Friday, December 31, 2010

First Post of 2011: New Year's Resolutions and a Career Beyond Rakuten?

As a new year opens up a new page for this blog (its 7th month in existence), it is time for me to continue reflecting on the potential direction my life will take for the next twelve months and look ahead to what may (and may not) happen in the next 365 days. The continued doubts about the correctness of where I am going with life aside, the calm (or put it in a better way, boring) few days of this 5-day break has really given me the time to rethink the possibilities and limitations facing me right now, without excess ideals or pessimism.

To be honest, one year really is a long time. Given my love of traveling, come to think of it, I have not had a year since junior year of high school (5 years ago) that I actually stayed in one country for an entire year. The mental and structural freedom I get from these travels, especially foreign ones, often act as the energy and fuel for me to continue productive work with decent level of motivation. And with utter fear I have to say that fr 2011, I might have to plan my life based on the assumption that such an "energy and fuel" may not come at any time.

But do not doubt that I have not tried my best to reverse that grim possibility...already (one day into the year). In fact, I have been spending a sizable portion of the 5-day break on looking at the possibilities of my switching to another country by means of a job or grad school. Yes, I do understand that leaving a job just after three months is much more detrimental than it will ever be of any help, but considering that my opportunities out there, especially when pertaining to grad school, require a long lead time (up to a year) for their completions, starting a little search now may not be a bad idea.

And searched I have. I am primarily moving in two directions at the moment. First, a general lookup for grad schools that in which I might become more interested and qualified over time. Right now, the leading candidates are Oxford and Cambridge in England, largely because I would like to go to a leading university, UK (where I have never been), and where the principle language of instruction is English (thus exclude schools in Japan, HK, etc...not that I really wanted to go to those even though they are cheaper in terms of tuition).

With regard to what I will study, the direction has largely shifted from MBA or economics-related fields to a more political and international relations-related one. To be honest, if my three months at Rakuten has taught anything, it is that manipulating data for analysis may require strong skills and a clear mind, but in terms of seeing and understanding different parts of the world, it is definitely not the most suitable employment out there. Data analysis (as well as entire concept of business research) is just too same everywhere to help a person become multicultural.

So that international relations focus on my potential future studies is highly related to my second option, a direct switching of employment from Rakuten. To satisfy my craving for understanding the world, I need to get to as many places as possible, including many not safe and stable enough for business. The most convenient way to do so would be to become part of a governmental or intergovernmental organization with extensive global operations and maintenance of physical branch offices.

Candidates include the familiar ones like the UN, the Dept of State Foreign Services, the CIA, among others. Many such choices are now available to me because of my switching to US citizenship before I left for China for summer. But at the same time, I do realize that these organization do require security clearance of a very high level, something I will have hard time obtaining since all my family members still retain Chinese citizenship. Like all things, I do not know what can happen if I do not actually apply.

OK, finally, based on all that, here is my simple New Year's Resolution. That is, to do everything I was told to do with complete diligence, dedication, motivation, and efficiency. The time to move on from Rakuten is not yet ready (at least in 2011), but the prospect of my always looking for something greater and higher than a life of salary-manhood at Rakuten is that very factor which will push me to keep up my spirit amidst lack of freedom and personal travels.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Life Goals at the End of 2010: What does a Yale Degree Really Mean in Financial Terms?

With Dec 31st steadily approaching its end, I would like to reflect on my experiences during 2010, a year of undoubtedly major transitions from college to work for me that is bound to have major consequences for my future careers. But in the back of my mind, there always seem to be that thought of "am I really doing the right thing? Am I really moving in the right direction?" as listen to more and more complaints from my fellow coworkers, words of doubts from prospective employees, and most importantly, stories of major responsibilities and progress from my classmates back at Yale.

Well, first, lets see what we, the new employees here in Rakuten, have done for our first three months since entering on Oct. 1st. We have been subject to continuous lectures on the core values and ideologies of the company from Day One, our hopes of being identified as the leaders of English-nization at the company and working at our own favorite departments are mostly dashed for the time-being, and our extra values as non-Japanese workers are increasingly questioned as even necessary to any extent.

And to be honest, we the foreign new hires of Oct. 2010 really do not want anyone else to suffer through this. Yes, we do understand that the new grads do not have enough skills to always do what they want in the company and they do not have th right to be picky about their work, but the lack of skills does not mean that the management of the company can personally decide our future careers by simply putting us in corporate roles for which we are utterly unprepared to pursue as a long-term employment option.

And this sort of "humiliation" at lack of self-control over personal destiny is especially hard to live down for a Yale grad. Yes, I have said, and I stand by the comment that Yale is highly overrated in many aspects including academic, but as a college that represents the highest academic achievement across the world and one that has relentlessly brainwashed its students to think of themselves as future global leaders, to have its students snubbed in a foreign country but a company without much credit in the States would just be ridiculous if it were to be known in the States.

And it is certainly not helpful to think about this positively when so many options are presented to the average Yale grad. For money, they can go to consulting and investment banking; for experience, they can go teaching in foreign countries, work for NGOs, and head straight for prestigious grad schools abroad. Just as a Yae student who recently received an offer from Rakuten remarked, "I need to know that Rakuten is the best option for me available when I have so many other ones."

Indeed, given that the average Japanese company, including Rakuten, does not have a system of putting young employees in grad schools after few years of work, working in one can quickly cause the Yalie to become direction-less and doubtful of his initial decision. Sure, there always is the value of living in a new country, facing new challenges, and doing something that no one before has thought of doing, but when all of that is, really, in name only and do not convey REAL skills, you have to ask yourself when is the time to get off this "side track" for "life experiences."

And then, there are those who showed up as the ultimate profession of love for anything Japanese. They can quickly become disillusioned simply because, as I have experienced so many times before, the sheer gruesomeness of reality in Japan that only makes the cute, cuddly, and friendly facade of Japanese pop culture just so much more chilling and disturbing. The lost opportunities back home probably are not the biggest thing on their minds after they started working; instead, they need to reflect on their ENTIRE (Japan-centric) mentality and way of life up until now, a move that might just well kill their motivation to do anything else, in Japan or elsewhere.

People say they are willing to do anything if they are paid well. Of course, I, being convinced that excess wealth is a sign of danger, would definitely disagree. But, to quote the novel 狼圖騰 I wrote about a while ago, the "whatever" attitude that come with being dismayed of one's work environment will quickly turn a person from a "wolf" to a "sheep." Perhaps, this episode will just be one big disappointment as I, unfortunately, become just another old man discontented with my own life.

Admiration of Japan's Fair View of History

Another weekend, another day trip. Last weekend, I had the fortune of stopping by Kurihama (久里浜), a beautiful little seaside neighborhood in Yokosuka (横須賀) City in Kanagawa (神奈川) Prefecture. Yokosuka, besides being famous as the largest base for the US Navy here in the Far East with aircraft carriers making it their home port, is, somewhat relatedly, the first landing spot of the first US Navy visit to Japan in 1852. The gunboat diplomacy of the Commodore Matthew C. Perry at the time successfully forced a Japan closed to the world to sign a trade treaty with America.

So, why am I sitting in my room at 8pm on the first day of New Year's break reminiscing what I did last weekend? Besides the fact that I am bored (yes, true that), the impact of that sudden visit by a bunch of American ships in 1852 has deep social implications for Japan that particularly resonates in a time like the New Years. To be specific, the behaviors of people during such vacations precisely display that continuous conflict of traditional Japan willing to sacrifice all its foreign relations for cultural purity with a modern one that represents the "Western-ness" of Asia.

How is the conflict obvious during New Year's? (And also, during Christmas?) Well, as an other Asian country, in Japan, New Year's is about getting together with families, as a sign of unity and collectivity, and if put negatively, self-isolation (quite tellingly these days as the streets of Tokyo are so empty as people depart for their respective hometowns). Yet, at the same time, ads for New Year's parties, counting down the last minutes with alcohol and friends, Western style, are ubiquitous, implying their popularity.

To what degree should the Japanese accept, with open-mindedness, completely foreign attitudes toward some event or object all humans share lies at the core of the conflict. And all of that conflict started with that pivotal visit in 1852. But walking through the tiny little museum in the Perry Park in Kurihama has given me, seemingly for the first time since I came to Japan for work, the confidence that the Japanese will inherently accept foreign attitudes at the end.

But the title of Japan as an "honorary Western nation" did come from a series of painful bloody forced openings. Perry led the political and technological, Meiji Emperor the societal and cultural, and MacArthur the economic and psychological. But despite the enormous losses in cultural heritage, economic wealth, and human lives, Japan emerged from each less doubtful of her need to depend on absorbing the best of the foreigners to stay competitive.

And the little museum in Perry Park devoted its entire interpretation of the landing in Kurihama with true gratitude. Perry and the Japanese officials receiving him, in complete contrast with what would have been said at the time, are described as completely noble and worthy of respect as major personalities in history. Nowhere to be seen are the other consequences of Perry's visit, including the loss of traditional Japanese culture and more importantly, the increasing Japanese belief in militaristic force and its unrestricted use on foreign soil as the primary form of strength.

But those very omissions make the Japanese accounts on Perry an extreme yet worthy comparison with the reactions of other Asians during those "first encounters" with the whites. Especially in China, the events leading up to the Opium War is still regarded as national humiliation of tremendous magnitude. The Chinese officials such as Lin Zexiu (whose statue proudly stands in New York Chinatown) who completely resisted any peaceful negotiations by the Brits are still honored as national heroes.

The disdain for the conservatives who refused outside contact is so well implied in Japanese mentality and its history books. In this particular aspect, Japan is much more "mentally mature" than other countries forced open by Western military superiority. And it is that the led Japan, not China or any other Asian country, to become the first developed economy outside the Western world. It is time for Japan to use this unique strength once again to completely change its culture, as displayed in New Year's and in its offices.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Why is there no labor union at Rakuten?

After finishing some company work in the morning, I finally got to sit down, read the news, and relax a bit on this fine Christmas day (well, like I said in the last post, before going off and getting drunk somewhere). But even as I am finally relaxing a bit, I know that some of my colleagues are still working hard at their desks, finishing certain documents for the Monday that seems so close from now. My immediate superior is certainly up to that, making some documents based my work for this morning and calling me a couple of times to clarify my wording in the little note I submitted.

Plastic Surgery as an Effective Method to Increase Social Equality

Living in Japan, one starts to think of Christmas not as a day for family gatherings (thats done on New Years), but as day to get together with your significant other (i.e. a second Valentine's) and if one is unfortunately single, get together with a bunch of friends and get drunk (i.e. the same role as New Years in the West). I, on this joyous day, happen to fall into the latter category, but before I go off getting drunk somewhere, I would like to get some sober writing finished.

So, like I was saying, being single on Christmas is an unfortunate thing here in Japan. So, to help reduce my misfortune, some people have been asking me what kind of girls am I looking for (of course, since it is Japan, the question is generally ethnocentric). So having stayed in Korea for awhile, I tend to say that I have an interest in Korean girls (which I indeed do, not lying) to which the stereotypical response (from anyone, not just the Japanese) would be something about plastic surgery.

Indeed, somehow, plastic surgery has become a part of the Korean Wave, spreading all over Asia along with the posters of pretty Korean celebrities who are rumored to have gotten them (just another case of other Asians thinking Koreans are cool, especially in China). Obviously, not everyone (especially guys) were not happy about the situation, causing them to devalue any sort of beauty created under the knife..."fake" breasts, eyelids, nose, etc. all became something to deny and conceal for the girls...

Personal taste aside (I personally do not give a damn about how much cash spent and pain suffered by the girl as long as she is pretty), but I will try to argue that in terms of social equality, plastic surgery (when not detested by people for their "fake" nature) is the perhaps the most significant contribution of medical advancements. In other words, I think that a more widespread application of plastic surgery can only help to promote the idea of everyone being equal.

To make the argument work, first, a few assumptions. One, social hierarchy is determined by class differences, which is turn displayed by difference in profession and consequently, income. Higher income is displayed by more "sophisticated" and luxurious tastes in arts, leisure, etc. that are traditionally associated with the wealthy. At the same time, there is a greater chance for individuals with connections to the wealthy to become wealthy (pretty obvious).

And then, here is the most important part: beautiful women tend to move much further ahead than their plain counterparts in two ways: (1) directly marry into wealth (generally pretty rare unless the girl is either very good looking, or is somewhat famous as a minor celebrity) and more commonly, (2) get better jobs and faster promotion at jobs than the plainer ones. Of course, this is based on the assumption that most high-level guys in any company are guys, which, unfortunately, is still largely the case, especially here in East Asia.

And better yet, Asian guys are much more sexually perverted and deviated than their Western counterparts (as shown by popularity of under-aged female idol groups), and the fact that personal and professional lives are not completely separate (even from a mental standpoint), gives much more likelihood for the top manager to give that completely unqualified but stunningly beautiful girl a chance at the company.

And given that the top's decision is not questioned at any circumstances here, just give the girl plenty of incentive to get those eyelids slit and jawbones shaved down before her job interviews. And as practitioners of the art become more plentiful, more skillful, and less expensive to visit, perhaps we are really entering an age of "egalitarianism in physical beauty?"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Your People" vs "My People": the Asian mentality on ethnocentric group unity

Sometimes even I myself wonders exactly why some many thoughts about racial divisions race through my mind when I live and work in a country known the lack of it (almost everyone walking down the street dress the same way, talks the same language, sports the same behavior, and racist enough, really does look very similar to each other underneath the same makeups...) And I, with my salary-man outlook and behavior, does not exactly stick out like a sore thumb as most other foreigners seem to experience.

So I thought, until someone at work opens his/her mouth and start going off on their knowledge or willingness to learn more about...those foreign people. Oh, do they just love saying that word, especially in these days of globalization. "We the Japanese need to learn English (or any other non-Japanese language, for that matter) so we can better communicate with those foreign people." Indeed, they certainly do need to speak better English, but that kind of attitude really makes me think that they are thinking as if they forced to communicate with the enemy.

And here is the gem I got last week during work. Talking about a Chinese employee at another department, my superior simply advised, "you should hang out with this guy more, then you can become really friendly with him, because he is part of your people." Oh, thank you, boss! Finally, the friendliness of "my people" will make me not feel lonely being surrounded by "your people" all the time! Oh, should I just jump in joy or what?

OK, lets be fair here. The problem here is not just a Japanese one, it is pan-Asian (and to a lesser extent, existing for anyone in any country has not really been outside the home country for extended period of time). The Chinese (and Koreans, Taiwanese, etc) are just as likely to tripartite their world view from Tokyo in a classic Sino-centric fashion: the lonely misunderstood "real Chinese," the deliberately misunderstanding "Japanese," and the culturally barbaric "foreigners" (included corrupted degenerates like myself) needing a thorough upholding education.

And conveniently enough, "language barrier" became a nice excuse to diverge into groups by nationality (or ethnicity...well, the every Japanese do not know the difference between the two anyways, as is the case for other Asians) when they have the misfortune of being shoved into a small crowded space together for more than ten hours a day. Right, I was informed the other day that the unwritten rule of "foreigners' tables" do seem to exist in the company canteen.

But when that language barrier do not really exist, people still try their best to erect other barriers and rationalize them as much as possible. The "your people" comment from the superior is a clear symbolic manifestation of that effort. His underlying message can be interpreted as saying "since I KNOW you do not understand us the Japanese, therefore you should try to be friendly with people of your ethnicity so that you can make your work go smoother and do not feel lonely in this company."

Please do note that "my people" and "his people" cannot really understand each other is not only an automatic assumption but the necessary premise to make his whole statement logical. The fact that his statement came out so naturally at the time just goes to show how matter-of-fact he thinks the lack of understanding is and should be. To him, that "understanding barrier" is not something to be overcome or reduced but it simply exists like the wall between my one-room apartment and my neighbor's.

And this is just said plainly...now imagine the parts that not said...thankfully, English (even half-assed imitations of it) is still considered "cool" here (and in other parts of Asia as well), and perhaps because of that, I have been able to get together with some Japanese colleagues in a regular basis and do some stupid things together, but imagine a Swahili-speaking African walking down the street in Tokyo...hmmmm....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Public Disturbances" in Japan Continued: "Crazy" People Going Nuts

My story from the last post was not quite finished and I will continue my thoughts in this post...So, as I was reflecting on the indifference of Japanese people toward their helpless compatriots throwing themselves into the train tracks with horrifying frequency, the train arrived to take me home (fortunately, no one jumped the tracks here).

As with my usual behavior, I look up at the little TV screen above the door after I got in the train. The news of the day was on. And surprisingly enough, it was about a guy who randomly stabbed 17 people amidst the weekend crowd of Shinjuku shopping area, turning the happily commercial country into another self-inflected bloodbath. The headline of the news quoted the arrested stabber: "I don't want to live anymore."

The train full of people, in the same way as they reacted to the 「人身事故」announcement, just went about their business as usual, playing games on their PSPs or having quiet conversations. "Well, another one just snapped," a few others looking at the TV screen possibly thought in their minds, but no one lingered on why the person snapped and took his revenge on the world. The stabber is locked up, and the injured are treated in he hospital, end of the story.

Sure, random stabbing in crowded areas is not first time or even a new concept in Japan, but neither is a lone gunman shooting up a school/shopping center/religious institution in the States. But comparing how the medias of the two countries react to innocent people sacrificed to the "crazies" just shows how much Japan is behind in terms of sensitivity toward publicly known misfortunes.

For one, the American media, after each shooting, try their best to publicly analyze the past history and the profile of the shooter, and invite experts on psychology to debate on the potential motives of the shooter and the reasons s/he selected the particular victims. The schools/towns that unfortunately played host to the bloodbaths hold vigils for the victims AS WELL AS the instigator of the tragedy.

And as I briefly mentioned in the last post, that is exactly where Japan is behind. Th American media, through efforts to understand their motives, has treated the shooters with respect. Humans are rational animals, and as conscious adults, every action executed has a reason for the execution. And someone with the ability to hurt others with such specific intention and sophistication is definitely not mentally ill and lacking self-control.

Mental illness, when not genetic, only occurs with excess accumulation of stress. And stress comes from not being able to release negative emotions. In a Japan where even drinking is a part of work and dissent on younger ranks are quickly suppressed without compromise, the sources of stress, at least related to work, are just too numerous to count.

Let me close by reporting a figure: about 1.65% of employees at Rakuten are currently taking "mental leave." Assuming that only the most needy one of out every ten employees takes a mental leave (not surprising in Japan considering taking holidays is considered an absolute taboo), at least a quarter of all employees are having some sort of mental problems at the moment. To which, the COO simply remarked, "it is much lower than the Japanese average" (a big lie, by the way, Rakuten about 3 times higher). It is just as my favorite quote from Stalin (a bit modified), "having one victim is a tragedy, but having a thousand is just statistics."

"Public Disturbances" in Japan: 「人身事故」 as a Weapon of Mass Delay (WMD)

Ok, sounds like this is gonna be another one of those cynical posts criticizing Japanese society....so let me start on a "high note" for this topic. One of my favorite horror movies of all time is a Japanese classic called "Suicide Club" (or 「自殺サークル」 in Japanese). It portrays a modern-day Japan in which large segment of people simply lost the will to continue living. Suicides, in the forms of jumping off buildings, cutting themselves, and what not become so common in everyday life that people, especially the young, started to take life as a joke and suicide as a game.

I recommended the movie to people in the States and got absolutely horrified responses. In a Western culture were the continuation of life is probably the most basic human right there is (well, guess thats true everywhere, but the outer manifestation of that willingness to protect life is just so powerful in the West), the idea that people can possibly take the voluntary destruction of it as a laughing matter is simply insane by any psychological theory.

So as this whole thought randomly flowed into my mind as I waited for my train to go home after hanging out with my colleagues, I was suddenly stopped by a routine-sounding announcement over the station loudspeakers. The train that was going the opposite direction was stopped for the night after a case of 「人身事故」 somewhere up north. The hundreds of people filed through the station with a little grumble, but everyone went along the businesses as usual.

Now, this situation would be unimaginable outside of Japan. 「人身事故」, roughly translated as "physical accident," is an euphemism for people committing suicide by throwing themselves in the train tracks as speeding trains approach station platforms. And yes, in Japan, this is practically an every day event: one Sunday I actually encountered an announcement that three train lines all went down due to 「人身事故」(of course, three separate incidents).

And by the looks for the people reacting to these horrifyingly monotonous announcements, we can easily see that they tend to care just as little about their fellow citizens as "foreign" affairs couple hours away by plane. Listening to the crowds, all I heard were a bit dismayed but otherwise highly indifferent comments about how people should not make themselves source of inconveniences for others with their "public disturbances."

Right, thats exactly what these pesky self-killers are, "public disturbances"? So, while these people are shooting SOS flares for years as their problems in life become more and more unbearable over time, they were simply ignored. And as they send out their last lonely messages to the entire country of Japan by taking that final plunge before the speeding train, no one at the station even considered the personal issues behind these "public disturbances."

I hate to say it but these 「人身事故」 is in essence not any different from a terrorist blowing himself up in a large crowd. These two different WMDs uses the same painful format to let the surroundings know that there is a problem in society. But as people continue to label these "dangerous elements" as motivated by simple "craziness," they will continue to miss opportunities to review and reflect on the social structures that is causing the insuppressible appearances of these WMDs.

At the end, we should realize that the value of human life is universal. And because some people are willing to give theirs up voluntarily to warn us of problems that we really need to take their underlying messages seriously. Yeah, it may be true that a life is worth less somewhere, but issues that prompt people to commit suicide are just as strong everywhere. If we do not examine these issues, perhaps the day we laugh off suicides (like in "Suicide Club") really is not that far away....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On Self-Censorship and Independent Identity

As both my blog content and readership expand in size, some negative feedbacks are bound to arise. To be fair, I have been a writer of controversy, and I fully admit this point (and am quite proud of it, despite the "unfriendliness" I sometimes receive). But as a paid full-time white-collar worker that I have now become, the trigger-happiness and the joy of lashing out at anything and anyone I feel like, inherited from my college days, may become a serious liability to my future directions in life, career, and plainly said, amount of cash I will receive.

Yes, I am talking about the many job-related posts I have been writing on this blog. All of them have been shared on Facebook, on which I already have many "friends" who are from Rakuten, not to mention some who happen to be in very high places and can easily derail my long-term plans in the company by putting in some light complaints. Right, an easily replaceable new graduate with a big mouth, certainly an uncontrollable commodity when some skills are obtained and a few ladders climbed.

But, what they should realize I do have a message for them beyond my constant ridicule of their obscenely inadequate English skills, not to mention their complete lack of understanding when it comes to cultures of English-speaking countries. It is a message that says, right now, I actually care enough about the company to honestly point out her problems. And more importantly, I actually want to stay have for a LONG time if they do make amends and work to resolve these issues.

"They," the top-tier leaders, should listen. Yes, the way they deal with new graduates does have problems; Yes, there are interesting business ideas they have not considered; Yes, sometimes they, as a collective, behave like the leaders of a certain unmentionable East Asian political entity. I am still able to express these opinions because I have yet to be brainwashed to simply follow commands and wait for promotions.

But of course, for some, that "robot-nization" will come just as surely as "English-nization." After the hopes and high expectations of placements are blown away for most people, the only way to escape the "sad" reality is to shut up and do what you are told, perfectly. Just make to "think for yourself" and "do it yourself" enough so that your honorable superiors and bosses do not get overly offended from answering all your stupid questions.

With or without these borderline (or outright, depending on how you see it) inappropriate commentaries, this blog is, and will always be, my personal diary, one that just happened to be published online for everyone to examine as closely or sparsely as they feel. Inscribing my personal thoughts is the whole reason for its existence, so there is absolutely o reason for me to compromise on that point as long as the blog continues its existence.

René Descartes said it well, "I think, therefore I am." A person without fully independent thoughts cannot be considered to have a fully independent individual identity. Without individual opinions, a mature adult can only be labelled sub-human. And as I taught my students in English, true writing, done as enjoyment and not purely as a task and a chore, need to display the logic and the character of the writer, pulling the reader straight into the writer's world, no matter how discomforting that situation is to the reader.

And discomforting is exactly what certain readers of this blog should feel. I am making an all-out assault on their established positions, and I am shooting signal flairs into the sky as I do so. Those entrenched in the established positions have to choices: (1) to fight back from their positions and become my enemies, or (2) sit down at the negotiation table to compromise on our respective positions.

And lastly, a comment for all those sitting on the top of corporate hierarchy. In business, rebellion based on logic is inherently equal to innovation. Just as uprisings led to political reforms, dissidence in a business organization represents forces of change. If the leaders of the status quo insist on suppressing rather than learning from the dissidence, perhaps (and I say this very reluctantly out of respect) that the company itself does not deserve us to be gracing her with our efforts and even presences.

First Post in Chinese: 政府可利用自然災害加強國力

In my original motivation to begin, I did mention that I will write at least "a few" posts in foreign languages (i.e. other than English)...It took me literally took me more than 5 months before I actually go back to fulfill that promise. So 76 posts (more than 45000 English words later), I give you my first post in Chinese.

The article was originally written with an intent to publish in Taiwan (where I was actually mentioned once in a negative fashion), Hong Kong, or North America. So the article was written in Traditional Chinese, which is used most often outside mainland China. Of course, the decision to put the article on here is also a little SEO strategy to draw more traffic from these areas (Blogger is blocked in mainland China anyways, so no point doing SEO for that market...)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Actual Job Assignment and Globalization at Rakuten Revisited

So last week, I finally get my job assignment at Rakuten after two months of "training" that involved brainwashing us with Rakuten ideology. After weeks of anticipation and should I say, annoyance and anxiety, we the new guys were finally given our assigned places at a rather formal-looking ceremony on Tuesday morning. On the surface, everything appeared calm, but below the tranquility some jumped for joy while others quietly shed tears in their hearts.

All the poetic stuff aside, I have to say that most of the assignments are, really honestly, quite puzzling in many aspects. Yes, I did mention how the company have absolutely no idea where to place us, but the randomness of the end result goes much beyond just "let's put this guy there and see what happens." Not to mention the language ability and communication problems, the type of work and the field of studies for each individual just see little connection if any.

But all in all, it somehow feels that the whole "global perspective" and "language abilities" for which us the non-Japanese new graduates are hired have all the sudden became non-commodities not worth considerations. Similarly, our job experiences and majors in college are thrown aside completely. A sales professional goes to creative web design, a politics major goes to accounting, a study abroad grad student becomes just another tool in the Japanese call center...the list goes on and on...

So there goes my entire logic on how the company may end up placing us. I mean, if the "potential" of a young new employee simply means "you tried hard at what you do for the last 20-some years of your life," then what is the point for us to even study anything related to a profession that we desire? We can all just go for easy humanities majors and show them "we tried EVEN HARDER" by getting straight A's...

Oh yeah, forgot to mention that for some unknown reason, I ended up in the CEO Office, the direct subordinate of the Big Boss. But underneath an unsaid shower of awe, congrats, and most importantly, jealousy, it is a me that is completely scared of what it means to be not just a random tool downstairs, but a direct tool of the Boss being evaluated constantly for even the slightest carelessness.

Listen to this "mission statement" of the CEO Office: "our mission is to make the work environment of the CEO completely perfect so that there is no way he can make any mistakes in decision-making." This simple statement suggests two things: (1) The CEO is incapable of faulting as long as he has a "perfect work environment" and (2) if he indeed makes a mistake, it is completely the CEO Office's fault.

And as if that is not bad enough already, here is the answer I got for questioning whether the CEO Office has any advisory role for the Boss: "we should only advise him when he specifically asks us to do so." Wow, talk when you are told to talk, and shut up otherwise. Well, there goes my hopes of making direct suggestions and proposals to the Boss because I happen to be, eh, physically close to him in the office.

So, unfortunately, I always thought globalization meant a "flatter" company structure, where those with global experiences may able themselves to have an independent voice. Instead, the so-called "globalization" at least in Rakuten headquarters is just a creation of an English-speaking North Korea. Hmmm, wonder if it is just me who is trying to import "polite and humble phrases" of the Japanese language into English....