Diversity & Inclusion

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PEOPLE PEOPLE index Vol.14 Discoveries through my new endeavor from Sweden to Japan Jeanna Kimbré | Global Head of Creative Product Design SOMC

  • Life in Sweden with family

Introducing my family – family of three transferred from Sweden to Japan –


I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden with my mother, father and sister. My parents were real equal partners, sharing the workload so that they cold both achieve their passions and raise us.
Now I am working at Sony Mobile Communication as a designer, and living with my husband and daughter in Tokyo for 2 years. Husband Kristian, is a Photographer that works at Malmö Art Academy. He heads up the photo studio and lab and supports all the students to be able to achieve their creative dreams. He is now the devoted caretaker for daughter Alva. He is also working as a freelance photographer and filmmaker when time allows.
Alva is now 3 years old and well on her way to be trilingual and seems very happy to conquer and explore life!
Fortunately both my husband and daughter love both the city of Tokyo, travelling in Japan, the food and the Japanese people.
Being in Japan is extremely exciting and inspirational both for me as a designer and for my husband as a photographer.

Working in Japan is a tremendous chance and an adventure for me and my family


I loved my job and got the offer to do it in Japan, it seemed like a great opportunity for me.
We had already decided before that my husband would take paternal leave when I started working, so that made the timing good.
"Culture shock"- we have both lived abroad before and anticipated this would be a bit more significant in Japan. The long office hours were one big thing we discussed. Additionally I knew I would have to travel quite a lot. Especially when you bring your family to a new country it is easy for your partner to feel alone.
We also discussed the implications of having no extended family to back you up for example when husband and daughter both are sick and I would be abroad.
We also agreed that the country was inspiring and that this would give us a chance for an adventure as a family. I believe this is true and that we are even more close-knit as a couple and family today.

Meeting with great friends


We reasoned that for our daughter timing was good. She had not started daycare and she had not started to speak. So we figured her integration would be quite smooth as long as one of us was with her most of the time.
We were both equally adamant that we did not want to socialize only with other foreigners. This took quite a lot of effort but we have met some amazing Japanese friends that we love to hang out with.

  • Life in Japan

Child rearing with my husband, difficulty of raising a child and working in Japan


Kristian encountered the difficulty of being the sole caretaker suddenly without a transition period as I went directly from maternity leave to us moving to Japan.
Additionally we had hoped that he could easily integrate and meet other parents in the park and playschool. As it turned out he had a bigger difficulty with integration than I did. In Sweden it is common with fathers taking leave to take care of the child, but in Japan it is still unusual. So people seem very unsure of how to handle it and pulled away. In the end we found a solution for a partial daycare for her so she could play with Japanese kids her age.
I underestimated the difficulty of not knowing the language.
When you go as a LTA in a managerial role the pressure for work and to deliver from day one is almost preset. It seems like most people I have met realized after a while that despite the best intention they would not be able to handle their assignment and learn the language at the same time. I think it is important both for the everyday conversations and in the decision meetings.
Of course this will depend on where you work.
A lot of people I work with is very patient (typical Japanese mentality) and do help out a lot and I am very thankful for that. In hindsight I would have been helped by the chance to take a 2-4 week course full time before I moved to give me a solid foundation.

Seeking what changes the world among various duties


I head up the newly started Studio 5 in Creative center/ Sony Mobile Creative Design team. It's a global organization and I have design teams situated in US, China, Taipei, Sweden and Japan. The teams consist of a variety of designers that create the Software & Hardware design for phones and accessories, IoT and new domains. The designers are specialists in the areas of Human Interface, Industrial design, Color & Material, Communication & CAD and visualization.
My passion for design runs very deep and I love being able to work strategically with the design team as well as the other parts of our company. My role allows me to work with the bigger picture as well as going into smaller details regarding design issues and opportunities.
I think one of the most intriguing parts of my job is that there is a wide span of what I do every day. It ranges from dealing with production problems that need urgent attention in the factory to looking into the future and predicting what users around the world will Need and Desire as a *life tool* years from now.
A very important part of what we do is to be able to see what changes in the world. I have the opportunity to lead this work across all design departments in Sony Creative center as well as give input to different business units and business partners.
That insight helps us significantly as we go forward and decide as part of the Sony groups what's needed to focus on to be able to reach our goals.
The summary of all consumer, technical and trend data will be looked at in combination with our company strategy. This will then form our design framework giving direction to our products shape, color, interaction and usability.
I have a global team with extremely creative and talented designers- trained in numerous areas to do this work. The challenge is always to produce world class design with a "Unified design" for all our products/ product categories.
I love the complexity of what we do. The constant challenge of working with "the one global design strategy" as well as all the production and marketing issues to make the products we launch a success both locally and globally.
The spirit and passion in the people in my teams gives me great energy, determination and power to carry on even when things are though.

The fact of observing different personalities as "an unknown creature" made me realize Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)


When I studied for my Masters in design I took part of collaboration between three universities. The projects were run by project teams put together of engineers, economists and designers. Everything started out with an initial meeting and we decided on a common action plan.
We went back to our different schools and continued our part of the work. A while later we reconvened to present our findings, what support we needed from the other disciplines and a recommendation forward.
The next few meetings I realized nothing much was going forward. It was really-really slow and not much progress was being made. It was frustrating to all.
We sat down again to discuss. It was hard to understand why the work was not progressing as expected. In this tough and after honest discussions we realized our view on the problems and what was needed in the project varied a lot. Suddenly I could see there was a new way forward- a completely new path.
In the end of this discussion one of the engineers started giggling- so I asked why?
He told me that before meeting us they all had a view that designers were "bicephalous dragons". So they saw us as some creature from the fairytales- unknown and scary. Completely surprised I started laughing and asked how they had come to this view? On guy then revealed all their preconceptions of us and what they thought the actual description/ role as an industrial designer was. I then realized we had the same "stories" about them. The humor and candor of what he said broke a lot of barriers between the teams, cleared the air and made us move forward.
It made me realize that we all knew far too little about what the other professions role in a project was. This in its turn became a huge conflict of interests as we did not take in each other's views on a problem. Instead we all fought for what we believed were the most important- failing to understand that a real success demands cooperation as well as a *healthy doze* of friction.
This is something I carry with me to this day and I think we can all agree that we, designers, engineers, marketers, operation still struggle with every day.

What Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) brings to my day-to-day job and life


This is a very difficult subject for most people. I have two different perspectives that I think I constantly think about and aspire to work according to.
Working in several countries in my career and now recently in Japan a few years has given me a lot of insight into this.
Largely I believe that all people in our company need to not just think but also Act according to the diversity & inclusion in the everyday.
It needs to be a natural part of when leaders take decisions. It is about inviting different perspectives/ languages/ cultural believes although that might be harder to handle.
It's about being brave as a manager as it might not be the easiest choice -but the best.

We need to consider how to make numerous mindset / skill set/ values a chance to thrive. I personally have some great experience with a manager gave me the chance to take on this job in Japan. He has backed me up and continued to be my discussion partner since I started. Those kinds of "sponsors" are invaluable to succeed in a new job or environment.

Another angle that comes to mind is how we work with development of concepts. Looking at different needs for different users is key for Sony to be a global and successful brand, I believe.
Being able to focus both on the global 'Sonyness' but also be relevant to the local flavor.

This means that within Creative design we always need to step out of our own preference -likes and dislikes. We need to take into account different users, use cases, interests, culture, age, economy, technical versatility/ interest and from that insight create a Sony Unique design. This is a necessity in order to create new and innovative products that our customers will fall in love with!
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