Senpai Success Story #4: James, and how he leveraged his language studies

Welcome to the 4th Senpai Success Story, where you can read about others who have walked a unique career path using their Japanese language/cultural skills. If you have your own SSS to share, please read more here. (Psst: Senpai means “mentor” or “teacher,” and the concept is important to understand for anyone wishing to work in a Japanese business setting.)

Leveraging Language Studies to Help Find Interest in a Field or Industry, by James Daniels, PwC Accounting Assurance Associate

Each of us has different interests and skills that take time to hone in on and become familiar with.  Even if you never intended on studying a language or participating in international matters, being prepared for situations involving a multicultural setting is a first step that should never be overlooked.  Before I begin I’d like to sincerely thank anyone who’s reading my post, and I wish you continuing success on your own success story!

Before I knew what I wanted to study, having a background in language studies was a key driver in my decision making.  In college, as well as online, there are many valuable resources to assist in getting started.  My younger brother and I each paid half for the Rosetta Stone Japanese language learning software as our way to familiarize with the language.  After a summer of using the software, it made me feel much more confident going forward, and always had the software as a safety net in case my language abilities began to slip from underutilization (you’ll hear this from time to time – Use it or Lose it!).

From there my interest only grew, because before I realized what I had embarked on I was in college classes with others who were dealing with the same hurdles and shared successes.  This only made me feel more confident that I was on a path that was truly at home to me.  As things were beginning to fall into place in my progression with Japanese language classes in college, I determined that the way for me to have a lifelong tie to a continuous and dynamic learning environment was the world of business.  Previous classes in the college of business showed me that I had an affinity for numbers and accounting, and being from South East Michigan there were ties to Japan through the automotive industry.  From there it was a matter of staying determined to hold out for just the right opportunity.

Involvement with the department of world languages opened doors to volunteer activities around the metro Detroit area, one of them namely the Japan Festival co-hosted by the Japan Business Society of Detroit and the JSD Women’s Club.  As a volunteer I was also able to participate in some of the activities going on at the festival, and one was a talk hosted by Kasia.  After hearing her story which discussed international matters within and outside of school I was eager to hear more.  She graciously extended an offer to work with her in the Executive Administration department which she managed at HIROTEC AMERICA after getting to know each other and having a sit-down interview at the office.  The position leveraged my Japanese abilities, and provided me an environment which to grow and learn about how a multinational corporation operates in the global market.  Everything from translation to aiding expatriates allowed me daily to further challenge myself, and allowed the support system within our department to debrief and achieve our goals.

My time working within the Executive Administration department is still one of my most cherished and beneficial experiences to date.  Currently, my role has shifted somewhat to utilizing my accounting knowledge as I progress into my career as an Assurance Associate with PwC.  Without my prior experiences which pushed me outside of my more traditional major path I may not have felt prepared to operate within a global accounting firm.  If you are still undecided on what to do in the future, or want to expand your knowledge or network, making language training a priority is certainly a good first step into the global market or a way to expand beyond what you may think is possible.

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