Seven Questions with… Maki Kado, Representative Director and President, Subsidiary of a Global Beverage Company

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Maki Kado: born in Hiroshima, Japan, majored in computer science at Kagawa University in Shikoku, worked as a software engineer, followed by experience in marketing and product licensing, and business management of a major software company in the US and Japan, currently Representative Director and President at a procurement subsidiary of a leading global beverage company in Japan.

With a career history that spans several industries as well having worked in both the US and Japan, Maki Kado has brought her positive outlook with her wherever she is in the world. Combining motherhood and business, and applying lessons learned from these key experiences has seen Maki rise to the top – here she shares with kay me her advice, influences and essentials for herself as a busy women on the go.

What’s keeping you busy these days?

My youngest son, he’s 16 years old, he recently broke both his arms while weight training – he’s got one cast off now, but he still needs a lot of help with everything from feeding to dressing, so it’s almost like having a baby again.

I also love reading historical novels and business books, but my secret is that I always have to read the final chapter first! It sounds a little strange, but I’ve always done it since I was young and I find it helps me to control my emotions. I have a tendency to empathise too strongly, and knowing how the story ends, helps me to stay in control.   

“my desire for change has come from wanting to try something new and challenge myself”

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How do you unwind on a day off?

Just last weekend my youngest daughter and I went to the movie theatre together, and we spent the whole day watching multiple films together. Just like with novels, I have to know the ending first, as otherwise I might cry out loud in the cinema! So I checked all the internet articles about those movies and was prepared for Dolly to find out about her family and knowing what our pets do when we are away during the day.

When did you decide you wanted to get into your industry?

I’ve worked in many different industries, and my desire for change has come from wanting to try something new and challenge myself. For example, with my first software job, the security was so tight I couldn’t even tell my family what I was working on – my son asked if I was a spy. That was when I decided to go into a totally different industry so I can explain better to my kids what I do when they are at day care. When I worked as a licensing and product marketing advisor, I loved working for a small company and wearing many hats, and that’s when I became fascinated with business, how the world works and how money goes around. I lived in the US for a while and worked for an international software company, but after the 2011 earthquake in Japan which directly impacted my husband’s relatives, we decided to come back to Japan to be closer to our families. All these changes happened without any stable long term planning, but all turned to be a great experience and are building blocks of where I am today.  I am not sure if I ever thought hard about which industry I would like to get into in the future, but I was and still am open to any new challenges that I will be given.

“Looking back, being a mother has helped me a lot in my professional life – I have been trained on a daily basis to be patient, open minded and always have fun”

Who has been the biggest influence on your life and why?

I married young and I’m a mother of five. As you can imagine, without my husband partnership I could have never been where I am today. He’s my biggest supporter, and he’s the best husband I could ever imagine. I couldn’t operate my daily life not even to mention my career without him.

My parents have been also a big influence to who I am. My mother was a nurse and my father was a business man travelling around the world. It was hard for the whole family for the parents to be juggling their business, travel, and family, but was also shown a great example of how it can work.  I have 2 younger sisters, but I do not think it is a coincidence that they all have a successful professional career and are working mothers.

What has been your most challenging professional experience so far?

There were many incidents and situation where people call them as challenging but to be honest I am not sure if I personally would call them challenging. I have a tendency to stay positive and optimistic, I am not sure if I can pin point any particular situation that has been extremely hard on me.

For example, when I became pregnant with my second son, my commute was about two hours each way and I had to stand in a crowded train, so I decided to find something closer to home. I registered with a temp agency while heavily pregnant, and after I had my son – when I was still in the hospital – they asked me to interview at a major software company. I had happened to wear a dark navy maternity dress so was able to interview that day – I got permission from the doctor and borrowed my husband’s belt, and I went out and got that job. Even in that situation, I did not find pregnancy or having an infant in my arms not as a “challenge” but just another element of life.  Looking back, being a mother has helped me a lot in my professional life – I have been trained on a daily basis to be patient, open minded and always have fun.

“Don’t take things too negatively and seriously, look on the positive side. We were chosen to make history”

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into your industry?

The beverage industry is quite masculine, the percentage of women was only few percent until a couple of years ago, partly due to the nature of the work – carrying heavy boxes of beverage bottles, filling vending machines – you need a lot of muscle power. But recently it’s shifted a little and now is close to getting at 10% range. A woman coming into this industry would need to be prepared that there may be times when she would be uncomfortable once in a while. Don’t take things too negatively and seriously, look on the positive side. We were chosen to make history, and there are not many places that we can do this in such mature industry.

Having said that, most likely things I mentioned are nothing particular to a specific industry.  I have opportunities to connect with leaders in other industries and they say it’s almost the same for anyone anywhere – these recommendations are applicable for being a human, nothing specific to being a female or male, or any industry in specific. I’ve moved among very different industries, from IT to beverages, but the approach and the way of thinking is almost the same anywhere.

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What attracted you to kay me?

Actually, here’s a true story: when I wore this dress [Edo Bingata] for the first time and along with day to day usual meetings I went to a doctor’s appointment that day, and he invited me to the opening party of his new clinic. I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate and meet people, so I said yes. But it was a formal event at a hotel and if I hadn’t worn this dress I probably would have hesitated or had to go home and change – but I didn’t have to worry, I was able to just say yes!

I think that’s the kind of confidence Junko Kemi was referring to when wearing kay me dresses – you don’t have to be worried about being properly dressed, you don’t need to have any second thoughts. I was able to concentrate on meetings just as a normal routine and also have a chance to be in a big official party right after that without any side concerns even when it was a last minute invitation. In that way it’s impacted my productivity and saved me time by not having to change clothes, and above all, look good while doing so.

I also use this jacket [white bolero] a lot, I wore it on a couple of business trips as I can just open my suitcase and wear it. In London I only brought this jacket with me and washed it in the hotel bathroom. I hung it up overnight and it was ready to wear the next day without any wrinkles.

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Maki’s travel essentials:

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E-reader: I love reading, so my e-reader has quickly become essential, especially on long flights. I also have a cute sticker with a photo of my youngest daughter.

Mp3 player: When I got this mini mp3 player, I handed it to my son straight away and asked him to download some music for me. It’s really special to me as it’s all songs he chose for me, and I haven’t changed any of them since then. I always listen to his playlists on trains and planes.  He has now moved out of the house and has his own career but I feel as if we are travelling together when I listen to his collection.

Folder: My assistant Makita-san prepares an amazing folder for me when I travel that are full of all the information I need at my fingertips. This one has everything about my last London trip: maps, hotel information, hard copies of travel tickets, and local recommendations too. Business trip and needing to accomplish many things in limited time is already stressful enough, little things like this add up to make the trip effective and productive or not. 

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