Achieving Inclusiveness Through Global Collaboration
“一期一会 ” — phonetically pronounced “Ichi-go ichi-e” — is a Japanese idiom that translates to “once in a lifetime meeting.”
In this episode, Chris Hyams speaks with Jess Lysenko, Senior Strategist on the Global Product Commercialization team and co-chair of Women at Indeed Asia-Pacific (APAC).
Hear why Lysenko decided to start this group in our APAC offices, some tips on how to be inclusive for your colleagues in different time zones and how the role of the Japanese proverb “Ichi-go ichi-e” plays in her life story.
- Hello everyone, I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. And welcome to the next installment of Here to help. This is our look at how Indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID-19. Today is March 15th, we are on day 377 of global work from home. At Indeed, our mission is to help people get jobs and this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us up at night and March is Women's History Month around the world. And for Here to help we having a series of conversations this month about the topics that matter right now. Today, I am delighted to be joined by Jess Lysenko Senior Strategist on Indeed's Global Product Commercialization team and also the Asia Pacific Regional Co-chair for Indeed's Women at Indeed Inclusion Resource Group. Jess is based in our Tokyo Tech Office. And Jess, thank you so much for joining me today.
- Thanks so much for having me today, Chris. It's a pleasure to be here.
- Great, well, let's start where we always start these conversations with a quick check-in. How are you doing today?
- Yeah, today I'm doing pretty well. I would say I've had good days and bad days as I think many of us have had, and I'm in a very fortunate position. You know, that my family and friends are safe, but you know after over a year of being unable to see family, you know it's been quite draining if I'm, to be honest.
- So to, to dive in, we had a chance to catch up a little last week in preparation for this discussion. And as we were talking about it you mentioned a Japanese idiom ichi-go ichi-e and its importance in your career. Can you talk a little bit about what this means and why it's so important to your personal journey?
- Yeah, so ichi-go ichi-e is a Japanese idiom as you said, that means more or less. I mean, there's a few ways you could put it as serendipity but it really means a one in a lifetime chance of meeting someone. And so I think for many of us in our lives, we're not careers, we have those sorts of pivotal points where whether it's an event happens or we have a meeting. And for me, I've had a few of those that have really driven my career or my life decisions and which brought me to Japan ultimately. So my background is that I am Australian and does a lot of Australians do over the summer or our summer and the U.S or Japan's winter is we come to Japan skiing. And so when I was about 17 years old I came to Japan for the first time, my first overseas trip. So as you can imagine, as a high school student, I was in absolute awe with the country and with the great snow. And so I was in this very reasonably rural town called Nozawa Onsen in Nagano that I think a lot of us based in our Tokyo offices know about we often go traveling there and I dropped a 5,000 yen note. So if anyone not familiar with Japanese currency, that's about $50. And at that time about over 10 years ago now that was $100 because exchange rates weren't on our side. And so isn't 17 year old dropping about $100 cash, that's a lot of money. And so, you know, naturally I panicked and I retraced my steps only for a little old lady working at a vegetable store to have my 5,000 yen note and happily hand it back to me and smile and wish me kind of good luck. And that was something that really, it struck me. And it sort of made me realize like I already knew that, you know Australia and Japan are different, but there was something in the essence of Japan that really it stuck with me. And it made me want to learn more about the country and the language and ultimately that was one of the reasons I decided to pursue Japanese and ended up studying Japanese in university as a major because of that, you know very unpredictable occurrence that ichi-go ichi-e experience.
- I really love that story. And, you know, we were talking about this before almost anyone who has visited Japan for the first time has had that experience of leaving their phone or their wallet at a restaurant only to have someone chase you down and bring it back. And when I tell this story to folks in Tokyo, they're usually not really sure why it's an interesting story, but for anyone who's not from Japan, that isn't an unusual occurrence. So I could see how that would leave an impression.
- It is I've had instances where I've left my wallet in the basket of my bicycle outside the supermarket and realized 20, 30 minutes later and it's just sitting there. Yeah, it's pretty, it's not normal for me back home anyway, yeah.
- So, let's talk a little bit about your role at Indeed. Can you tell us a little bit about what your role entails and how you help people get jobs?
- Yeah, so in my role in Global Product Commercialization I work very closely with our product teams that work to improve the Indeed services specifically for the Japanese market. So one piece is that I work very closely with those teams to bring new products to market in Japan. And then the second piece I would say is I work on new strategies to improve the employer outcomes. So whether that's helping them source small candidates that really matched their needs helping them make more successful hires. So ultimately it does benefit the job seekers because we do find that, you know, the better the experiences for job seekers the better the outcome is for employers as well.
- So as a global company, we've evolved a lot over time. And when we started, we had a very U.S centric perspective and we would build our products and think about job seekers and employers in the U.S and then just translate things and, you know hope that they worked around the world. And obviously as we've come to evolve Japan is a very important market. We have a lot of employees there. And when we think about our innovation it has really become it's a global and local experience. Can you talk about the role of innovation on your team and in your role?
- Yeah, absolutely, so in my role, so as you kind of called out Japan is incredibly different market to the U.S and I would say that it's not just Japan is different but every country is very different, even every region in a country is very different. And in the case of Japan where it's very common to outsource work not just in the sense when we're talking about the job seeking or hiring market, but you know a lot of different industries it's very common to have external parties support what your business is trying to achieve. So in the case of Japan, sorry, in the case of hiring it's very common for employers to rely on third parties to write their job descriptions, manage their job posts, at times manage sourcing and even interviewing their candidates. And so to really make our new products succeed in the Japanese market, it's really important for us to come up with strategies that sort of meet that requirement for the high touch close level of support that employers are so used to and that employers expect, but also ensure that the products are self serviceable and scalable you know, working with, I guess, like ethos of Indeed of making this a real self serve platform. So that's one area of innovation that we really think about a lot. And the second piece, I would say in my role I work very closely with Japanese and English speaking stakeholders. And it goes very much beyond just direct translation of what I'm saying, but actually thinking about the approach when I'm making a proposal or speaking to stakeholders in Japan versus the U.S I feel that I'm always learning and always trying to improve that as well. So I guess I would say that's a bit of innovative area that I focus on too.
- So I'd love to talk a little bit about your experience as an English speaking Australian living in Japan, who also speaks Japanese, and we have these inclusion resource groups around the world but you were instrumental in really starting up the chapter of women at Indeed in Japan. Can you talk a little bit about your experience and how that led to this decision to try to get this up and running in Tokyo?
- Yeah, absolutely, so first off one thing I want to say, as you already mentioned I'm an Australian, an Australian woman, and that means that my experiences in Japan don't necessarily reflect the experiences of Japanese women. So while I will, like I have a few things that I'd like to share about my experiences, they probably are somewhat unique to me as a foreign woman. And I do hope that, you know, everyone here would also listen to the experiences of Japanese women as well as their voices are very important. And so as a white foreign woman, I definitely am in a bit of a privileged position as oftentimes my they say your foreignness is seen before your gender, here. But that being said, I definitely have had experiences in Japan that were quite different to my experiences in Australia as a woman. So growing up, I grew up in a reasonably comfortable like middle class family and I was never really raised to think of my gender as a barrier. I'm one of two girls. So my sister and I both pursued university, my sister went on to higher education master's and doctorate. And this wasn't something that I ever thought would hold me back in my career decisions or in anything in life. I had big aspirations and my parents fully supported that. But when I came to Japan I had a few interesting experiences in the workplace. So as you mentioned, I am a Japanese speaker. And so my first experiences working in Japan were in fully Japanese speaking work places where it was very common to see males in leadership positions and females or women in more the back office support positions. There's actually a term in Japanese OL like you say, OL, which means Office Lady. So you will say office lady and salary men. So the verbiage or the language we use sort of reflects that as well. And when I was job hunting in Japan, I'm looking to change roles from a previous employer, it became very clear that my marital status and my family planning was game. Like it was completely socially acceptable and normal for employers to ask me about that which it recently it has become legally not okay but in Australia it would be unthinkable to ask someone those kinds of questions. So actually would go to interviews without any like wedding or engagement ring or anything. And I do know other women who do that another instance was it's quite an interesting one where I announced my engagement and my boss showing me support and really happy for me told me and like reassured me that I didn't have to quit my job, it was okay. He would support me to keep working and would support me staying there if I chose to have children. And while it was a really beautiful sentiment. And, you know, they were very kind words. The fact that that's something that has to be said also really stood out to me. And so when I had these kinds of conversations or these experiences and share them with my Japanese girlfriends, they sort of said, "Oh, well you know, that's how it is. "It is what it is." And they sort of took this status quo as something that wasn't in their control or in their power to change, and that they had to make career choices based on their gender and based on family planning. And that's something that, for me, didn't really sit well and something that, you know, I've thought about a lot. And so when the opportunity to kick off women at Indeed came up, I was really interested in being a part of that because I feel that, you know I've had a lot of female and like women and men who have mentored me and supported me in my career and I've really felt I have a voice. And so I hope that women at Indeed also allows not just women in our more tech office. So in Tokyo, we have the tech offices, as well as our CS and sales offices. The tech offices being very international and English speaking and the CS and sales domestic facing offices being predominantly Japanese speaking. So my hope is that women at Indeed we can both support our more international group of employees, as well as the domestic group of employees is.
- So you mentioned that we have these different types of offices and the tech offices for example are a majority ex-pat so obviously very different and interestingly, very diverse actually, when some of the most diverse offices we have anywhere in the world but inclusion means different things in different parts of the world. So can you talk a little bit about even just the idea of inclusion resource groups and how those are understood in Japan?
- Yeah, so in Japan, I would say in a traditional company we don't have the concept of inclusion resource groups or at least I haven't experienced or heard of it. We do often have what's called circles which are sort of like hobby clubs. So you have like a soccer circle or a movie watching circle. And so you spend your free time with your coworkers on those hobbies but the concept of inclusion resource groups is something that I think is quite new. In our international like the more foreign international tech offices, it really would be, it depends on the person, I would say as to how well they know about inclusion, and there is often a misconception that unless you personally are a part of the group that the inclusion resource group covers that you aren't allowed to participate but that may not just be a situation that I've seen in the tech offices here. It may be a global thing as well.
- So maybe it would be helpful just to talk a little bit about the meaning of inclusion in general, in Japan. Again, it is very different in different parts of the world. And those of us in the U.S have one very specific set of ideas, but that's clearly not universal. What is the meaning of inclusion in Japan?
- Yeah, so as you say, I think this the makeup of the country or the makeup of an area is going to really impact what inclusion means. So in the case of Japan, where 98% of the population that ethnically Japanese naturally inclusion is going to look incredibly different. For example, you know, in our sales office we have over 400, I believe over 400 employees who are not English speaking to a Japanese speaking. And in Japan as a country, being Japanese only speaking where you will be the majority, how when you joined Indeed, and you're Japanese only speaking you're suddenly the minority. So that's sort of one interesting factor. And then when we look at the tech offices inclusion, again people are not necessarily native English speakers even if we are speaking all in English together we have dozens of different countries represented and many people who aren't native English too. And when talking about, I guess in the context of IRGs because the makeup of both of our offices are so different and the makeup of the country is so different. The needs of the employees are going to be incredibly different as well. I know for example, when we talk about inclusion, inclusion of minorities and rights for minorities is often a very big topic that we would talk about. In Japan, the minorities are very different to the U.S so the majority minorities we have Chinese, South Korean and Vietnamese as the largest minority groups in Japan. When we talk about women and women's rights maternity leave or access to paternity leave is often something that's discussed a lot in the laws around that. In Japan, we already have really robust laws that allow women and men to take very generous leave. In fact, men have the legal right to take 52 weeks leave with some level of pay as well. But in reality, only two to 3% of men actually take this paternity leave even though they have the legal right. So the conversation rather than being about how do we change the laws how do we advocate and make this in law? It's more about how do we make it socially acceptable and men feel supported and comfortable to be able to take paternity leave. So again, I think a lot of the issues and the challenges that around inclusion can be similar but the approaches or the ways we need to, I guess overcome those challenges are going to be very different not just for Japan but when you talk about any country or any region.
- So as a company based, you know, originally in the U.S but now very global, as we're starting to understand what some of those differences are and the different experience that you brought up for example, of working in Japan as a Japanese person who speaks Japanese, but for an American company, that's a different experience than just being in a Japanese company. What are some of the things that we can do as a business to be more inclusive of our offices outside of the U.S?
- Yeah, so inclusion absolutely does go beyond just, you know signing up for an inclusion resource group and attending some events. There's definitely, I feel personally, there are areas of inclusion that don't necessarily fit in the buckets about different inclusion resource groups. So when you talk about, I guess, international inclusion or being more inclusive of the workforce globally there are a lot of really simple things that all of us can do. Not just Japan versus X Japan, but all of us between all our different countries and regions. I guess, one of the big ones that impacts perhaps Japan more than other countries is thinking about is the content you're sharing or the information you're sharing accessible to non English speakers. And if it's not should it be accessible to non English speakers? Is it important information for our non English speaking employee base to have access to. Then also, you know, setting meetings, I know there's a lot of meetings that get set up between a range of different regions sometimes even have like EMEA Americas and APAC, which no there's always someone loses that meeting game, but you know, being aware is this, we sort of both getting the short end of the stick here or is one person very comfortable and the other person really going out of their way and just being aware of that and I guess appreciating if someone is going to have a really early or really late meeting to meet your work hours and other times, you know when we have those three time zones it's not possible for everyone to attend a meeting. So making sure they're in the loop making sure people have visibility into what was said or decided. So that, that keeps us moving quickly and doesn't slow us down with additional catch-up meetings and that kind of thing. And I guess the last thing that I think is very easy for companies to sort of fall into when we're international is to defaulting to the home country, being the I guess defaulting in the case of Indeed defaulting to U.S, unless otherwise stated. And if you're based in the U.S it might not be something you would it's not something you would notice naturally but when you're not in the U.S and information is shared and you read through the information only to realize, oh this is U.S only, you know, it's not a great experience necessarily 'cause you do sometimes feel like an afterthought even though I'm sure that's absolutely not the intention. So those are sort of a few techniques I think that we can use to be as more thoughtful and inclusive of our global workforce.
- So, let's just talk a little bit about your experience over the last year. I mean, the experience of an ex-pat in general is a unique experience that if you've never been an ex-pat, you know you don't know exactly what that's like, and then you layer on top of that, a pandemic over the last year and being isolated, not just from your home country as you normally are, but from everyone around you. Can you talk about your experiences over the last year?
- Yeah, so when I first moved to Japan, I was working in as I mentioned, a Japanese speaking environment and I was spending a lot of time with local friends or acquaintances that I already had here before moving. So for me, I didn't have many connections in the ex-pat community because as a lot of the ex-pat communities is short-term and they aren't at all Japanese speaking. So there wasn't crack, I guess we just I didn't quite mesh with that community necessarily but since the pandemic it's been really interesting for me because I found that I have more in common with the ex-pat community now and feeling, I was feeling more homesick and feeling like I need to get that sort of, that hit of like my home in some way, whether that's, you know finding a really good latte somewhere in Tokyo or like cooking some food from back home. And so I have become more connected with the ex-pat community than I have in the past. And I would say the pandemic has definitely made me sort of reassess long-term if I want to stay living abroad or if I do want to go home, because, you know before it's a 10 hour flight, I could wake up have breakfast on the plane, arrive in Sydney where I'm from and be home for dinner with no time zone challenges. And that was something I really took for granted. And now, you know, I can't more or less can't go home. And so that's really made the distance feel, made us feel really far, yeah.
- Yeah, it certainly has been a time, I think for a lot of people to reassess what matters most to them and what they want. I guess I'd love to hear a little bit about 'cause you've had different experiences at different companies in Japan. How has your time at Indeed shaped your worldview?
- Yeah, so joining Indeed, so before I joined Indeed, I hadn't worked in a global company at the level of Indeed before I'd worked mostly in companies that were more Japanese domestic facing. So that was definitely a really big switch for me to be working not only in an English environment, which, you know English is my native language. So that's a good thing for me but to be working with such a diverse range of people from so many different backgrounds that was something that really stood out to me. And, I think I learned a lot about myself and about others and about like, I guess about inclusiveness and empathy as well in the process. And I do think it does go hand in hand with kind of developing through your 20s and having a lot of life experiences. But I did find that, you know previously I hadn't felt fulfilled by my work and I didn't necessarily expect I would feel really fulfilled in any work but I have found that with Indeed because ultimately we have a very clear mission and we're all working towards the same goal. And we can see in the numbers that we are, you know making people's lives better by helping people get jobs. I really learned that it is possible to feel quite fulfilled whilst also being reasonably compensated as well. And that's something that I hadn't really thought could be a reality in the past.
- Well, as we bring things to a close here I like to think about kind of looking forward to the future a little bit. And you touched on a little bit of this idea of reassessing your priorities and from this experience for the last year, how has this year that we've just all been through together, how has it changed your perspective moving forward?
- Yeah, that's a very, very good question. And one, I'm old over quite a lot. I've really gained a new appreciation for community. So I'm very fortunate that, you know I don't live here alone. I live here with my partner so having him and having the community of friends around us and the more ex-pat community I've joined recently has been something that's really helped me get through the past year plus. And so I'd say this very unique past year or more has really taught me the importance of community and the importance of family and that human connection that I think is quite easy for us to take for granted or forget from time to time. And when you do get caught up in the day to day of work and dinners and always going, going, going and I think the other one that I think that this situation has really reminded me is sort of a mantra or an idea I have, that I try to live by is that I should, you know, not just me but anyone should be able to live life in a way that brings them joy and makes them happy without detriment to others. And with COVID, it's really easy to lose or forget what is enjoyable because for a lot of us, you know what we enjoyed was probably something that involved a group of people, or you had to travel somewhere traveling might've been a hobby. So taking the time to rediscover those things that make you happy that's something that's been really important to me and that I'm still working on. I'm still trying to find things that I enjoy doing in a small 70 square meter apartment and I'm very open to ideas, but I think that's also another really important thing that, you know, with work and being stuck in kind of the Groundhog day it's very easy to forget that we should put time towards ourselves to find those things that we really enjoy.
- Well, Jess, thank you so much for sharing your perspective and your experiences and thank you for joining and really thank you for everything that you do for Indeed and to help people to get jobs all over the world.
- Yeah, thanks so much for having me, Chris. It was really great.