The exams we deliver at Pearson VUE have a direct and positive impact on communities around the globe, driving progress and helping our clients deliver on the promise of their industries. In this series, we’re taking a deeper look at the ways we make that happen, by speaking to people from around our business who are making a lasting impact in a particular area of assessments.
We speak to Tetsu Ikeda, Vice President of Pearson VUE in Japan and South Korea. Fluent in multiple languages thanks in part to having lived in five countries on four continents, Tetsu enjoys exploring new territories, understanding different cultures, and working with people far from his base in Tokyo. An ever-avid explorer, Tetsu faces all challenges head-on and with a firm resolve to always learn.
Q. Tetsu, we’d love to learn more about you. Could you please tell us about yourself? What drives and inspires you?
I love to explore foreign territories, communicate and work with people I would not have met if I stayed in my comfort zone, try new things, and learn by doing. I have worked in various industries, including international trading, private equity investment, management consulting, medical device/training, publishing, and IT-based solutions. I have also held various roles, such as sales, marketing, operations, and finance. Each of these were an expedition, and they are all a part of a life-long exploratory journey for me. The excitement of discoveries drives me, and people who make the impossible possible inspire me.
Q. Briefly describe your typical day from when you get up to when you go to sleep?
When I get up and have time, I start the day by doing some light exercises, typically some core muscle training and some stretching. Since the pandemic started, I find it important to take some extra care of the body and mind to keep myself sane and healthy. I have also noticed that I need to put in extra effort to keep myself fit as I get older! After that I check and respond to emails, chat online with team members, and have meetings – mostly online these days – with colleagues and clients.
My typical day really depends on my calendar. I have team meetings scheduled regularly, which is extremely important as it ensures people are communicating and stay in sync. This is especially needed now that many of us work remotely under the hybrid workplace arrangement.
When I go to bed depends on when I have meetings, as I have some meetings in the evenings and sometimes late at night. It is an inevitable part of working as a part of global team.
Q. What about your region, in terms of opportunities or advancements, excites you?
I believe that the changes in Asian societies and economies, including an aging population, increasing diversity of workers, growth of the digital economy and advancements in technologies, have led to the need for significant changes in the way things are organized and done, including how assessments are administered. These changes and emerging needs excite me.
Q. Your role oversees a strategically important market. How do you define your leadership style, and how does it help achieve business objectives?
Having worked in various industries and in diverse business situations, I consider it important to adjust my leadership style to the specific situation and environment the business is in.
A leader should not be a one-trick pony; I listen to people, I force myself to be open to seemingly foreign ideas, I take time to consider, and I have the courage to admit a mistake or misjudgement and change course. I am willing to lead with a clearly articulated vision if it is the best way considering the situation, but at the same time I don’t hesitate to play the role of servant leadership to enable the team, if the situation necessitates. Owing to the ever-changing business environment of this market I believe flexibility is and will continue to be important for my role.
Q. Can you share any past challenges that you learned from and that helped you in your career growth?
I have faced many challenges, difficult times, and failures, especially in the early part of my career (though I still do), but such experiences have always helped me learn and grow.
One of the businesses I oversaw at a trading company produced inorganic chemical products. In cost negotiations with one of our suppliers I successfully achieved a larger profit, however, following this the supplier communicated that they wanted to terminate the business relationship. We were able to save the relationship, but I realized the importance of building a trusted and win-win relationship with all stakeholders.
On another occasion when I was in a fishery business based in Spain, two of my Japanese colleagues passed away while at work. As the only member of the team who could speak both Japanese and Spanish, I had to coordinate with their bereaved family members, who had to come and make the special arrangements to send them back to Japan. This was when I realized what it takes, in the heaviest way, to be responsible for managing people. This also taught me to always consider all the risks, understand the worst-case scenario, and be prepared for them.
While working in private equity investment, one of the projects I managed was a failing trading company. I supported their efforts to create a new business while implementing a new financing scheme to avoid bankruptcy. Despite my efforts, the company had to eventually be sold in parts.
This taught me that if I wanted to become a truly capable management talent, I needed to have both knowledge and experience in all aspects of business management. This led me to do my business education in the US and UK, to work at a management consulting firm, and to intentionally craft my career to work in various roles and industries.
Q. What hobbies / activities do you enjoy, and how do you like to unwind?
I love to spend time outdoors and partake in sporting activities. I currently enjoy surfing, snowboarding, and hiking on weekends. I used to scuba dive, sea kayak, sail, and windsurf, but I cannot find sufficient time to continue to do all of them! On long holidays, I try to visit foreign countries, do some outdoor activities, try local foods, and interact with the locals. I miss the world before the pandemic.
Q. And finally, is there anything you are not good at, or that you still want to learn?
My father worked for Fujitsu, a Japanese computer manufacturer, and as a teenager I used to do some programming to make video games to play. I stopped doing so after a while, as I picked up new hobbies and became worried if I was becoming too “nerdy” (I do not remember if there was such word back then).
I sometimes wonder what I would have been able do if I continued to learn programming, especially with today’s technologies. It would be interesting to learn code again, and explore what I can make, but first I need to consider how I can secure time without being too anti-social. :)