Oct 10, 2023


10 years after joining DENSO, Okamura became a software engineer.

The career transfer program triggered him.

Tomoyuki Okamura has gained experience in the field of mechanical design since joining DENSO. Since his school days, he has had the desire to engage in automobile development with software. In 2022, more than 10 years after joining DENSO, he finally fulfilled his desire and was successfully transferred to another division. DENSO promoted the “career transfer program” company-wide, and it encouraged Okamura to pursue his dream.

Contents of this article

    Aspirations and dilemmas for the software field

    ──Hello, Mr. Okamura. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience today. First of all, could you please tell us what you are engaged in?

    Okamura:I belong to the Electronics Platform Software Engineering Div., and it develops an environment (platform) that allows applications such as navigation and autonomous driving that run on a variety of microcomputers installed in automobiles to operate without depending on microcomputers.

    I interview the divisions of application software development about the requirements for their target microcomputers and platforms and design the software conducting research and analysis.

    ──We hear that you were not in the software development division but in the mechanical design one just after joining DENSO. What kind of thoughts did you have about your career change?

    Okamura:Since joining the company, I have long been engaged in the development of automotive alternators (generators) and drive motors in the mechanical design section. However, I always wanted to be involved in software development.

    Since my childhood, I have loved personal computers because of my father's influence, and I majored in information both in high school and university. I was very impressed by the fact that the program I assembled on a small screen could operate a real item, and I came to want to do this kind of work someday in the future.

    When I was job hunting in college, I decided to join the company in the hope of being involved in software development taking into account my previous knowledge, but it took a while to get there.

    ──Well, have you always wanted to be transferred to the software division?

    Okamura:That's right. I have occasionally mentioned it in my career interview with my previous bosses. Nevertheless, I thought it was also important to study a field different from what I studied in college, so I tried to take on my previous job for 5 or 6 years after I joined the company, and I hoped that the opportunity would come in the future.

    In fact, when 6 years had passed, I thought that I would not have a chance to achieve my dream since I had come this far. To be honest, I almost gave up my dream, and I thought that I had to come to terms with reality. And I had a turning point at that time.

    If I have to struggle anyway, I would do so with what I really like.

    ──I think you had to overcome your concerns in your major career change of being transferred to the software division. What made you wish to be transferred to a new division in such a situation?

    Okamura:In January 2021, the new HR program called “the carrier transfer program (※)” was launched throughout the company, which triggered me to face “my honest feeling” that I would like to apply for the program or not. It was what made me wish to be transferred to a new division. As I mentioned earlier, I had always conveyed to my boss that I wanted to be transferred.

    Looking back, however, perhaps I may not have been convinced that I could really make myself move forward until the program was launched. By enrolling in this program, I thought that my desire since I joined the company may be finally fulfilled, and at the same time, I started to be anxious about whether I could do software development properly.

    I couldn't get rid of my anxiety like, "Even if I could be transferred to the software development division, can I do the same kind of work as the people who have experience in software development for 5 to 6 years? Can I really do it?"

    But as I continued to face the anxiety, I came to think "If I have to struggle in any field, it's better to struggle in my favorite one." "If I have to learn new things either in my current job or in a new one, I would like to take on the challenge of software development, which I’ve always wanted to do for a long time."

    Then I was somehow prepared to be involved in software development because I had gotten it over.

    I got such a feeling sorted out and decided to participate in the program. When I found out that I could participate in the program, I felt anxious again, but I was happier than being anxious.

    ──You have taken a step forward to a transfer that you have always longed for 10 years. What did you learn the most in the program?

    Okamura:It was good that I was able to re-learn basic programming, but I think it was great that I was able to learn the latest trends in software development. At the same time, I was keenly aware that my knowledge had stopped as it was when I was a student.

    The instructor came from outside of the company and had developed software related to automobiles. He discussed the external environment surrounding the automobile industry and specific examples of business use in a practical manner. I feel that now I can utilize what I learned there even in the division I am transferred to.

    Other participants in the program also inspired me a lot. They wanted to be transferred to software divisions as I did, and some of them are in a similar generation. When I saw them trying hard to be transferred to a different division in the same way as I did, I was very encouraged by them and my anxiety about changing careers at this age had gone.

    ※Career transfer program: After learning the basics of programming and the knowledge of software development that is useful for DENSO's work during two-and-a-half-month classroom training, participants can be transferred to the software development section with an additional two-and-a-half-months of temporary assignment. Even before the program gets started, the trainees can talk to or exchange opinions with mentors, the previous transferees. Trainees can concentrate on a full-day training because they enroll in the program not in between works in the current division, but as transferred.

    Strengths to be rewarded and perceived in new environments

    ──How have you been since you were transferred to the current division after training for two and a half months?

    Okamura:Having been transferred to a division in charge of fields of my strong interest, I feel more eager to learn voluntarily than before like, "Let's look at everything to the details." I am very excited at the moment when I can understand what I didn't at work like, "I see! It works well in this way.”, and I feel like that more than before.

    Of course, I still do not have more knowledge and experience than my colleagues. I am sometimes disappointed with myself thinking, "They may think that I can’t even do this." But I try to rethink that I can do it because I am engaged in what I like and do my best to catch up with my colleagues as soon as possible.

    ──Do you feel that your previous experience is useful in your new division?

    Okamura:In terms of project management, I feel that I am making the most of what I have been working on so far. In the current division, there happened to be no project leaders, and thus planning and daily task management were not sufficient. So, I voluntarily took a positive step to bring my members together, and as a result, I was able to increase productivity all over the division.

    Then, I realized again that the skills required for my work were never always technical ones. I also realized that even when I do not have enough knowledge necessary for a new division, I could contribute to it with the skills I have accumulated without noticing.

    ──Is there anything you keep in your mind in team management?

    My members are likely to be too nervous if I start the task management, so I try to ask them if they have any troubles or concerns. I think that It's easy to report what's going on well, but that it's hard to report what is behind schedule. So, I try to ask them if they have "things that are in trouble for them”. This way of approach somehow makes them feel free to say anything, and it prevents them from reporting the troubles after it is too late to solve them. I believe I have created an atmosphere where my members do not hesitate to say anything they want to say.

    I realized it through my experience as a workplace representative of the labor union in the previous division. I learned at the time of the company-wide efforts to create a workplace where people can honestly talk with each other that "if we do not create an atmosphere where everyone feels free to speak up about anything, we will not be able to know troubles." I think I could create my own way of team management by applying my experience there.

    Continue to take on further challenges by taking advantage of experience in different divisions

    ──Have you changed your career outlook due to the transfer?

    Okamura:I want to develop perspectives that I could not have without my experiences in different fields and to become a manager who overlooks not only technologies but also other fields. My current boss advised me that if we continue to be in the same field, we could have a professional perspective, but management needs to grasp the whole from a broad perspective rather than paying attention to only technical details. She also encourages me to learn and grow as a result of this transfer.

    I have not yet been able to find a good balance between technology and management skills, but I believe that I will open up such a path by building up the necessary experience in the new division in the future.

    ──Is there anything you would like to challenge in the field of software that you have always dreamed of?

    Okamura:Now as a policy of our business unit, there is rising momentum to provide our products that are provided only internally to outside the company. If we look outside, we will need a variety of new knowledge and ways of thinking, so I'd like to be involved in the business of providing software to external customers in the future by gradually incorporating new things.

    I also believe that we will be able to develop more standard software by providing software outside the company. I would like to take on the challenge of receiving an external evaluation like, "DENSO's software is amazing!"

    ※ Interviewed in August 2023.

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