Tell us about your journey to become the President and COO of Wells Vehicle Electronics?
Initially, I wanted to become an astronaut. So, after graduating from Hokkaido University in Japan with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, I came to the U.S. and earned my Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Immediately after graduation, I began working at NGK-USA in Wixom, Michigan, where I served in multiple management roles in both the U.S. and Japan. In 2017 I returned to the U.S. as the Director of Corporate Strategy & Administration and served as the VP of Corporate Strategy & Administration before being named the President of Wells Vehicle Electronics.
You’ve been in your current role with Wells for a little less than one year now. What has surprised you most, challenged you and excites you about the future?
What has surprised me most since joining Wells is how professional, dedicated and resilient the people here are. After going through several different external forces – mergers and acquisitions, different leaders, economic fluctuations – the sense of professionalism, dedication and resilience that the people at Wells have is incredible. I think that may have a lot to do with being based in the Midwestern United States, where people are known to be hard-working, honest and pure. The biggest asset that Wells or any company has, is people. We have great people and when you have great people, you have nothing to worry about.
In terms of what I find most challenging in my role at Wells, it is explaining the culture here to our global headquarters – NGK Japan – and encouraging them to accept it. In most mergers and acquisitions, usually, the purchaser imposes their policies, strategies, values and culture on the company acquired. But Wells is an entirely different organization in terms of their thinking, perspective, business model and culture.
When I look at the future, I’m excited about what we’re doing to revitalize a nearly 120-year-old company. We’re celebrating our differences and using them to drive current and future success, all while encouraging our global leadership team to embrace that.
When you think about Wells Engineered Products, what is the first word that comes to mind and why?
Collaborative. I guess it’s the culture of Wells in general, but the people here are just nice, friendly, honest and pure. They have the mindset to genuinely want to help customers, and they work with customers to help them resolve their issues. It’s the spirit of wanting to work with customers, not just for them. That spirit is exceptionally present, and the customers not only feel it, but they also want to be a part of it.
What do you see as the value of Wells Engineered Products for OE manufacturers?
When working with Wells Engineered Products, the value that our customers receive is in customized products and partnership. We understand that customers are looking to not only solve their problems but for partners to grow business together. Because of our culture, we offer a more personalized experience, serving customers who share our values of collaboration, mutual success and win-win relationships.
Before engaging with Wells Engineered Products, what are the elements that customers need to know and provide to be successful?
I want our customers to know our core values – collaboration, mutual success and win-win. If everyone doesn’t have those feelings going in, it’s not sustainable. At Wells, we don’t just do any business, we do business only if it’s a win-win. We want it to be a fair partnership.
What do you believe Wells Engineered Products does exceptionally well?
The Wells Engineered Products team is customer-focused. They listen to customers fully, apply their knowledge to meet their unique needs, and give a sincere and focused response. Our engineering team can transform concepts to actual products. They design, test, validate and prototype everything here in Fond du Lac, which is impressive. This makes the Engineered Products team an innovator for the entire Wells organization.
Is there anything that you look forward to changing to help Wells Engineered Products achieve additional growth and success?
The people who make up the Wells Engineered Products group have an extraordinary skill set (understanding how things work and actualizing concepts and products) that involves many processes (physics and engineering) and combining technologies with manufacturing. All of this knowledge resides in Fond du Lac, WI, and I believe that this knowledge and expertise needs to be shared with the entire NGK organization. So, I look forward to developing a global training program for young engineers from all over the world, allowing them to work with the people here and go through the entire process of developing and launching new products. My vision is to have the Wells Engineered Products team serve as a cradle of innovation and engineering careers, by developing a human asset development program for NGK on a global level, creating opportunities for young engineers all over the world right here in Fond du Lac.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you wish to pass along to others?
Always be yourself. Listen to and follow your heart, and be honest with yourself. One thing I focus on all of the time is to make myself feel comfortable. If I’m not feeling happy or comfortable, I can’t make other people feel great. So, my most important responsibility as the president of Wells is to always make myself happy and comfortable and have fun.
What does the future of Wells Engineered Products look like to you?
In looking at the future, the ever-changing vehicle and industrial landscape, creating new products is what our customers expect of us. Until recently, the scope of our Engineered Products group was limited to experience and a previous focus on internal combustion engines only. However, we’ve taken significant steps to design and produce new products that are independent from internal combustion engines, thanks to the Wells mindset, culture and willingness to take risks. As a result, the Wells Engineered Products team is blazing the trail in the areas of new business development and new product creation.