Editor/Writer: Maaya Sato
Recently, many companies have started various initiatives to promote the active participation of women, but still, less than 15% of women pursue computer or engineering majors at university, and 14% of software developers are women. This is partly due to the fact that there is no one close to them doing the same work, and that is why it is difficult for them to visualize what it looks like.
Due to this situation, we want to create a world where women can have the courage to truly shine and find employment in their ideal profession or industry and help as many women as possible to know about the possibilities of working in the IT industry.
This series features people working on the cutting edge of the IT industry, sharing their enthusiasm, thoughts, experiences, and stories.
In this article, we feature Makiko-san, a founder and CEO of LA STEEM. Having worked in the technology sector of Japanese and foreign financial institutions, what made her start her own company and what’s her career story as an IT and business professional?
Q1: Could you please give us a brief introduction about yourself?
I completed my education at the Computer Science Department of California State University, and subsequently served as a senior systems engineer at a high-tech firm in Silicon Valley for a span of seven years. Later, I transitioned to a leading financial institution located in Boston, USA, where I held the position of vice president within the IT department. My responsibilities included overseeing system design/architecture, corporate client support, global IT project management, and more, for a period of ten years.
In 2004, I relocated to Japan and started working for a foreign financial institution as the technology department director in its domestic branch.
Q2: What made you want to work in the tech industry?
After completing my computer science degree at a university near Silicon Valley, I considered job opportunities in the area. Given my proficiency in English and the practical application of my education, I opted to pursue a programming position.
Q3. What is the best thing about working in the tech industry?
The more knowledge and skills I gained in the technology sector, the wider career choices/options I had. Knowledge of technology is not just required in the IT sector but also in any business and any job nowadays. I think that understanding and using technology is an essential skill not just for work but also for life.
Q4: What are the challenges in the tech industry, and what do you keep in mind when working in this field?
Since I started my career in the U.S., I did not feel handicapped by being a woman in the technology sector. Working in the IT sector was the same for female employees as any other male employee, like working late night or overtime or sometimes even being called out in the middle of the night for work, which is mainly unique to the IT industry.
The hardest part of working in the tech industry is constantly updating my knowledge and skills about the fast-paced new technology, even on weekends and during personal time.
Q5. There are still very few women working in the STEM industry; how do you think it can be improved?
There seems to be a misconception that in order to work in the IT industry, one must graduate in science or mathematics, but in the IT departments of the financial institutions where I have worked, more than half of the employees had liberal arts backgrounds.
Japanese companies, like American companies, actively accept students, especially female high school students and university students, as short- and long-term interns. I want to clarify this misunderstanding and provide them with an environment with opportunities that help them understand how much fun it is and the significance of IT skills, and the opportunities they are given while they are still in school.
Q6. What are your life goals and career goals?
My future goal is to support the advancement of women in society, not only in the technology industry but also in Japan. The Japanese government has finally addressed this issue and announced that it would take unprecedented measures to combat the declining birth rate. Still, they have not mentioned supporting and assisting women during and after childbirth.
Moving forward, I would like to provide career support for such women during and after maternity leave.
Q7. Do you have a message for those who want to enter the tech industry?
Knowledge about Technology is an essential skill not only in the tech field but also in every field in the future.
Have fun while learning, and broaden your career horizons and future opportunities.
WITJ hopes that this role model story will inspire and encourage you to shine and find your dream job or industry.
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