Friday, December 19, 2014

Foreigners Working in Kochi ①

Dana Berte
(Aki City, from America)
 
   The first person we will introduce, Dana Berte, was a Coordinator for International Relations with the JET Program in Aomori Prefecture for 3 years, and now works in product development at Kikusui Sake Company.
 
   Dana first became interested in sake during her time in Aomori Prefecture. She got involved in a sake-tasting class at a local bar. Each class, the bartender would put out sake from various producers, and the students were expected to take notes on the flavors and study outside of class. Once a month there was a tasting test where the students were expected to identify the maker of the sake through taste alone. If they got all of the questions correct, the prize was a bottle of very expensive sake. Dana won the prize twice. Through that class, she realized that she was very passionate about sake, and that if she could she would like to work in that industry.
 
   As Dana approached the end of her time in JET, she decided that she wanted to remain in Japan and work for a Japanese company, preferably related to sake. She signed up with the employment service HelloWork and gave them very comprehensive information about her interests and skills, and they began to try to find jobs for her. Rather than searching job listings for foreigners, they sent applications to jobs for regular Japanese people. Dana says she was not interested in working in the industry “as a foreigner,” limiting herself to jobs like translation. However, she knew that the Japanese skills she had acquired during her time as a CIR would be very important.
 
   HelloWork eventually inquired at about six sake breweries that had openings Dana was qualified for. Kikusui was her first interview. Dana had already been doing research about Kikusui, and she says she was impressed with their hiring practices, that they hire many women and young people, and that they were forward-thinking and used new media effectively in their PR. So when Kikusui offered her the job, she accepted.
 
   Dana had never been to Kochi before. She sent some things ahead, packed up her car, and made a road trip down to Kochi from Aomori, staying at friends’ houses along the way. She says her first impression of Kochi was that it was a “comfortable place.”
 
   After about six months working in the office at Kikusui, Dana wanted to be involved in actually making the sake. As it turned out, the people at the product development laboratory who were testing new flavors were interested in having a foreigner’s opinion, so she began to study food chemistry in her free time so that she could come up with new flavors more effectively. Eventually she switched over to Product Development entirely, and now she is in charge of several people there.
 
Products designed for women with input from the Kikusui
female staff.
 
   When we asked Dana for her advice to our readers, she had several suggestions. First of all, in the job market in America, where Dana comes from, it’s very difficult to find a career right after graduating. This is because almost every job requires several years of experience so that the employers don’t have to take the time to train the employee. One good thing about Japanese employment practices is that they don’t expect a great deal of experience from new employees, so they are very willing to train people. Particularly since this is a small company, Dana was able to try several different paths before ending up where she is today. So, Dana says, even if you don’t want to live in Japan permanently, Japan is a great place to spend 3-5 years gaining experience in your field before returning to your home country. Dana also highly recommends that foreigners who want to find jobs in Japan use a service like HelloWork, rather than trying to apply on their own.

4 comments:

  1. This is a great article! Dana is very talented in many ways and this year she is even helping to choreograph dances for our musical!

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