Blast From the Past

In the professional website LinkedIn, is a subgroup of those who have or are still working for  Large International Automobile Manufacturer #1, and who are/were not Japanese employees and a word in advance, those who don’t neet the criteria need not ask to join, I am one of the group managers.

There was a note on the site board recently the person, who was our 人事担当(窓口), has after many, many years, resurfaced as a professor at a local (over there) university , teaching something or other. 

Quite a change as the last time I heard (a long time ago) he was in the North American Marketing Division, and this transition from corporate to academic seems like quite the change.

A bit of nostalgia, and at the same time, the realization we, the foreign employees at Large International Automobile Manufacturer #1, gave him a very hard time. And the man had a pretty thankless task, being the buffer between Japanese management, not all were on board with having  miniscule groups of 外人社員within in hallowed corporate halls, and us, who had our own, self-centered and in hindsight somewhat blinkered agendas/expectations.

The program, called the FNE program, was foremost, an experiment. Large International Automobile Manufacturer #1, like the quote from Red October, doesn’t take a dump without a plan and in its planning, it experiments.

So we were 実験材; Large International Automobile Manufacturer #1, getting a first hand look/experience on how well we FNE internalized ‘The Way’, how adept Japanese managers were in handling non Japanese employees, what pitfalls there might be in working with FNE’s and I now see it was no accident that most of the FNE hires were either North American or European.

We  for our part had the expectation we would eventually transition to a position overseas, and that was I think the major point of friction for we were told very bluntly there was not plan for such, at least in the beginning, which while harsh does have historical precedent. In early Meiji, foreign experts were brought over and then disposed of when they were deemed not longer useful.

Some FNE have transitioned to Large International Automobile Manufacturer #1’s overseas operations, some in their home country and some elsewhere,  due to their performance in Japan and perhaps as a belated recognition by Large International Automobile Manufacturer #1, that it might just be a good idea to use FNE who they’ve invested in in Japan to work outside Japan.

I am told there are still FNE  working at Large International Automobile Manufacturer #1, but that the numbers are now very small. And I suppose there is some pride at least on my part, that those who served many years ago were pioneers of a sort and that our experience paved the for a program which posts employees from overseas affiliates for a few years at the Japan mothership.

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