Dec 6, 2023CAREER & LIFE
Turning a sense of urgency into strength and taking on the challenge of research and development for the future
Believing that connections between people are key to making great innovations
By meeting outside of the workplace with ambitious, hard-working associates at DENSO—as well as those who just seem to be fascinating individuals—it’s possible to break down the barriers of formality and talk openly, listening to their heartfelt concerns along with their unfiltered dreams and goals.
In this “Interviews with Employees Who Get Results” series, we talk casually with a wide range of professionals at DENSO to learn what truly drives them in their work, as well as their ambitions and dreams.
For this interview, we talked with Mr. Junpei Shiozaki of the Advanced Testing & Evaluation Div., who is involved in a project to support the spreading of electric vehicles (EVs). Toward the realization of EV society, he is involved in designing and developing electronic control units (ECUs) to connect vehicles and charging equipment with data, the in-vehicle SoC (System on Chip) that serves as the heart of ECUs, and the hardware that mounts these units on.
“The automotive industry is said to be in a ‘once-in-a-century transformational period,’ and we need to find solutions to social issues with a sense of urgency. I think it is being to the test what value we can offer to the world as DENSO and how we should change as an organization.”
Mr. Shiozaki reaffirms the value of DENSO and speaks with passion about how DENSO should be organized to confront the various issues that may arise in the next generation. In his attitude to consider world trends and social issues, look ahead to the future of DENSO, and put into action one thing at a time, I see his strong belief in the potential of DENSO and continuous effort to keep moving forward.
What is the company, society, and organization that he is aiming to build in the future?
I asked him about the driving force that keeps him moving forward to turn his ideals into reality.
Contents of this article
My job is to find clues to solutions scattered throughout DENSO and help our colleagues solve various issues.
First, please tell me about your current work.
Shiozaki: I work on research and development to find as many clues of solutions as possible that will lead to the resolution of social issues. I am involved in a wide range of activities from desktop verification to demonstration tests, regardless of the field, such as automobiles, agriculture, environment, and logistics, looking ahead to the future 5 to 10 years from now.
In this project to support the spreading of EVs, I am working on prototyping and evaluating inverters for more efficient operation of motors, and converters that stably produce the power needed for EVs from high-voltage batteries, as well as studying how to utilize data obtained from vehicles and peripheral equipment. Recently, I was asked by the division in charge of the project to promote the development of a rapid recharging system and utilization of its data, and I gave them three different ideas.
In another project, when I was asked how to "easily collect vehicle data such as camera images and GPS location data," I carefully examined the specifications provided by the associate, came up with an optimal design plan, and proposed a system plan that was put into a product and service.
In this way, my job is to offer solutions to realize what each division envisions.
I see...! You have been involved in various projects to solve social issues in all genres, including the field of EVs.
Shiozaki: Yes, I have. Since I do not have a specific area of expertise, I believe my strength lies in my ability to offer suggestions and advice from multiple perspectives. In considering "how to realize" solutions to social issues, I balance "technology" to think of the solutions in an algorithmic way and "skills" to embody the solutions.
I want to be an easy person to talk to.
─ Then, it seems that you would need to be able to make proposals that meet the needs of each division while understanding DENSO's strengths and direction.
Shiozaki: Exactly. As I receive all kinds of requests from across the field, I try to get some kinds of reactions back to them when I receive each of them for the first time.
When associates from other divisions ask me, "I want to do something like this. How can I do it?”, I especially try to provide the best solution promptly on the spot, saying, "We can do it this way”. Even one quick reaction to their requests can lead to a sense of security and satisfaction for them. I guess this has led to trust, and as a result, I often receive repeat requests from associates who have made a request once.
I believe it is important to make proposals from the perspective of the associates so that they can realize what they envision, even if it is something my own division cannot realize.
─ It is reassuring to know that there is someone in the company whom we can easily consult with and who can propose solutions that are tailored to our needs.
Shiozaki: I agree. Of course, there are times when we need the help of external business partners, but I would like to show my worth in developing a vision of "what we are aiming for as a DENSO business" together with our associates, maximizing DENSO's potential, and bringing what they would like to do into shape.”.
We are struggling for survival. "Sense of urgency" is my driving force.
─ Now I can tell that you have a high awareness of your work and passion for the company and society. Where does your motivation come from?
Shiozaki: I think my driving force is a sense of urgency. As I mentioned earlier, the automotive industry is currently undergoing a "once-in-a-century transformational period”. We must provide value that will have an impact on the world so that DENSO survives in an era of increasing speed and complexity of change.
Amidst this sense of urgency, I had the opportunity to participate in a project to formulate a vision for the future of the R&D center to which my division belongs. It was held to discuss and verbalize the theme, "What kind of value can DENSO provide to society in the future?" To this end, the participants looked back at past initiatives and engaged in serious discussions about DENSO. In the process, I learned that DENSO has group companies around the world and is taking on challenges not only in the automotive field but also in diverse ones such as agriculture, energy, and logistics, and I reaffirmed that “DENSO is in a position to make a difference in society”.
Bringing together DENSO's various technologies and know-how, I am eager to create innovations that only DENSO can make.
I always keep this passion in mind as I go about work.
I see...! What kind of change are you trying to bring with your project to support the spreading of EVs?
Shiozaki: I would like to provide companies that want to solve social issues with various data, such as the technologies, skills, and know-how that DENSO has accumulated over the years, and become the trusted aide for each company. I believe that if more companies use DENSO's reliable data to solve social issues, we will be able to fully leverage DENSO's value, get closer to achieving carbon neutrality and zero emissions, and help society move in a more positive cycle. I hope that we can promote “branding of DENSO’s Data” so that it becomes known as "Where innovation happens, DENSO Data lies underneath!”
"Culture of sharing" is key to overcoming difficulties.
─ That is a very nice vision! What do you think is needed to achieve your ideal?
Shiozaki: First, I think it is important to keep DENSO open to other companies. As I mentioned earlier, if DENSO can provide data to all kinds of companies, they will be able to do what they could not do before. In other words, keeping DENSO open makes more innovation happen.
This is also true within DENSO. We should share the skills and know-how that each division and each employee possess, rather than keeping them to themselves. If anyone can access the information, it can be used as a solution or as a reference case study. I think that it will enable us to expand the possibilities of DENSO to keep the information of each of us open.
─ I see. Please tell us what you are working on to achieve it.
Shiozaki: First, I thought we needed a place to share information, so I created a platform within the division where associates could casually tweet about their learnings, realizations, successes, and mistakes they have made, much like social media. We are operating it with the hope of reducing the number of people who feel uncomfortable asking questions, or who feel embarrassed if they make a mistake.
─ So such a thought underlies your actions.
Shiozaki: To be honest, I am still struggling with this new platform, and looking for ways to improve our operation day by day lol. Fortunately, the number of posts is gradually increasing, and when I post something, my associates who have never spoken to me talk to me “I always read your posts.” or “I look forward to your post.” So, I have realized that it has a positive effect on communication within the division as well.
I believe that the experience and knowledge we have gained sweating blood can be a clue to help someone else overcome difficulties or a stepping-stone to realize what they envision. I would be happy if more people could realize the value of sharing information with those around them.
I will continue to work hard, believing I can accomplish great at DENSO.
─ While feeling a sense of urgency, you take a positive view of things and take positive actions involving people around you. How can you do that?
Shiozaki: Because I believe DENSO's potential can be expanded even further. We have the scale to make a global impact and the knowledge we have built up over seventy years. I believe that if we can make good use of these resources, we can provide solutions that will have a significant impact on the world.
─ Listening to your story, I feel that you are a very positive person.
Shiozaki: That's not quite true. I can find many reasons to quit or give up, and there are times when I cannot think positively. But nothing will change if I stay there, so I think I can hang in there by turning our frustration and disappointment into a positive power.
─ Thank you very much. Finally, could you tell me your ambitions and dreams?
Shiozaki: It is difficult to change the world immediately today or tomorrow, but I would be very happy if, five or ten years from now, what we have been working on is incorporated into society, enriching people's lives and improving the global environment. I would like to devote myself to working with a strong will to make the future better.
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