Recently, I was asked to share my thoughts on the 20th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Chubu Chapter. It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed so quickly. My involvement with the organization actually dates back 30 years to the start of the American Business Community of Nagoya (ABCN), which was formed to bring a bit of the American culture, in particular the business culture, to Nagoya, Japan.
In the U.S., many American businesses support their local communities through activities like walkathons and other charitable events. I wanted to introduce that concept to Nagoya, so I chaired a committee that organized the first Chubu Walkathon. Now, 30 years later, the membership has grown, the organization has become more professional, and the Walkathon has become an annual international charity festival that raises in excess of $7 million yen per year. When the ABCN merged with the ACCJ, we expanded on a national level.
When considering my involvement over the years, I can’t help but focus on the networking and mentorship opportunities it has afforded me. I encourage future leaders and members of ACCJ, or in fact any civic organization, to take full advantage of these networking opportunities. It has been my experience that members sincerely want to help each other, and when they offer advice or assistance, they genuinely mean what they say.
Early in my career, as a foreigner working and living in Nagoya, I always felt a bit isolated and like an imposter who did not quite fit in. If it weren’t for the advice and mentoring that I received as part of the ABCN/ACCJ, I don’t think I would be where I am today. I was encouraged to join committees and to speak up and share my ideas. I learned that as a committee member, it was my responsibility to contribute my ideas to the discussion without worrying about being right or wrong. This was wonderful advice that I remember to this day.
The mentoring I received through this organization has been meaningful and ongoing, and I truly appreciate each and every one of my mentors. I have always said that when you meet individuals who have the type of success and knowledge you are looking for, try and get into their orbit. The best way to do just that is to participate in civic and community activities and be present.
My experience with ABCN/ACCJ not only taught me the value of being mentored, but also how to be a good mentor. It taught me the importance of sharing what I have learned and passing that knowledge on to others. I take this very seriously and would advise future leaders and members to find mentors and then mentor others in return. Giving back is one of the most critical parts of our mission and will only enhance the US-Japan relationship we strive to develop.