|Tokyo Institute of Technology|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Associate Professor in Japan
A Yorkie living and working long-term in higher education in Tokyo, Japan
What I do
I teach students of Engineering and Science (Japanese and non-Japanese) Sociology and the Social Studies of Science and Technology. All my teaching is done in English.
I also research on a broad range of topics, often with engineers, conducting user-studies of new prototype computing systems.
Skills I use and how I developed them
I use communication skills in teaching, along with planning and project-management skills to create lectures, seminars and workshops. In research I need these same skills, with the additional requirement of some Japanese, interviewing and observation skills.
What I like most
Interacting with people from very different disciplines and backgrounds, working on projects that involve innovative technology in a hi-tech country.
What I like least
Long meandering meetings. Any research or business work in Japan will involve them and they take some getting used to.
What surprised me most
Students at prestigious universities in Japan tend to be highly-motivated but often need coaxing to give opinions - very different to the discursive atmosphere in the department where I studied at York! A pleasant surprise is how there is a growing desire across institutions to engage students and researchers more, which is a good opportunity for those who have skills in this area.
My career goals when I graduated
I wanted to continue my research and teaching. The deeper goal was to engage people the way I was engaged with my discipline when I was at university. My goals widened after I moved to Japan to focus more on the latter at first (and now back with the former as well).
My career history
At the end of my PhD I found a post-doc research-only position at a research institute in Tokyo.
While working I began teaching part-time as adjunct lecturers at various universities, eventually taking essentially an administrative role at one and then a limited-term, then tenured position.
What has helped my career to progress
Flexibility. Being willing to work with others on research projects that initially were not closely related to my focus, but finding a great deal of interest in them after starting.
How my studies have helped my career
The tutoring work I did at York during my PhD was invaluable as initial training to teach at university level. The PhD research process gave me a foundation of research skills that were directly transferable to other research projects.
The content of my discipline (Sociology) that I studied has given me an insight into different groups and interactions, which is directly applicable to working with different cultures with respect.
My advice to students considering work
Try to take note of all the skills you pick up during your studies, not just the direct content of your courses. Ultimately these will be valuable for employers (perhaps over the actual content!)
My advice about working in my industry
Do think hard about whether you want to work in education or research or in private business. Work in universities is very competitive, long hours are necessary and it is increasingly difficult to get great security of job, but the intellectual rewards are often great as are the rewards of teaching.
Japan is a fascinating country and universities are very interested in internationalisation, which means opportunities are growing. Working in education or research will be possible without Japanese ability (depending on your field), but I recommend you make efforts to study as it would make life here far more comfortable and allow you to interact better with your colleagues and friends.
If you like the look of Tom’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Tom a message to find out more about their career journey.