Mission, Culture & Strategy
Why a Brazilian engineer chose to hone her skills at a Japanese companyViviane Takahashi
A one-of-a-kind technology unit that integrates a multitude of business domains
Founded in 1960 as a service providing job information to university students, the Recruit Group now offers services in not just human resources, but also many other sectors related to lifestyle and life events such as travel, housing, marriage, used automobiles, beauty, and cuisine. As the times have changed we have also been quick to embrace the IT sector, with Recruit Technologies spearheading this effort.
A native of Brazil, Viviane Takahashi was a longtime fan of Japanese culture, literature and also had an interest in learning other languages. In the University in Brazil, she maintained close ties with a professor who had experienced living in Japan, before eventually enrolling in a Japanese University herself. Viviane then joined the R&D department of an international general electronics manufacturer. However, her true interests led her to come on board at the Recruit Group, where she would not only be able to conduct technical research, but also apply it to various services.
Viviane is now a member of the Big Data Department's Big Data Group (Sales Promotion and Part-time Work Support) at Recruit Technologies' IT Solution Division. There she conducts big data analysis and natural language processing while working to improve search and recommendation systems.
"My superiors recommended me for representing the company and presenting my work at a conference of young engineers right after joining the company."
"I want to connect end users with the fruits of my research"
Viviane joined the Recruit Group nearly a year and a half ago. Given her previous experience working at a major electronics manufacturer, it would have been easy for her to find another position at any number of similar companies or research departments. But, Viviane instead chose to try something different by coming to the Recruit Group.
"Most people doing R&D at other companies are mainly involved in technical research. Even at the last department I worked in, I felt it was a missed opportunity that I wasn't able to interact directly with end users very often simply because I was in R&D. I love technical research, but I also want the ideas it gives rise to prove useful to the world."
"The policy at Recruit Technologies is to explore ideas originating in technology yet to not research anything that can't actually be put to work in business. This was very close to what I wanted to do."
Viviane's desires took shape not long after joining the group. She was called upon to show off research results only she could achieve with "Car Sensor", a used car information service that is also one of the Recruit Group's most iconic businesses, at a research presentation featuring young engineers from some of the world's leading tech companies.
"Pretty much everyone looking for a used car searches by specifications like manufacturer, model, color, year, or mileage. But, I thought that surely there are also people who don't know that much about cars and would prefer to search by keywords like comfortable, spacious, stylish, cute, cool, or retro. What I'm getting at are basically subjective keyword searches that emphasize feel or atmosphere. The natural language processing solution we made has also been applied to the Recruit Group's marital service 'Zexy'."
"I am trusted as a member of the team, regardless of nationality"
Creating a setting where engineers can flourish, and where company culture is actively practiced
Recruit Technologies puts not only its team members' technical skills to use, but also their ideas and viewpoints. One of the big reasons this is possible is the culture of individuals trusting in each other's potential found throughout the entire Recruit Group. This culture seems to fit perfectly with Viviane's work style.
"As a Brazilian working in Japan I am of course going to be treated as a foreigner, and must also communicate in Japanese. I happen to like learning other languages so I do speak Japanese, but people in Japan didn't seem ready to place trust in me when it came to major projects. Since I was working with natural language processing I can understand why a Japanese person would be optimal if the focus is Japan, but at the same time I am an engineer and a fellow team member, so I wanted to be treated just like everyone else."
"I've never once encountered any prejudice here at the Recruit Group or felt like things might not work out just because I'm a foreigner. In fact I am trusted with pretty much everything. If anything, the level of freedom is almost bewildering since the policy here is to pursue our own ideas with little to no specific instructions (laughs). This is an indication that they trust us and have high hopes for us, though, so it definitely motivates me in my work."
Though Viviane joined Recruit Technologies just 15 months ago, she is already very well liked and highly trusted by her superiors and teammates. However, she did experience a bit of culture shock when she first encountered our unique way of doing things.
"I was asked to take part in a kick-off meeting right after coming on board here. Kick-off meetings are events set up to share the vision of the Company so that everyone is on the same wavelength when a project launches. The superiors make speeches, contributing staff members are commended, and there are even parties with celebrity guests. At any rate they are full of energy and help boost everyone's motivation. I was surprised at first because this is the kind of event you would never see at another company, but it definitely made me feel like I wanted to work my hardest alongside the rest of the team."
"Something else I didn't expect was the opportunity for arranging 'yomoyama' meetings( yomoyama is a Japanese term that refers to casual chats on various topics). These yomoyama are regular meetings, but there isn't any fixed agenda and the real goal is to just have a casual conversation like you would while standing around talking. At first I couldn't see the point and in fact didn't even know what the word yomoyama meant (laughs). One thing that I came to find really great about the yomoyama though, is that I can arrange those with my own superiors, or as the situation dictates, with staff or managers from different departments, or even people from other companies. I thought it was amazing that this is something the company encourages us to do."
"Seeing a difficult problem makes me want to take up the challenge of solving it"
Viviane now works as an engineer in the group, and part of the reason she chose this path in life is this nature of hers that hasn't changed since childhood.
"Every since I was a child I've loved to explore things I have questions about. This was even more the case around when I was in high school as my interests turned towards things that were more difficult than what I was being taught in school. For some reason I was especially into physics at that time. I would buy scientific magazines to read, and whenever new discoveries or research data came out I was completely fixated."
"I was also very interested in games and computers at the time. Having the motivation of creating my own games, I decided to major in Computer Engineering, but my interests changed over time. I also liked studying languages, so during the University years, I learned English, French, and Japanese, besides my mother language, which is Portuguese. At the University in Brazil, I became interested in Machine Learning and started performing research on speech processing (at first mainly speech recognition) . In graduate school in Japan I performed research related to speech synthesis and translation. One of the first things I was involved with when I started working at a company was dialogue interaction. Although the group I took part in had the ultimate goal of developing speech interaction systems, at that point, I found myself mainly engaged in the research and development of text-based solutions. This was when I first became interested in natural language processing. I had the chance to strengthen these skills even further once I joined Recruit, where I continued to be in charge of natural language processing technology."
"I'm not particularly good at the act of solving difficult problems itself, but I am the type of person who never fails to take on a challenge when one appears before me. I think this personality is what led me to become an engineer."
I feel the drive to become an expert in a setting like this where my wishes are respected
Viviane has only been at Recruit Technologies for a year and a half; so she has only just undertaken the challenge of bringing technology and service together. We have no doubt that the world will have even more chances to interact with Viviane's ideas and accomplishments in the near future.
"Before joining Recruit, I have mainly been involved in technical research , so I still have many challenges to overcome such as learning more about maintaining a business viewpoint. In order to achieve this I need not only technical skills, but also to be able to understand my superiors and teammates and develop Japanese language skills for business."
"I'm currently very interested in natural language processing, so in the long term I would like to become an expert in the field. That is one reason why I'm very glad I'm a member of the Recruit Group. The environment here allows me to use my skills and ideas much more than I would be able to at other companies or enterprises, and I also have more trust placed upon me. The greatest reason I work here is that it is very easy to do so, in the sense that my wishes and goals are respected."
Data Scientist, Recruit Technologies Big Data Department, Tokyo, Japan
Viviane Takahashi was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She majored in Computer Engineering and became particularly interested in machine learning and speech processing. In 2010, she came to Japan to continue her studies. During her Master's degree studies, she performed research on speech synthesis and translation.
In 2013, she entered Panasonic's R&D and engaged in the research and development of text-based dialogue systems. Since then, her work and research interests expanded to the Natural Language Processing (NLP) field.
In 2015, looking for a new perspective in her career, she joined the Big Data Group of Recruit Technologies, where she has been able to develop her NLP skills even further.
Nowadays, she works in the research and development of NLP-based solutions for search and web personalization systems.