Pick Up

Collaboration with talented Nigerian intern
and the growth of employees and new discoveries through intercultural communication.



Nara/Manufacturing industry

インターンOluwatobiloba Oluwagbenga Lokulo-Sodipe

Nigeria/University of Ibadan, Technology, Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Challenges faced by Japanese companies and the taking on of the challenge of embracing diversity

Q.Why did your company decide to take on interns? What did you aim to achieve?
Our company is based in Nara Prefecture, manufacturing equipment such as lathe chucks, which are components of machine tools, and we sell our products both domestically and internationally. We have always believed that, in the machine tool industry, which has a high export ratio, collaboration between foreigners and Japanese employees on-site is extremely beneficial.

Additionally, in line with the population decline in Japan, our company, much like many others across various industries, is finding it increasingly challenging to recruit top talent. Looking ahead, we anticipate that securing skilled personnel will become even more difficult. In response to this challenge, we felt the need to advance the diversity of our workforce.

Within this context, while we had considered the recruitment of foreigners as one option, we had absolutely no experience collaborating with such people. To suddenly take on the challenge of hiring foreigners seemed to be an extremely high hurdle for us due to our complete lack of know-how in this area. With this in mind, we believed it was crucial to first gain experience in collaborating with foreigners in order to understand the potential challenges and advantages. Therefore, we applied to this internship program, which has a predetermined duration. We had been aware of this program and had considered participating in the past, but this time we made the decision to take part for the first time.



Building development projects together with foreign talent: Team-building as a key to success

Q.What kind of internship did you run? What difficulties did you face and how did you resolve them?
Intern Mr. Tobi, who specializes in the field of electrical system development, planned his internship activities primarily around the renewal of internal jigs (torque measurement devices) used for inspection in the assembly process, which had become a potential issue within the company.

Additionally, we aimed to leverage his knowledge within our company, and, by advancing activities in collaboration with a diverse team, we wanted to assess the effects that such an approach could generate within our organization. Consequently, we decided to implement a project that involved joint development with our internal members. We had him work specifically on the development of communication and screen display functions.

To achieve this goal, we first sought to foster a deeper mutual understanding and encourage active communication with our employees. We created opportunities for Mr. Tobi to share information about his home country, Nigeria, as well as his personal background. In turn, on multiple occasions, we presented detailed explanations about the functions of various departments within our company, thus laying the groundwork for effective communication.

At the initial stage, I made a conscious effort to not only engage with him in meetings but also to frequently initiate conversations myself, as well as to also cultivate an environment where other employees could easily approach and speak with the intern. Advancing such initiatives led to multiple practical discussions held among team members regarding design and numerical adjustments even in the development process, which facilitated improvements and gradually led to the formation of prototypes.



New facets of employees emerging through cross-cultural communication with intern

Q.Comparing before and after the internship, what effects did it have on you, your employees, or your organization?
Despite the short duration of just two months, the development of the torque measurement device was brought to a stage where a prototype could be realized, leaving us with outstanding results. We were also very impressed with Mr. Tobi’s attitude, who proactively sought to learn anything and everything while collaborating with team members in a new environment. Originally, as there were few opportunities to use English within our company, I had anticipated that our employees might be reluctant to communicate in English. However, in reality, many employees actively engaged in communication in English, allowing me to discover new aspects of our staff. On the other hand, since we carried out activities mainly focused on programming due to safety considerations, it was challenging to frequently communicate with employees inside the factory. This confirmed that there are issues we need to consider in view of the future recruitment of foreigners.

By participating in this internship program, we were provided with an excellent opportunity for not only internal change but also for me personally to contemplate what an ideal work environment should look like—a place where employees of all nationalities can thrive and work energetically. Initially, I was concerned about communication using only English between Mr. Tobi and our employees. However, through this internship, Mr. Tobi's amiable, approachable, sociable, and cheerful personality played a significant role. It helped us realize that, even with a workforce that speaks only English, we can work together to achieve results and gain confidence in our ability to communicate to a certain extent.



At the intersection of technology and culture: Leveraging the internship experience at a Japanese company toward embarking on new global challenges

Q.What did you get out of the internship?
Through this internship, first and foremost, I was able to appreciate the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises in Japan. By witnessing the processes that are consistently handled in-house, from development to manufacturing, and observing the high level of in-house technology, I recognized the importance of innovation in technological development. Furthermore, I gained insights into unique Japanese business custom intertwined with operations, which broadened my perspective. Particularly, I feel that the application of IoT in the manufacturing sector is poised to become increasingly significant in the future, and this has made profound impact on my own career path going forward.

Additionally, beyond the activities at the host company, I am profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to experience life in Japan itself. Witnessing the changing of the seasons, as well as visiting historical temples, everything was breathtakingly beautiful and uniquely fascinating. I feel incredibly thankful to have been able to immerse myself in both aspects.

Overall, I believe that this internship provided me with not only growth in terms of skills but also allowed for personal development through engagement with the culture and people. Through this program, I had the opportunity to experience the differences between the business cultures of my home country and Japan. Additionally, I learned the importance of respecting and adapting to each other's distinct perspectives. Based on the numerous experiences that I have gained at a Japanese company, I am contemplating how I can help in the future. I have a strong desire to continue striving for success to make an impact that will transcend my home country on a global scale.



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