discovering japan

or, in truth, rediscovering it.

years ago when i was working for the world’s then-largest online service, i had the privilege of working in the international division. our company had joint ventures in several nations (and launched still others while i was on staff.) i had been restructured from my other position in the company, and i was exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to continue contributing toward the company in this young division. somewhere along the line, i believe i was told that my job was essentially paid for by our joint venture with japan, which of course made me especially grateful and sensitive to those folks out in a wildly-different time zone.

and it really wasn’t easy working as a product manager in this realm, to be sure.  our US counterparts regularly ignored our requests for products and actually belittled us to our faces. they were the 1000-pound gorilla to our small but feisty group. to fight the gorilla, we often had to resort to guerilla product marketing/management tactics in order to serve our clients. hell,  my then-boss (and beloved BFF) and i did not have a computer on which to load the japanese software — you needed to have a japanese operating system in order to use the japanese software. so we did what any two enterprising girls would do — we somehow located a forgotten computer through our snooping, er, research methods, liberated it stealthily, and brought it into my office, where we loaded the software. it seems silly now — we needed that machine in order to test our products and see how things worked. but as the rodney dangerfields of the company, we just didn’t get any respect.

(no respect, i should add, save for one US product manager, who to this day is my friend and who actually worked to help us, probably to his occupational detriment. imagine that — we all worked for the same company, and he took it to heart to mean that we should work together. what a revolutionary idea!)

i ascertained so many nuanced things from my interactions with my japanese counterparts. it wasn’t always easy being on conference calls either very early in the morning or late at night; (i’m sure it wasn’t easy for them, either!) i learned, for example, that just because someone there says yes to you does not necessarily mean that he or she is agreeing with you; rather, it just means that you’ve been heard.  i’ve since learned to truly pay attention to people when i’m interacting with them; there’s more going on there than one might expect.

anyway, i loved working with all the folks overseas; i hope they realize that we really tried our very best for them against some absurd conditions. i continue to be pals with some of my UK, canadian, and japanese counterparts.  and i’m worry about my friends in japan. sure, they’re mostly in tokyo — but the tales of the city closed up, with no food on the shelves and aftershocks and radiation makes me want to go and airlift everyone out of all of the affected areas. we’ve already given money, but the helplessness i feel all of the way around the world makes me cry daily. i want to do more. i want to help more. i want to somehow make the world safer for them and for everyone.

and i want them to know how amazed i am by what i see, how astounded all of us in america are. i see a nation of very courageous people who are just doing the best they can under horrific circumstances. there are super-heroics going on at the nuclear plants, where people are risking their very lives in order to save their countrymen and the world. i am awe-struck. would people be like that here under such conditions? i don’t know, but i hope so.

but i hope people in japan know that people in america are with them. for the people of japan are surely in our hearts.

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