Turning my experience with disability into my strength.

Vol.06 Turning my experience with disability into my strength.
Yosuke Nagase | V&S Business Div., Home Entertainment&Sound Business Group, Sony Corporation

I came to Sony because I wanted a job
where I could work with music

My first encounter with Sony was as a small child, when my hobby was playing piano. I knew of Masaru Ibuka because he was friends with Shinichi Suzuki, the founder of the organization where I learned piano. But I didn't realize at that time that Ibuka-san was the founder of Sony Corporation. When I reflect on those days, I feel that Sony was destined to be a part of my future.

The actual catalyst for my joining Sony was my participating in a job fair for international students in the U.S. while I was studying for my Masters degree in Germany, and it was there that I attended a job interview with the company. I had specialized in science and wanted to be an engineer. I had also always loved music, and really hoped that one day, I would be able to work in a job that involved music in some capacity. Sony, therefore, naturally became one of the candidate companies I considered working for. Of course there were also other companies that I was interested in at that time, but Sony had a lot of group companies, including movie and music companies, which I found attractive. They provided entertainment to the world through both their hardware and software, and I felt that I, too, wanted to create uplifting products together with richly diverse people. That was the deciding factor.

In Munich, Germany, where I studied abroad

My attention to detail contributes to the customer's happiness

Once it had been confirmed that I would join Sony Corporation, my biggest fear was that I wouldn't be able to keep up in terms of my technical skills on the job. To be honest, I actually wasn't too concerned about my disability because I had faith that, as a company founded by Ibuka-san, Sony Corporation would have a fairly solid viewpoint and support structure. This was confirmed once I started actually working there - the workplace environment was extremely natural, and I was never made to feel uncomfortable because of my disability.

When I first joined the company, I worked mainly on receiver sensitivity and power supplies for radio wave systems in the Portable Navigation Device(PND) department. PNDs can be affixed to the car dashboard or carried around by the user. After this, my department was integrated, and since then I have been involved in the designing of the Walkman®. For this year's Walkman®, I have been working on two models that have a particular focus on audio quality. The Walkman is the result of Sony's passion for excellent audio, so I believe it is really worthwhile to be involved with the electrical aspect of these models. It is also a consumer-oriented product, so I feel that being able to hear directly from customers, including from those immediately around me, will be extremely motivating. It is truly gratifying when someone praises the audio quality of a product that I have strived to perfection, and you get to see first-hand how one of these products has brought happiness to that customer.

The Walkman® F series
Working on the electrical design of the Walkman® in my office

Sony is a pioneer of employing people
with disabilities

It's inevitable that a person with a disability might require some support from those around them in certain situations. For example, in my case, my disability involves my legs, so I ask for special consideration when I need it. This might mean asking for help when carrying heavy luggage or equipment, or requesting approval to use a car during business trips, depending on the distance I need to travel. However, although I am able to receive support to the fullest extent possible when I need it, that is where the differences end. In terms of working conditions and standards for evaluating performance, I am treated exactly the same as any other employee. I feel that our workplace is really neutral in this respect, and whether or not people have disability has no bearing on the company's expectation that they will fulfill their duties.

I feel that Sony is truly a leader in Japan in terms of its acceptance of people with disabilities, and moreover, in its stance on diversity. Sony is progressive because in addition to its overall system, this positive attitude is really ingrained in the minds of Sony's employees. I think there are still many organizations in Japan that feel that they need to fully care for a person with a disability if that person joins their company. Of course, we are very grateful that people feel that they need to have this duty of care, but I believe it is actually the responsibility of the person with the disability to communicate effectively to those people exactly what his or her needs may be, and to build relationships with others so that this support can be offered in a natural way. In this sense, Sony does not force its support one-sidedly upon employees with disabilities. Rather, the company and its employees naturally reach a mutual middle ground. The company's perspection is that disability is just one more facet of individuality, and that the person with the disability will actively do their best at work.

We need to think of our disability as our strength,
rather than develop a complex about it

People might encounter various difficulties as a result of their disability, but if they can accept that the disability itself is an important part of who they are, without which they would not be complete, I believe that they will not think of their disability as a barrier or develop a complex about it. On the contrary, such a person is fortunate to have the unique and valuable experience of daily challenges, but also to receive kindnesses from those around them. Depending on their attitude, this can deepen their human experience and contribute to building their compassion towards others. I believe that this can be a huge strength, both at work and at home. I am an engineer by occupation, and I believe my technical skills are highly competitive. However, the skill of communicating with others is even more important than this. In that sense, I believe that all my past experiences have been extremely useful. I think that my disability has also helped me to have a comparatively positive outlook on most things.

There are many things I would like to try my hand at in the future. Firstly, I need to gain more experience as I refine my technical skills as an engineer and increase the degree of freedom of things I can create. And even though I may never need these skills for work, I hope to continue with my favorite music, playing the piano or singing when I have leisure time. Looking into the future a little further, I feel that I would like to work in the field of human health. This is borne from my acute awareness of how fortunate I am to be able to continue working on a daily basis, and from the keen awareness of health that I have gained through having a disability.

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