Jul 3, 2023


Making the path I chose into the right one

──A next leader’s view of career, who tries the electrification of automobiles.

Yusuke Shindo was promoted to director at a very young age in DENSO. At first glance, his career appears to have been smooth sailing, but he says, "I did not choose the right path, but rather I have made the path I chose the right one”. We looked back at his work of having been facing the electrification of automobiles since he joined DENSO and took a closer look at his views of career.

Contents of this article

    Taking on the challenge of a “world-first” project just after joining DENSO. ​Supported the early days of electrification.​

    ──I hear that you have been consistently engaged in projects related to electrification since you joined DENSO as a new graduate. What was the reason why you decided to join DENSO?

    Shindo:“I have always loved cars since I was a child. I also liked to do crafts with my hands, and for the summer assignment of the elementary school, I was so determined to make a “moving something” that would surprise the teachers and everyone else and that no one had ever made before! (laughs)

    I naturally wanted to work in the automotive industry and majored in electrical and electronic engineering at university. I had a vague idea at the time that automobiles would eventually be electrified, and I decided to join DENSO when I graduated from the university, because I thought that it would be more meaningful to learn by practicing on the job as soon as possible than to pursue research in graduate school.”

    ──What was the first project you worked on after joining the company?

    Shindo:“I was involved in the development of electric compressors for air conditioners used in hybrid vehicles at the Thermal Business Unit. Conventional compressors operated only by engines were fully mechanical components, but in order to switch them to motor-driven electric compressors, it was necessary to develop a new inverter. This integration of mechanical and electrical components was a "world’s first" attempt.

    However, at that time, there were almost no "electrical majors" in the Thermal Business Unit, and since I had studied electrical and electronic engineering at university, I was given the opportunity. In order to achieve an inverter-integrated electric compressor, I was transferred to another business unit to learn about inverters and play a part in the product planning process. Since I had planned the product, I also wanted to develop it, so I was transferred to the development division, and developed the inverter based on the specifications I had written myself.”

    ──I have an impression that you were selected at a young age, but on the other hand, didn’t you go through a lot of hardships?

    Shindo:“In fact, I was by far the youngest in terms of age among the team members at the time. Even the person closest to me in age was about 10 years older than me (laughs). Because I was young, I was entrusted with a variety of practical tasks, and the senior members of the team trained me very well. I had to brush up my knowledge of mechanical and software matters that were outside of my area of expertise, so I had a lot to learn. But at the same time, I found it interesting.”

    ──What did you find interesting particularly?

    Shindo:"What I found most interesting was the amount of discretion I was given. Before I joined the company, I thought that automobiles are a very large system and my role of making components would be very small. However, as soon as I joined the company, I was assigned to work on cutting-edge products, and as a member of a team, I had a lot of freedom. The gap between my initial image and reality made my task more rewarding.”

    ──I think you may have had a lot of pressure to take on the challenge of developing cutting-edge products.

    Shindo:"I was not so conscious of being on the "cutting edge" because as a new associate I thought that it would be same to learn and develop something at the same time whichever team I joined. On the other hand, I was concerned about whether the product would become necessary for people in the world. Because the first-generation PRIUS was the only electrified vehicle at that time, and it has not been the mainstream of the market at all yet.

    Later, however, demand for electric compressors grew rapidly with the success of the second-generation PRIUS. It was a great experience for me to be involved in the development of the world's first inverter-integrated electric compressor from the design to mass production, though it took four years.”

    Expanded experience and became a director at the age of 43. Became a leader to drive the development of electrified components.

    ──Please tell us about your experience after that.​

    Shindo:After completing the development of the inverter-integrated electric compressor, I continued to develop drive technologies and circuit technologies for devices mainly as the person in charge of developing power electronics, and I obtained a lot of patents.”

    ​​Especially, I was glad to be in charge of the development of the main inverter that is related to powers of the electric vehicle. The major difference from the inverter for compressors is that it is used in the main circuit that runs the electric vehicle. If the main inverter stops, the electric vehicle will immediately stop, too, so I worked on the development with a great sense of responsibility from the standpoint of safety. In addition, the main inverter had to support power 10 times greater than that of air conditioners, so we had to make new attempts in terms of design.​

    ──After that, you were temporarily transferred to Toyota Motor Corporation, weren’t you?​

    Shindo:​​Yes, I was. As I had already experienced all aspects of development for a single vehicle model at DENSO, I requested a temporary transfer. At Toyota Motor Corporation, I was engaged in the development of the fourth-generation PRIUS and I had a chance to work with experienced people who had led the development of successive generations of PRIUS.​

    ​I also learned how my products are actually used as automotive parts.​

    ​​After coming back to DENSO, I continued to be engaged in various product development projects as assistant manager.​

    ──When did you get promoted to director?​

    Shindo:​​In 2022. As director of the Electrification Systems Development Division, I was assigned to lead the development team, with the theme of how to incorporate and optimize electric mobility products such as inverters, converters, and batteries, not only into vehicle systems but also into social systems.​

    ──That's quite a broad theme.​

    Shindo:​​I was responsible for fields from the thermal management systems for electric vehicles to the central systems that drive the vehicles, and the linkage with the infrastructure. There were about 250 people in my division.​

    ──What is a thermal management system?

    Shindo:"Conventional gasoline-powered vehicles use the heat generated by engines to heat the inside of the vehicles. When engines are replaced by motors and inverters due to electrification, this heat source is lost. In addition, batteries, which gasoline-powered vehicles do not have in them, have significant impact on vehicle performance in electric vehicles, but we cannot obtain full performance from them at low temperatures.

    Therefore, it is important to combine the various components and systems installed in the vehicles in order to generate heat in a way that minimize the impact on fuel efficiency, and to utilize this heat for heating and battery temperature control. We call it a thermal management system that controls heat throughout the entire vehicle.

    In the current situation where battery-powered electric vehicles are widespread, this "car thermal management" is becoming an important issue. DENSO has been involved in various automobile components for a long time, so the company has a great advantage in terms of considering efficient systems while looking over the entire vehicle. I think it is advantageous for me to be involved in this field in this company, and I find it interesting. I also feel that a greater number of overseas customers are interested in DENSO's portfolio.”

    As director, I want to face each and every young member.

    ──Since January 2023, you have been director of the Electrification Components Advanced Development Division. You have been in management for a long time, and is there anything you keep in mind when communicating with younger members of the division?

    Shindo:"First of all, I want young people to try experiencing many things, just as I was allowed to do in the past. Of course, it is also important to respect their will. I am just having a meeting with about each of the 50 young members of the division. In order to bring out the Will-Can-Must of each person in the organization of DENSO, I think the first step is to find what they are and let them know what I am to get to know each other. Then, I believe it is my role to give them appropriate advice and help them to find a direction for their careers.

    In my younger days, there was a time I used to want to deep dive solely into technologies. However, my boss at the time gave me advise, “It will be good for your future to have experience like this at this time to have a large capacity for your job.”, and it made me what I am today.

    What someone wants to do and what they envision for the future do not always coincide. Keeping this in mind, I listen to each person to see objectively whether what they want to do is for the sake of themselves and if there is anything I can do for them.”

    ──It’ll take a lot of time to have a meeting with each of the 50 young members. ......!

    Shindo:"It's a lot of fun! It is really interesting to talk with young people who have a bright future. As we chat and have conversations, I realize that their ideas and values about work are very different from those in my younger days. Recently, I have noticed that many young people have already had a clear will to work. They have a firm wish that "this is what I want to do". That is why I want to help them achieve their wishes.”

    ──What lessons have you learned from being director?

    Shindo:"I became able to speak English to some extent though I can’t speak it fluently, because I began to play a major role in transactions with overseas. To be honest, I had never studied English before, but when I had to, I had no choice (laughs). I believe that because of the difficulties I experienced, I was able to learn about the cultural background behind the way people overseas see things, which I had not been able to understand before. I believe that this valuable lesson in understanding each other's perspectives has broadened the scope of management, which is formed through dialogue between people.”

    ──What kind of qualities do you think are required for manager at DENSO?

    Shindo:“I think that the role of manager has changed significantly since I joined the company. In the past, there was a strong tendency to require purely managerial skills, but now leadership and ability to innovate are becoming more important, which are expressed based on our own ideas and values.

    These days, it has been said that we live in a world where there are no right answers. In order to make correct decisions about the future, which is difficult to predict, we also need a personality that inspires admiration. I am inspired by the company's management training and liberal arts education (education that fosters the ability to make decisions from a broad perspective while acquiring basic skills and education).

    As engineers, it is natural for us to keep up with the trends in the world and continue to improve our expertise, but we can also learn things in fields not directly related to our work. Recently, I took up programming for the first time in a long time, which I was once obsessed with when I was in junior high school. The language handled has changed, but I am enjoying learning it. I believe that showing this kind of attitude as manager will have a positive influence on younger employees.”

    Believe in the path you want to make it right, and the future you envision.

    ──Could you tell us about the values that have been important to you over the course of a career you have built?

    Shindo:"Well, ......, when Nagatomo the football player was playing football in football leagues in Europe, and was unsure of which team to join, he said, ' I will make what I choose right rather than I choose the right one at first.’ These words overlap with my own career, and I have cherished them for a long time.

    We live in such an uncertain time. Everything is changing so quickly that if we try to choose the right answer after thinking it all through, it may even be out of date. If that is the case, I think the only way to pioneer a new era is to realize what you believe in before anyone else does. As engineers all over the world are working toward the same thing, it is difficult to come up with a special technology that no one else has come up with.

    However, I believe that by taking on this challenge and solving the problem before others, we can bring the world's first technology to the world. I will make the path I choose the right one. I believe that it will lead to innovation and benefit the world to make such efforts repeatedly.”

    ──I think it is difficult to choose a path when you do not know the right answer. What do you value when you have to choose between the two?

    Shindo:" If you make a decision only looking at immediate future, you will always fail, which is also what I have learned from my experience. That is because it is the same as trying to choose the correct answer. What is important is which one you want to make the right decision. It is better to choose the path that allows you to “keep thinking” about how to make this path the right one, even if it is painful.”

    ──What do you think of your own future?

    Shindo:“My vision of the future is personal and simple. If an electric automated car can automatically park itself in my home and charge its batteries by itself when I can no longer drive my car 30 years from now, I may be able to continue to use cars I have loved since my childhood. How should I move forward to realize such a world? That is what I keep thinking of these days.

    In these uncertain times, we want to think not only based on our own experience, but also with the new sensibilities of young people. I believe that the best things will come out of it only in this way.”

    ──In closing, is there anything you would like to tell young people because you have high expectations for them?

    Shindo:“I want to tell them that everything depends on how you look at them. Whether they consider it a challenge or a hardship depends on their way of thinking of it. If they take social issues as their personal ones and think and act on their own rather than being passive, then they will surely turn their hardships into pleasant memories. I want them to believe in the path they want to make right, even if they don't know if it's the right one, and I want them to take on the challenge."

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