Project Management

Adapting to a New Work Culture: A Shared Experience

Walter Edwards has served as a professional and leader in Japan successfully delivering projects for multi-national organizations. He is able to communicate with local and global stakeholders effectively and keep team members focused on high-priority items needed to reach goals.

I was born in the United States and grew up in a fairly multicultural New York suburb. My university years were spent in the Northeast. Three years after graduation, I decided to embark on a new, life-changing journey living in Tokyo, Japan.

My first few years in Tokyo were spent working full-time while studying at a Japanese language school. After this initial stage, I transitioned into a role as an IT project manager for a boutique IT services firm. Our company was very international; however, many of our clients approached business with a Japanese mindset. While working, I was still taking language lessons with a focus on communication in business situations.

These studies—coupled with my interactions with clients—taught me very key nuances within a culture that places importance on hierarchy and harmony.

Coping with New Environments
During my early observations, I found that those new to life in Japan belonged to two major groups:

  1. One group was pleasantly intrigued by how different day-to-day life was compared to their home countries.
  2. The other group often experienced frustration, isolation and confusion.

Part of the challenge is the willingness to leave behind some of what you understand as common sense to explore a "new common sense."

There are various reasons why daily life in any country may differ from what you're …

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"The reason why worry kills more people than hard work is that more people worry than work."

- Robert Frost