in the store.
Not just a multinational composition of students but true diversity
I first heard about ICU from a friend of my parents when I was in high school. My interests were wide-ranging at that time and I couldn't decide on a specific discipline I wanted to pursue. I was looking for a university or department where I could broaden my potential without having to narrow it down. When I heard about ICU's liberal arts education and how English was used as a means for learning, I thought it might be interesting to study at ICU. When I actually visited the campus, I felt both a sense of comfort and excitement. I was convinced that this was where I wanted to spend my college life.
The people I met at ICU were so diverse in terms of character and thought. It was an environment open to different views and opinions. I had a friend who would tell everyone he loved the universe and was always talking about the universe, but no one treated him as a nerd. It seemed that most ICU students had their own solid self, which grows by absorbing other people's thoughts rather than denying them.
Although I had my own thoughts, I hadn't been the type of person to speak out my opinions in front of other people. Classes at ICU, however, often involved open discussions and presentations and everyone was asked to share their opinion on numerous occasions. I received a lot of training for speaking out. Another important turning point was when I went on a one-year student exchange. The purpose of my study abroad was to take an environmental studies course, but my English skills were not up to the level necessary for studying specialized subjects. We needed to read some written materials in preparation for class, but I had a hard time trying to understand these materials. Work in class consisted of discussions based on the materials and activity performed in student pairs. However, I didn't have the confidence to speak up in class, and eventually no one wanted to pair with me because I didn't express my opinions. Having no one to pair with was a shocking experience for me. This was when I decided to actively speak out no matter if I was speaking incomprehensible English or striking a wrong note. I could tell the gradual change in my classmates' attitude toward me. I learned that if you show your efforts and get results, people will gain confidence in you. In an environment where there are various people, you can't just sit and wait till someone finds you but have to demonstrate what you can do in one way or another. Thanks to these experiences I gained through classes at ICU and study abroad, I am no longer shy and can confidently express my opinions in front of people, which is an important aspect of my career.
To be active on the global stage
I joined IKEA not because I loved furniture but because I thought the company would provide me with opportunities to widen my perspectives and possibilities. When I was on the job hunt, IKEA had only just entered the Japanese market. I thought, "Since this is a new company that has just entered the market, I would be able to participate in building a new business from scratch. What a chance!" "How is this globally successful company developing its business?" I was excited to imagine how I might be able to contribute in the process.
In order to achieve a certain position in a global business, I think it is important to clearly know what you want to do and think, and to be able to express those thoughts in words. Expressing in words has two effects: you can share your thoughts with the people around you, and you can also put positive pressure on yourself. Another vital quality for working in a global environment is that you must be able to accept and appreciate diversity. While the company may have only one goal, the way to approach that goal differs from person to person. To maximize business results through cooperation with many people, you need to respect different thoughts and understand each person's characteristics to find the best way to motivate that person so he/she can display his/her true value.
I feel that my experience in ICU and as an exchange student built the foundations for my career as a Japanese manager in a global business. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of ideas at ICU. Absorbing different ideas and immersing in diversity will significantly broaden your perspectives. In this sense, I think ICU is one of the best environments you could ask for.
Kazumi NoyamaStore manager, IKEA Japan K.K.
2006 B.A. in Arts and Sciences (Social Sciences)
Kazumi joined IKEA Japan after graduating ICU. After experiencing warehouse operations at the logistics department of IKEA Kohoku, she worked at IKEA Vantaa Store in Finland for six months, then at a distribution center in Tejon, California for another six months. On returning to Japan, she was appointed as Goods Flow Manager at IKEA Shin-misato (logistics department). After holding such positions as Deputy Store Manager at IKEA Tsuruhama and Store Manager at IKEA Sendai she has been serving as Store Manager of IKEA Kohoku since 2019.