A Foundation for the Future: The kyu Maru Program, Part 2

Over the summer we introduced you to Masako and Peihwa as they embarked upon the beginning of their journey in the kyu Maru talent exchange program.

Peihwa was settling into SYPartners’ brand-new space in New York, while Masako was getting used to the “fast and furious” pace of the creative teams at Sid Lee Toronto.

All good things must come to an end, as they say, and now that Peihwa and Masako have concluded their stints in North America, we caught up with them to hear their reflections.

What’s something you will take away from your time in the program and apply to your work in Tokyo?

Masako (SL) – Sharing with my colleagues about the different work/life balance is something that I want to take away from my stay. I also learned so much from the whole experience: how people were collaborating and sharing work in teams; the organizational structure; time management; how to leverage each person’s expertise; the IT system; the onboarding system; agency events, etc… Needless to say, although the standards and culture are different between Toronto and Tokyo, I gained a lot of tips that would be beneficial to bring back.

Peihwa (SYP) – At SYP, I have seen how important rituals are to a company’s culture and creativity. From Moment of Truth (an exercise where you have various storytellers “on stage,” and the audience has to identify which one is telling a lie) to UnWINEd (all SYPeas sharing news and shut-outs around a drink on Thursday afternoons), I feel inspired to prototype something new and fun for my team in Tokyo.

What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

Masako (SL) – The “work hard, play hard” spirit and environment influenced me. I also admired the positive atmosphere: It is such an important mindset especially when you are constantly creating something with a team. I also loved that people are passionate about their work but also keep a work/life balance, and that they are always willing to collaborate and be helpful with each other.

Peihwa (SYP) – Don’t be precious with your ideas. Make something quickly, share it with others and work on improving it. I have been familiar with the notion of prototyping but it is at SYP that I have witnessed – for the first time concretely – its real propulsive power.

What did you have to change (if anything) about your initial approach to adapting to your office?

Masako (SL) – Not just being confused with the difference in environments, but learning to “enjoy” the difference. From the new communication systems to the new work flow to the different ways of presenting ideas, all these differences were challenging at first but they were the most rewarding part when I look back. In that spirit, I thought that learning about the differences between Canada and Japan might be interesting for people in Sid Lee, so I started introducing a few cases from Japan.

It was also funny to realize that there were so many things in common, too. Overall, I learned that if I tried my best using all my skills and effort, people will understand my ideas and find out more about myself.

Peihwa (SYP) – By reminding myself I eventually had to go back to Tokyo, I felt the need to slowly shift my point of view from that of an “adopted insider” to one of an “engaged outsider.” This opened up for me a whole new space for understanding SYP.

What was the most enjoyable part of working at your company?

 Masako (SL) – Collaborating with the team and playing around with ideas were like speaking and understanding each other in the same “creative” language. I was surprised by how much we could share and understand each other; it was a special experience for me.

Also, getting to know and being part of the Sid Lee family was an honor and so much fun. The overnight summer party, volleyball and baseball games, and other social activities…I had such a great time. I will miss people’s laughing voices and saying, “See you tomorrow!”

Peihwa (SYP) – Seeing empathy in action. Empathy permeates the way teams and individuals think, design, and talk (to clients or to each other) at SYP and it happens with such ease and elegance. Talking to SYPeas and learning about their stories pre-SYP and their lives outside of office was also something I really enjoyed!

What advice do you have for future participants of kyu Maru?

Masako (SL) – Don’t be shy. Talk about yourself. Shout out what you need, what you want to know. Then, people will know about you more and will help you. It is good to know that all the relationships that you have built there will last and continue when you go back. Also, be brave and dive into the Sid Lee culture and Torontonian’s everyday life! Enjoy the agency events, communicate with people, walk around the city, see how people live, shop, eat, etc. Knowing the market and knowing the people will help you understand the target audience and ultimately help your ideation.

Peihwa (SYP) – Live the ambiguous and the uncomfortable with determination and lightness. Also, imagine you are starting a long-term relationship with the host company. It’s ok that every day is not (that) sexy. Build over time, beyond the program.

Photo courtesy of Masako S.