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Fostering the Next Generation of Engineers and Reforming the Way We Work

Towards fostering the next generation of engineers, and reforming the way we work

The CTC Group aims to develop human resources with high market value towards the enhancement of its total IT service capabilities. In recent times, expectations are being placed on companies to deal with social issues such as work-life balance and diversity in the workplace. Moving forward under these conditions, how should CTC go about fostering the next generation of engineers equipped with the specialist expertise and broad range of techniques and skills required?
We invited Kumi Fujisawa, representative for the think tank SophiaBank, as an outside expert to hold a discussion with Yasuhiko Terada, General Manager of our Human Resources Management & General Affairs Division and three senior engineers representing CTC.

What we need are engineers who are both specialists and generalists in one

TERADA : : For the CTC Group, it is the presence of our excellent engineers that can appeal to clients more about our technological capabilities than any advertisement or promotional campaign. The intention behind our creation-in April 2014-of new personnel class system for high-level engineers, such as Principals and Senior Executive Engineers, was not only to provide appropriate treatment for our expert personnel, but also to appeal to our clients about the existence of our highly skilled engineers in a more easy-to-understand form. For junior and mid-career engineers, too, these senior engineers should represent a major target to aim towards in terms of envisaging their own future career plans.

FUJISAWA : And that's why we've had three senior engineers from amongst the elite ranks of those Principals and Senior Executive Engineers participate in this discussion with us today, isn't it? In the IT industry in recent times, attention is gathering around "full-stack engineers" equipped with a broad range of technical skills. How do you all see the issues in developing human resources for the future?

NAKAI : I think that one of the factors behind the attention being directed towards full-stack engineers is the reaction to the jobs of IT engineers becoming too finally compartmentalized. In my view, until around the 1990s it wasn't unusual for a single engineer to be involved totally in all stages of development; from building the basic platform/infrastructure to application development. But from around the year 2000 onwards, as systems became larger in scale and more complex, the segmentation and specialization of different areas of technology-such as infrastructure, networks, middleware and applications?began to progress at a rapid pace.

NISHIZAKI : With the appearance of new technologies such as cloud computing and virtualization, which bridge multiple fields of specialization, the qualities being demanded of engineers are beginning to change once again. It is now being demanded that, at the same time as gaining a deep understanding of certain technologies as a specialist, each individual engineer must also interconnect closely with other engineers in a broad range of fields, and have the ability to integrate new technologies and services.

NAKAI : As a result of the compartmentalization of technologies, in recent times many engineers have a tendency to draw a line and say "this is as far as my area of specialty goes." But I think that if engineers continue to confine themselves to specialist areas in this way, they will eventually find themselves out of a job. While keeping a central focus on their own area of specialism, it is important for them to have the proper attitude of expanding their abilities to surrounding technical fields and business areas.

TERADA : In the Human Resources Management & General Affairs Division, too, we believe that in the future engineers will be required to have the qualities of both a specialist and a generalist at the same time, rather than being just one or the other.

ISHIKAWA : Even when you are responsible for a limited part of a system, in a specific area of technology, the important thing as an engineer is stay constantly aware of what kind of function or role the part of the development that you are responsible for fulfills in terms of the system as a whole and, going further still, what kind of meaning or significance it has with regard to wider society. In order to create solutions that will bring new value to society, it is important to have the stance of constantly considering what kind of possibilities may lie ahead of current technologies. I feel that there is a need for the CTC Group to train and develop engineers with that kind of imagination.

NISHIZAKI : Ultimately, what will be demanded of engineers is their capacity as human beings. Regardless of whether you're working as an engineer or a sales representative, it is essential to properly recognize the role of your own particular job in terms of the whole, and to work with hospitality towards others. Because, no matter how high the level of your specialist abilities may be, if you are unable to make effective use of them in your interactions with other project members and with clients then those abilities are meaningless.

Creating an environment in which each and every individual can grow and develop as an engineer

FUJISAWA : What kind of efforts are you making to train those kinds of engineers?

TERADA : We've established a committee for the enhancement of our engineering capabilities, and are discussing policies for training engineers. More specifically, we conduct interviews with our employees in each department on a yearly basis to discuss planning their career paths and raising their skill levels. Based on these discussions, we then formulate our annual training plans for individual engineers.

NAKAI : For example, in the case of a network engineer, we set targets for this year such as "to deepen their understanding of network technologies and obtain a new qualification," or "to expand their area of specialism by learning about other technologies such as servers and databases."

TERADA : We have opened an Advanced Technology Lab, and established an environment in which our engineers can exchange information and actually learn hands-on about the latest technologies, including cloud and mobile technologies. As far as selective training programs, we also conduct practical OJT (On Job Training) in which engineers identify actual issues in the workplace and provide coaching and guidance; and run training programs in which engineers can experience mock virtual system building projects, under environments that differ from their everyday working environments.

FUJISAWA : When I imagine IT engineers, I have the impression that it's an extremely busy job. Can your engineers secure sufficient time for training and personal development?

Manabu Nishizaki

Manabu Nishizaki
General Manager, Products & Maintenance Support Business Division Senior Executive Engineer

NISHIZAKI : Because each of our engineers has to handle their own client accounts, it is necessary and unavoidable for them to give priority to the needs of their clients; so I think that it's not easy for them to find time. But if the engineers themselves feel that they are being "made to do it" then we cannot expect to see positive results. I think that it's necessary to support them systematically while at the same time working to increase the motivation and initiative of each and every engineer towards raising their own skill levels.

TERADA : Of course, participation in in-house training and external seminars is important, but I think that the question of to what extent we recognize time for day-to-day personal development as a part of our engineers' work duties will also become a major issue. Moving forward, in consultation with managers in each department, I would like us to create schemes and achieve an organizational culture that enables engineers to make enough time for increasing their skill levels.

CTC's basic way of thinking with regard to HR development

CTC's basic way of thinking with regard to HR development

ISHIKAWA : I think that in the end, it is difficult to grow and develop as an engineer unless you have a certain amount of room to breathe, both in terms of time and mentally; because when you are fully occupied with just managing the job that is right in front of you, you can't get yourself into the attitude where you want to challenge yourself to new things.

FUJISAWA : That kind of mental freedom also gives birth to the power of imagination that is demanded of engineers, doesn't it?

Advancing reforms of attitude and awareness with regard to the way we work, through the encouragement of a morning-focused working system

Kumi Fujisawa

Kumi Fujisawa
SophiaBank Representative (Vice President)
Visiting Professor, Hosei University Business School

FUJISAWA : I've heard that you are encouraging a morning-focused working system. Would I be right in my understanding that that is one initiative for creating more leeway in your work?

TERADA : we began encouraging morning-focused work from December 2013, as an attempt to encourage reform in the attitudes and awareness of our employees towards the way they work. While on one hand we pay incentives for starting work early in the morning before 9 AM, we also turn the lights off in each of our offices one time at 8 PM at night, and employees working overtime after 8 PM must submit an application with details of the work they will be doing and so on.

FUJISAWA : Since in the IT industry late-night overtime has come to be taken for granted, it really is very groundbreaking attempt. What kind of effects have you seen since the system was introduced?

NAKAI : The amount of late night overtime has actually reduced quite significantly. It is also popular amongst our employees. In a questionnaire, employees answered that they had become able to modulate the pace of their work, and that they have become able to concentrate and focus their efforts into work in a short period of time.

NISHIZAKI : Also, by checking the content of the overtime applications, we have become able to gain a more detailed understanding of actual work conditions in our divisions as a whole than ever before.

FUJISAWA : By doing so, if we find that excessive burden is being placed on the specific project member, we can provide them with organizational support.

Yasuhiko Terada

Yasuhiko Terada
Executive Officer
General Manager, Human Resources Management & General Affairs Division

TERADA : The number of people actually doing morning-focused work is still not that many. The biggest beneficial effect is that the introduction of the scheme has given each and every employee the impetus to think about how they use their time at work.

NAKAI : I think that managers, too, have become more strongly aware of how the subordinates are using their time than they had until now.

TERADA : Through reforms such as this in the way we work, we are seeking to improve our engineers' productivity; and we want to link this not only to creating more leeway for them in terms of time and mental stress but also to improving the quality of our work and increasing customer satisfaction.

Accelerating diversity towards the age of global competition

FUJISAWA : As the problem of Japan's declining birthrate becomes increasingly more severe, the promotion of active roles for women is becoming a major social issue. How is CTC working to utilize the abilities of women and to develop their careers?

TERADA : While people shout about utilizing the abilities of women, if we look at the statistics, in actual reality the number of women in management roles in the IT industry is declining. Until now the CTC Group had been unable to produce any significant achievements with regard to utilizing the abilities of female employees. But now we are finally starting to see female employees who have experienced multiple periods of maternity and childcare leave becoming managers. While the number of such employees is still small, I would like for these women to become mentors who will listen to the concerns of young and mid-career female employees and help them to paint a picture of their future careers. Of course, we in the Human Resources Management & General Affairs Division, too, intend to provide support by working to create workplace environment and various support schemes that will make it easier for women to take an active role.

FUJISAWA : Aside from the declining birthrate there are other problems behind the fact that advances in diversity, including the empowerment of women, are being demanded. For example, I think one problem is that if the business workplace becomes entirely populated by Japanese men, it becomes more difficult for innovation to take place. What do you think?

Tomoyuki Ishikawa

Tomoyuki Ishikawa
General Manager, Nuclear Power & Engineering Department
Principal

ISHIKAWA : Yes, I feel that too. Recently my work took me to Europe. At European firms there are a diverse range of people of various different nationalities all working together, regardless of their gender. It is a continent, and I think that because of that historically many people could interact freely across the land. But there they just take it for granted.

TERADA : Within the CTC Group, too, in Singapore and Malaysia, roughly half of our employees are female, and over half of the sales manager positions are occupied by women. In the future, through the energization of personnel exchanges between group companies, our organization and corporate culture in Japan should change too.

ISHIKAWA : Yes. I think that unless we gather together capable human resources from around the world, regardless of gender or nationality, we will find ourselves unable to win against global competition.

Activities to teach the children of the next generation the correct way to approach computers

FUJISAWA : From listening to what you have all had to say today, I have understood that the work of engineers and the qualities demanded of them in the IT industry is beginning to change significantly. In terms of the Japanese government's growth strategies, too, the government is now considering initiatives such as introducing programming education at elementary schools for the children who will be responsible for the next generation.

Satoru Nakai

Satoru Nakai
Assistant to COO, Telecommunication Group
Senior Executive Engineer

NAKAI : At the time when we first laid our hands on a computer, you started by writing your own program to make the computer run. Today, you can buy a computer or tablet and enjoy all kinds of apps and services right off the bat.

ISHIKAWA : For the young people and children of today, PCs are already completed, finished items. So their attitude in the way they treat them is always passive, and they always accept the results produced by computers as correct information, without ever doubting them. If they had the experience of writing programs and making computers work for themselves, they could understand first-hand that there is no such thing as a perfect program, and that computers make errors too. This would equip with the attitude of thinking whether or not the answer being produced by the computer is really correct or not.

FUJISAWA : You mean that rather than just the actual programming skills themselves, children learning the basic way of approaching and thinking about information technology from a young age is what leads to improved computer literacy. As one of the leading companies in the industry, I would like CTC to support the education of children in such ways as that.

Details of Participating Members

CTC

Yasuhiko Terada

Yasuhiko Terada

Executive Officer

General Manager, Human Resources Management & General Affairs Division Beginning as General Manager of the Engineering Solutions Sales Department, and then working later as Sales and General Manager for manufacturing-type systems, Mr. Terada was appointed as an executive officer in 2004. Despite having no prior HR department experience, following the wishes of top-level management for him to create new personnel and education/training systems from a workplace-level perspective, he has held the role of General Manager of CTC's Human Resources Management & General Affairs Division since April 2013.

Tomoyuki Ishikawa

Tomoyuki Ishikawa

General Manager, Nuclear Power & Engineering Department
Principal

Since joining the company, Mr. Ishikawa has mainly been responsible for behavioral analysis work with radioactive rays. He currently provides disaster prevention related consulting and engineering services, including safety assessments for earthquake-resistant structures, severe accidents, and the impact of earthquakes and tsunamis, etc., in the atomic energy field. He is also active at atomic energy-related academic conferences and committees as a leading expert in analysis technology for that field. He is one of CTC's two Principal engineers.

Satoru Nakai

Satoru Nakai

Assistant to COO, Telecommunication Group
Senior Executive Engineer

After working in the Server Systems Promotion Department, in 2000 Mr. Nakai transferred to the Telecommunication Systems Group. He was appointed General Manager in 2001. He has an extensive track record in project management and troubleshooting, particularly for medium to large-scale system building, as a supervisor for infrastructure building for major telecommunications carriers and service-type systems development. He became a Senior Executive Engineer in April 2014.

Manabu Nishizaki

Manabu Nishizaki

General Manager, Products & Maintenance Support Business Division
Senior Executive Engineer

Mr. Nishizaki is highly knowledgeable of the business strategies of major core vendors and the latest IT technology trends. He has vast experience and an extensive track record in marketing and technology support, with a primary focus on IT infrastructure-type products and technologies; particularly servers, storage devices and networks. He became a Senior Executive Engineer in April 2014.

Outside Expert

Kumi Fujisawa

Kumi Fujisawa

SophiaBank Representative (Vice President)
Visiting Professor, Hosei University Business School

Ms. Fujisawa has extensive knowledge of economics and business management. She is currently engaged in activities to develop new social projects through the collaboration of traditional and Internet media. She also serves in numerous public roles in an official capacity, as a member of the Information and Communications Council and the Cabinet Office's New IT Strategy Meeting Expert Assessment Committee among others.

  • Data and names of organizations and job titles, etc., in this article were correct at the time of writing in July, 2014.
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