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Yumi Matsumura is a research director and Head of Qualitative at IPSOS in Tokyo, Japan. She recently sat down for an interview series on inspiring, leading women in the Japanese market. We’ll be sharing more of those interviews as part of our ongoing Perspectives series. For more information on WIRe Japan events, visit our Tokyo event page.
When you think about your path, what do you think has been the most important thing that has helped you to be successful? How? Why so essential?
YM: The fact that I’ve found an industry that really interests me has been essential. Honestly, discovering market research was just lucky for me. I had been working in Aichi Prefecture and had no idea what market research even was. I moved to Tokyo when I was 29 and just happened to interview at a market research company. Lucky for me, I liked it immediately and have continued to like it.
Research is not something that you can continue to do over a long period of time unless you like it. It’s hard work with long hours and a lot of demands, so you need to embrace it as part of your life. You have to be okay with ambiguity, frequent changes, long hours and being able to have enough empathy to work within a team, as well as enough empathy to really understand the consumers you are listening to.
When I interview people for research jobs, I look for good listeners and observers, rather than good talkers. Also, if I hear that they have had struggles in their lives, then I know that they have likely developed empathy for others. If someone likes to be the center of attention, I tell them they should pursue Marketing instead of Market Research.
Were there any major obstacles to overcome? How did you do it?
YM: No major obstacles really, but I can say that the hardest part has been managing people. I’ve learned so much about what works and what doesn’t work within teams. For example, diversity is so important. If you have people who are all too similar, people get too tightly intertwined and want to harmonize rather than confront and deal with issues. It’s really hard to detect and solve for issues. If there is diversity, it becomes very obvious quickly when something is going wrong. People will speak up and issues can be dealt with directly.
What advice would you give to your 21-year old self?
YM: My advice would be, “Do not hurry.” Give yourself 2-3 years to figure out your competencies and decide if you are in the right industry. When you are young, you just don’t know your own competencies. You must take your time and stretch yourself to discover and develop your competencies. As long as you are willing, you will discover them. In Japanese, I’d say場数を踏む。
Do you have a personal motto that you live by?
YM: Not really．In terms of a work philosophy though, I agree with Isoroku Yamamoto (a WWII commander) who said something like: “They won’t listen to you unless you show them how, teach them, let them try and give them feedback.” I spend a lot of time managing people and you have to stay close and be in there working with them every day.