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Mar 31, 2023
Creating a better future for women
: a resolute employee on a mission
Mizuki Suido is involved in sales of electrification products for trucks in DENSO Corporation’s OEM Sales and Marketing Group. Her entire career has been in sales, not just trucks but also involving passenger cars and local customer companies in the United States. Through her experience both in Japan and abroad, she has come to understand the importance of female role models in sales. Let’s hear her story and ideas.
Contents of this article
Building a future for trucks together with customers
Even today, I’m still motivated by the kind words of a customer I used to work closely with: “I want to spread electric trucks together with you. Let’s improve Japan’s logistics industry together.”
As part of the OEM Sales and Marketing Group’s CV & OH Division, I’ve been involved since 2020 in expanding sales of products designed to achieve electrification of trucks.
Electrification has become a hot topic in the truck industry, yet actually it is still lagging behind that of passenger cars. I have been involved in updating existing products so far, but now I have to newly create our products for electrification from scratch. So, I communicate very closely with truck manufacturers so that we jointly establish proper standards and approaches.
Trucks account for only about 20 percent of all vehicles on the road, yet they are responsible for half of total CO2 emissions. By replacing current trucks with electric ones, we can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, protect the environment, and thus make a big contribution to the planet and society.
Truck manufacturers and truck users such as transport companies and others also have hopes to protect the global environment and spread electric trucks to benefit society. Therefore, all the people involved in trucks are working on electrification of trucks together as one to make electric trucks more widely used.
Although this involves a lot of tough challenges, I find the work very interesting and rewarding because I have always focused on the customers’ perspectives.
My driving force for tackling issues comes from excitement
Looking back on my career, it has been important to be excited about my work. As long as I trust that gut feeling, it has not been a struggle for me to tackle new issues.
At high school, I joined the basketball team, and it was one of my experiences of challenging myself. I had ever played volleyball in junior high school but had never played basketball. Moreover, I was the only one beginner in the team, and I had no friends there. I jumped into the team only because I was excited about the basketball. Our coach was very strict and was always angrier at me than any other player, but I was so competitive that I wanted to get back of the coach playing at the games.
I refused to accept my poor performance and wanted to overcome my weaknesses. This motivated me to try hard, and I really pushed myself to catch up with the more experienced teammates. I always thought of what to do and used all of my connections swallowing my pride, such as that I asked my younger teammate to introduce me to a basketball players’ community, in order to catch up with my teammates.
Finally, I was named vice captain of a team. I think it was because I believed in my way and was always challenging myself relying on others and asking them for help.
And I was also excited when I joined DENSO.
I chose this company with the goal of making Japan more competitive in the global market. I always felt that Japan was a good country when I traveled abroad or stayed with my host family. However, I felt frustrated a little that Japan does not show off its good points though it is technologically advanced, and its people are very earnest. From such an awareness of the issue, I wanted to work in a job related to making Japan more competitive.
When I was looking for jobs, I had the opportunity to talk with some experienced associates at DENSO. I shared my awareness of the issue and my dream with them, and they were more interested in and empathized with what I had to say than any other company. It became a deciding factor to join DENSO.
I felt I had a chance to accomplish my goals and dreams at DENSO.
I still remember how excited I was about the job!
Realizing one weakness of a global corporation by working overseas
When I joined the company, I was first assigned to a section that is in charge of automobile components sales for passenger vehicles.
Because this category accounted for about half of all DENSO sales, I felt a heavy responsibility and was always kept busy. The position gave me the chance to gain experience with making business proposals, negotiating with customers and the like. I learned the fundamentals of sales job, such as building relationships with customers and coordinating with in-house stakeholders.
After a time, I was seconded to a group company in the United States as a business trainee. Actually, it had already been decided that my husband would be transferred to a new post in the US, and I originally thought of just quitting my job to go with him. Luckily, an opportunity to work in the US came up at DENSO right around that time, and the company allowed me to go. I could work overseas without leaving DENSO, and the prospect of my new assignment brought back that exciting feeling in me again. The decision was clear: I took on the American assignment immediately.
Training in that new position involved route sales for American customers and new customer development. One of the challenges I faced was the lack of a good collaborative framework. Even though DENSO was a global corporation, they couldn’t build an ideal partnership with their overseas subsidiaries. The standard approach with customers is to meet with them, listen to their needs, and then get the headquarters to propose products that meet those needs. In reality, though, salespeople at overseas subsidiaries tend just to convey the views of customers as-is to the headquarters, and the headquarters decides things on their own without really considering the local circumstances overseas. In other words, both sides “communicate” unilaterally, whereas it ought to be a two-way process.
I feared that the gap between the headquarters and overseas subsidiaries would keep growing, so I started trying to improve communication within the corporate group.
I suggested that the subsidiary should show the brochures of their products to the customers before listening to their feedback and ideas and should confirm and integrate the background and thoughts of the customers' requests in order to properly convey them to the headquarters. And I tried to create a better environment for discussing product proposals with the headquarters based on customer needs and ideas.
These helped strengthen the relationship between the Japanese headquarters and our subsidiary in the US, and as a result, we were able to find ways of improving communication and strengthening relationships with local customers.
Serving as a role model in sales and helping other working women
I was in the US only for one year, but as a result I greatly changed my approach to work.
When I worked in Japan as a new employee, my colleagues proactively helped me because my customers transactions were large. However, when I was in charge of customers with small transactions in the US, it was difficult to get cooperation from my colleagues, and it was also difficult to elicit the necessary information from the customers because DENSO was little-known there.
While working in the US, I thought a lot about how to have others involved, such as how to get help from the company, and how to elicit the necessary information from customers. I now make use of that experience in my current job in charge of automobile components for trucks, whose sales volumes are far lower than those of passenger cars.
Another thing I learned in America is that there are still a lot of potential places in DENSO where women could play an active role. Before going to the US as a trainee, I had been worried about my future because I could not image myself working in sales after I give birth to my children in 5 or 10 years.
Most American women, however, continued working regardless of family situation, age and job position, and so many of the DENSO salespeople and their customers in the US were women.
I cherished a hope that I could continue my career when I saw them working with enthusiasm.
Of course, those women had to try various approaches and work hard to attain that lifestyle—that’s what many of them told me.
Moving forward, I hope to help build a workplace where not just women, but anyone can continue their career as long as they want. My experience in America made me think that Japan needs to move in the same direction.
The experience has inspired me, as a female salesperson, to serve as a role model for others. Just as I could draw my future by seeing the working women in America, I hope that other women at DENSO will see me and be inspired to make better futures for themselves.
That’s my next challenge.
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