An avuncular mentorship

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Mr. N was known in the company as a difficult person. The men suspected Mr. N must be hiding critical information from the HQ for his gain. My impression was that Mr. N distrusted the men in HQ. He had been the head of the European business for over a decade, and he grew the profit from negative to positive growth for consecutive years. In the meantime, the men joined the company after its success became solid and advanced themselves by ingratiation and clan mentality.

Mr. N didn’t have friends among the men but instead picked disciples from the youths. Mr. Yoshida’s R&D liaison team members were all in their early 30s, and some of them had been working with Mr. N since they joined the company as new graduates. Mr. N’s own staff in the European offices worked for him for years. To me, they seemed “loyal” to Mr. N.

Since the project started, I spoke with Mr. N more frequently. He treated me with 50% professional austerity and the other half with avuncular humor. It gave me a comfort of familiarity—Mr. Matsuoka’s tease at my seriousness and his generous support while I worked at Kubo. What they had in common was that they provided a kind of energy field in which I could stretch myself and take risks.

Mr. N would tell me, “you will have better opportunities overseas, say, if you worked under me. in the HQ, they’d never give chances to women.” It had some truths because the European offices had a higher proportion of female directors and managers compared to a meager percentage in the HQ. He talked about Lila, the operation manager, a feisty, middle-aged polyglot. He said, “she didn’t know much about business when she joined as an operation coordinator, but I kept her beside me and taught her from the ABCs. Now she is the manager I can put my trust on.” Mr. N talked similarly about some male managers with whom he had father-and-son-like relationships. Mr. N had already paid me the kind of attention I needed from my mentor. I had already lost my great mentor, Mr. Saito, and although Mr. Hirao was a good boss, his attention was all over the place. I needed a good mentor, and I was hoping Mr. N will provide the role.

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