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Aug 26, 2021
The motivation behind a bold career change from the game industry to the automotive industry
A vision created by combining game-related elemental technologies and new knowledge
AD&ADAS System Development Div.Takahiro Koguchi
Takahiro Koguchi became familiar with games and programming in his childhood. He majored quantum mechanics and chaos simulation at university, and joined a game developer as a new graduate. He worked there as an engineer for 15 years, and transferred jobs to DENSO. He is engaged in advanced development of autonomous driving and advanced driver-assistance systems utilizing his R&D skills in virtual environment which was cultivated in his previous job.
Takahiro Koguchi made a significant shift in his career living as an engineer by changing from the game industry to the automobile industry. He has always followed his heart. Both when he was a new graduate and when he changed careers. After overcoming many hardships, what did he want to accomplish in the automobile industry?
Contents of this article
From game engineer to automotive expert: my goal upon entering a new industry
I joined DENSO in the industry I knew nothing about at the age of 37, which is said to be relatively late for career change.
As I had been working in the game industry since I graduated from university, I didn’t know anything about the auto industry. And because I had been working as an engineer, I had no management experience which is often required for the applicants in my age group.
Nevertheless, I had refined many skills unique to the game industry over the years, and I have been able to utilize those as strengths in the autonomous driving field completely different from my previous one while working at DENSO.
When I joined DENSO, it was a challenge to study an entirely new field from scratch, but I had a strong thoughts of achieving “certain things” in the automotive field.
Games were my hobby and my career, then I changed course and joined the auto industry
I originally loved video games, and I frequently visited a game corner in a candy shop in my childhood since I was in a kindergarten.
It was sheer luck that I joined the game industry. When I did a job interview, my interviewer happened to love a hand-sized small computer as same as me, and we hit it off with each other. As a result I ended up passing the interview and getting a job at that company.
I was a game enthusiast who had now entered the world of game-making as a profession.
(I still really enjoy playing games, and I’m ranked in the top two percent for a certain fighting game. Professional gamers, however, are usually within the top zero-point-zero-something percent, meaning I’m a long way off from reaching their skill level.)
At the game company, my main work was R&D on elemental technologies such as graphics processing units (GPUs) and real-time computer graphics (CG).
I was at the company for 15 years and developed a useful set of game-development-related engineering skills. One day, I began to think I should try applying those skills and knowledge in another field, and this motivated me to look for a new job.
While gathering information on possible opportunities, I heard from a former colleague who had got a job at DENSO that the game-related technologies are necessary for the driving function test and machine learning in the field of autonomous driving development.
In addition to that, it motivated me to join the auto industry that I was seriously injured in the traffic accident when I was 24. It left me with a disease of cerebrospinal fluid hypovolemia, which caused continuing dizziness for about three years. This was a period in my life when other people of my age were going out and having fun, but I couldn’t join outings and nights out drinking with friends.
I was prepared to be bedridden for life, but thanks to a successful major surgery and subsequent physical therapy, I regained my ability to move around and be active again. It was an extremely tough period of my life and I still remember it so clearly.
Thinking back on my personal struggles motivated me to apply my strengths in the automotive field so that I could help others and make meaningful contributions.
If the safety products were mounted on the vehicles at that time, I may have been able to avoid all that suffering.
I would like to be involved in development of autonomous driving and prevent such tragic accidents.
That’s what inspired me to take on my new challenge.
Starting from square one in a new field
Because I knew nothing about automobiles, I started to study about them with the general training materials provided to all associates after I joined DENSO. In addition, my coworkers were kind enough to teach me everything they knew, and as a result I was able to build up knowledge about automobiles starting from square one.
At first, I thought I should stick to virtual environments because that’s where I had built up specialist knowledge and skills. However, I realized it was necessary to study them with the experience to drive the actual vehicles as long as I was involved in vehicles, especially in the autonomous driving. Thus, I decided to try for a test-driver license, which was very difficult to pass even for the experienced driver’s license holders.
My instructor was so dedicated to teaching me to drive that I managed to pass the license test on the second try, but the training for the test was much harder than I had expected for me because I was not good at driving, and it was one of my big challenges after I joined DENSO.
I realized there were many things about driving I could not fully understand unless I worked hard on the training, such as thorough commitment to safety performance of vehicles and pursuit of an outstanding user experience (UX) in terms of driving feeling, and thus my experience was very important for the development of the autonomous driving.
After the accident in my youth, I never imagined that I’d be driving a car as a part of my everyday work. However, I wanted to retain the skills I had learned from my test-driver license training, so I bought my own car and try to use it in everyday life, and now it’s very close to me.
In these ways, I learned about automobiles from square one, and have been applying the skills and technologies I acquired while working in the game industry to develop the autonomous driving systems.
Expanding my potential and preparing to face future obstacles
If you stop and think about new ways in which you can apply your personal strengths, and then take action based on those ideas, you can discover new things you would never have encountered if you had just continued life as usual.
And as long as you have your own thoughts of what you’d like to do or contribute to, you can overcome any obstacles no matter how they are when you go out of your own fields.
To this end, I’d like to develop my strengths and skills in which I can be confident, and to refine these continually. By honestly assessing your skills and strengths, and questioning whether you’re going in the right direction, you can come up with ideas, take action, and work hard toward new goals, gradually building up self-confidence as you go.
Throughout my four years at DENSO, it has been both fascinating and rewarding to discover new ways of applying my skills in the field of autonomous driving. By challenging myself to gain the skills necessary for developing safe autonomous driving technologies and systems, I will keep working to achieve a world free from car accidents.
Though it is said to be difficult to change careers after getting older, Koguchi had the courage to take the plunge and give his all.
He felt happiness when he could efficiently absorb what he had not known about automobiles thanks to his younger and elder colleagues, because they taught him the new knowledge just as when he joined the game developer even he was a mid-career recruit.
He says he would like to share his skills showing consideration to others just as his colleagues did so to him.
He continues to stay humble to absorb new knowledge even he is confident in his skills, and he never gives up when he encounters the obstacles. His admirable qualities will surely enable him to connect in a friendly manner with people from other backgrounds.
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