Signal CEO Mike Sands, Chinatsu Okuda, Signal CRO Marc Kiven, and Shogo Hoshii.
Thinking globally is a part of Signal’s DNA. We’ve always believed that Signal is solving a critical challenge for marketers around the world who need better cross-channel technology for engaging consumers in relevant ways.
Being an international company, however, is about more than opening offices and acquiring clients overseas. Achieving success on a global scale is about connecting with people by sharing cultures and ideas, which is why all of us at Signal were thrilled to play host to Chinatsu Okuda and Shogo Hoshii, who spent the last 10 weeks in our Chicago headquarters as part of an international training program with our strategic partner, Yahoo Japan Corporation.
In May, both Chinatsu and Shogo arrived in Chicago from Tokyo, where they work for Yahoo! JAPAN’s Marketing Solutions Company – Chinatsu in sales promotion, and Shogo as a software developer. Coming from the huge Japanese Internet powerhouse to Signal, a fast-growing marketing-technology company, provided an immersive experience to learn about far more than Signal’s products.
Last week, on the eve of their flights back home, both said they were sorry to leave, agreeing that their 2 ½ months at Signal flew by in an exciting blur of new workplace experiences, new friendships, cultural surprises, travel and unfamiliar but yummy foods.
From their office time to their many sightseeing excursions, “it was total culture shock,” declared Shogo, who was here for his first-ever visit to the U.S.
“My apartment in Chicago was two or three times as big as my home in Tokyo,” Chinatsu said, laughing.
The visitors said they both gained practical experience at Signal that they’ll take back to Japan in the form of tips and initiatives for improvements in process and performance for delivering marketing solutions to customers.
“Signal is a very special and unique company,” said Shogo, who spent much of his time learning new skills to help sharpen interdepartmental communications practices between Signal and Yahoo! JAPAN.
He was struck by the casual work atmosphere he found at a young tech company such as Signal, where employees enjoy regular social activities such as game nights and movie nights, and engage in daily desk-side banter about their lives and families. “Everyone has good relationships with each other and the good communications helps productivity,” he said.
Before leaving, Shogo got in the swing of things by inviting Signal colleagues to enjoy his favorite Japanese anime movie, “Princess Mononoke.”
He was especially impressed by the Signal development team’s daily 15-minute “stand-up meeting,” where developers gather each morning in a conference room (no sitting allowed!) to review priorities and ask for help when they need it. “I saw how this agile development process is a very effective work style and I’m looking forward to sharing these management tools,” Shogo said.
Hack Week is another Signal tradition he’d like to bring back to Yahoo! JAPAN. “It’s an exciting way to improve your skills and create something new,” Shogo added.
Chinatsu spent much of her time shadowing members of Signal’s Client Services and Sales teams. On several occasions, she joined them in visiting client sites. “It was just an amazing experience. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. I learned so much about selling, onboarding and training new clients, working on client solutions, troubleshooting and so forth,” she said.
Chinatsu particularly enjoyed being at Signal during its recent rebranding announcement. “It was so valuable to experience such a big transition for the company,” she said.
She also loved Signal’s weekly all-team meetings, in which CEO Mike Sands and other executives update our 100+ employees on what’s happening across the company. “To be able to hear the CEO talk with everybody on a weekly basis was awesome, just awesome!” she said.
When they weren’t at Signal, Shogo and Chinatsu went to Cubs and White Sox baseball games, the Chicago Blues Festival, and Taste of Chicago. They toured Chicago’s skyscrapers and other famous architectural landmarks. Shogo went hiking in Illinois’ scenic Starved Rock State Park, and Chinatsu fell in love with Chicago pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and bacon-wrapped dates. Chinatsu also traveled to New Orleans and Niagara Falls for the first time.
It’s easy to say your business is global. “But to experience that first-hand – to welcome colleagues from other countries to your office to train and learn – is a totally different thing from a cultural awareness standpoint,” CEO Sands said. “Having Chinatsu and Shogo here was a fantastic opportunity to mix, mingle and understand each other better.”