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Students Network with Japanese and American Business Communities

Steve Kozik
“Japan Student Network Forum” was held on April 3 at the Floating World Gallery in Chicago and hosted by the Japan America Society of Chicago (JASC). The purpose of the event was bringing together Japanese students, American students who are interested in Japan, college faculties, and the members of Japanese and American business communities in the Midwest. This year, 12 schools attended, and a dozen companies and organizations opened booths to welcome the students.

The M.C. Goran Lukic, who has worked organizing the event for four years, said that the people to people relationship in the business world was about trusting each other.
J.D. Bindenagel, President of JASC, welcomed the attendees and said that the stable world has been changing as conflicts arose in Ukraine and East Asia; therefore, the Japan-US relationship was more important than ever, and the people in the two countries would reconfirm the friendship and understanding. JASC has offered a number of opportunities to help deepen mutual relationships for people of both sides. Bindenagel said, “Such relationships will last a lifetim

Keynote speaker Steve Kozik, who was promoted as General Manager of the Omron Management Center of America on April 1st, spoke about how important the human relationship was through his experience and beliefs.
Kozik was born and raised in St. Charles and has worked for Omron for 22 years. After graduating college, he happened to see a newspaper, which showed the smiling face of Omron’s 18 employees, who were standing in the company’s parking lot. He submitted his resume to Omron and was employed a year later.
When he began to work in Omron as accounting supervisor, Japanese employees gave him guidance for the Japanese way of business. Especially, Mr. Torii taught him Japanese language three times a week and informed him what was happening in the entire company.
Torii was the kind of person who worked with other people and eliminated mind barriers among the people in the company. Kozik said that Torii acted in that way not to gain credit for himself, but for the betterment of the entire company.
Torii’s way of work hasn’t changed even though 20 years have passed. Kozik has worked in the same way; taking up issues in the work place, deciding priorities, and solving each issue. He said that solving problems made employees’ lives better, and it made a difference for growth of the entire company.

Omron’s corporate motto is “At work for a better life, a better world for all,” and its focus is to make investments in people and society.
Omron’s annual sales are $7.5 billion, and 70 % of the sales come from outside of Japan. Kozik said that only 20 % of the sales were earned outside of Japan when he entered the company 22 years ago. Its motto and focus have made a good result.

Kozik defined the globalization as, “the process of creating inter-dependence across borders for mutual benefit.”
Globalization has occurred in his own family. His mother’s family came to the U.S. from Ireland/England in the 1650s; on the other hand, his father’s family came from Bratislava, Slovakia in 1929. Besides, his wife Chie came from Japan. He said that globalization has taken place for centuries, but it has been accelerated in recent years.

Kozik spoke about how one person could make a difference in the global community.
An elephant, for example, consumes 330 pounds of food and 11 gallons of water in a day. How can an elephant do it? It does it one bite at a time. He said that it was the same thing; that making a difference was one relationship at a time.

He lined up the basics of relationship:
1. Respect others with eyes and ear. Listen to four times more than you talk.
2. Integrity: keep your word and be honest
3. Sincerity: be yourself. Never pretend to understand when you don’t (Better to say, “I don’t understand.”)
4. Patience: when offended or disappointed, use extreme patience to calm the situation. Most of the time, it is not intended. Focus on your GOAL.
He advised that number 3 and 4 were especially important.

Globalization brings endless benefits; on the other hand, it has risks such as personal embarrassment, awkward situations, accidentally offending, misunderstanding, and communication breakdown. The risks, however, can be avoided by paying respect to others.
In conclusion, Kozik said:
* Globalization starts with one relationship at a time, one successful endeavor at a time.
* Have the courage to be yourself.
* Respect is the highest currency of humanity.
* Find a company with your values for leverage.
* Be Bold! Take a chance! Reach out!

Mardi Robinson, a student of DePaul University, answered Shimpo’s interview questions in Japanese. She said, “I’m studying Japanese to know the wider world and want to be an interpreter in the future. In fact, I started it last summer, so I have a long road to study. When I was in high school, I had a friend from Akita, Japan, so I became interested in Japan.”

Lin Ding, also a student of DePaul, spoke in Japanese. She liked anime and games when she was little and began to speak Japanese. She took Japanese classes at the college. “I have been majoring in business and want to go in the field of anime related business in the future,” Ding said.

Three students from University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee were enjoying meeting people in the forum.
Tess Kramer-Gaie encountered Okinawa-taiko drumming group at Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. when she was 10 years old. Since then she has been studying Japanese for ten years. The fact that a sister state and prefecture relationship between Wisconsin and Chiba in Japan also exists helped to keep her interests in Japan. She said, “I would like to work with green technology and create most sustainable consumer technology in the future.”

Roxxanne Mickelson has been studying Japanese for six years and started it when she was in high school by herself because the school didn’t have Japanese classes.
She said, “I wanted to learn Japanese because my sister-in-law is Japanese. So from there, I wanted to learn it because it is really interesting and the culture, too. I wanted her to feel little more welcomed and enjoy family since none of us speaks Japanese.”
Mickelson is a member of Anime Milwaukee and has helped run a campaign to promote a social site, “café dot”. She said, “We actually turned it into a business and it became very popular.”
She has double majored in Japanese and Fiber Art and said, “I would like to definitely live in Japan and either work or become something like fashion staff. I would like to be involved with Japanese fashion, Japanese art, and culture.”

Kristen Schugart has studied Japanese for four years in college, but began writing Japanese by herself when she was in the sixth grade because she had a Japanese aunt and knew little about Japanese culture. Her grandfather also taught her how to count numbers in Japanese. As she grew up she encountered manga and games and wanted to learn more Japanese language and culture.
Six years ago, she stayed in Wakayama for two weeks, but she didn’t know much Japanese at that time, so she tried to speak what she knew. Her host family also tried to help her lean more Japanese. “It was very hot and humid because it was the end of July to the beginning of August,” she remembered.
Schugart is taking an internship at a video game company in Chicago and said ,”I think that it will be a great idea in the future to work for a video game company.”


Mardi Robinson (L) and Lin Ding

From left Kristen Schugart, Roxxanne Mickelson, and Tess Kramer-Gaie