Panasonic Scholarship Alumni  Message for the Future Told by People Who Have Experienced the Panasonic Scholarship

Coming to Japan in search of a unique opportunity for growth unlike that of anyone else.
Experiencing the diversity and potential for women to participate in Japan.

○Krithika Iyer
Accepted in 2010 - > Kyoto University (Graduate School of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Science) - > After completion, Iyer was hired by a company that manufactures and sells machine tools in Japan - > She changed jobs to the Japanese branch of a French company three years ago. Iyer is currently engaged in the design and development of automation solutions for logistics companies.

Krithika Iyer is from Pune, Maharashtra, India. After studying abroad in Japan, she has continued to live here, where in addition to working with the engineering technologies she studied, she has been involved in cross-cultural experiences, utilizes her ability to speak multiple languages, and engages in efforts to achieve diversity in her company as a woman. She also actively participates and plays a role in community activities. From the time she was a high school student, Iyer envisioned her career path with the aim of a "future that was unlike that of anyone around her and one that only she could achieve,” which led her to choose Japan as her destination to study abroad. And now that she has found a place where she can play the role she had envisioned, she continues to live a fulfilling life in Japan. Iyer told us about the trajectory her life has taken, which even she had never expected.

Aiming for a unique career unlike that of others for the future

From the time she was a high school student, Iyer had wanted to learn engineering, so continued on to study in the mechanical engineering department at a public university in India. She says that at that time few women chose to study mechanical engineering.

"I was interested in environmental issues and wanted to be involved in the development of environmentally friendly technologies. India has a very large population. The state of Maharashtra alone, where I was raised, is home to over 110 million people. Given this environment, when I decided that I wanted to acquire my skills, I thought that I should take a different path rather than learning the same things and acquiring the same qualifications as everyone else around me.”

After graduating from university, Iyer was hired by a French company. With opportunities to travel to Europe and Middle East on business, she had found a place where she could play a role. But she says that when she looked at those around her within the new environment, she discovered that many of her colleagues had higher professional degrees and were working with a greater level of expertise. Iyer therefore felt that she needed to aim for a more advanced career.

"I joined a university laboratory again. I did so to search out a new career path, and to decide if I should continue to enroll in graduate school in India or study abroad. I had mainly been thinking about studying in the US or Europe at that time. In those days, Indian students didn’t have much access to information on Japan, and many felt that there would be a language barrier. I was no exception. As I was researching various scholarship options, however, I discovered that the university I had graduated from had received application pamphlets for the Panasonic Scholarship Program."

Iyer’s impression of Japan was typical, that it was a country with advanced technology, but she had absolutely no prior knowledge or other information. Even then, after she applied for and was accepted by the Panasonic Scholarship Program, she decided to go to Japan, much to the regret of her laboratory professor. She says that she made the decision in part because of the encouragement and support of those around her.

“The most important factor was my parents' trust in me. Ever since I was little, they had created an environment where I could freely choose whatever interested me. And they always supported me in my desired path, whether it was when I studied mechanical engineering at university or when I decided to study in Japan. If there is something I know nothing about, my personality drives me to jump right in and just learn, and to never hesitate in taking the first step, and I think this ability to take action comes from the environment my parents provided."

Iyer enjoyed the autumn leaves at Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture with her parents on their first trip to Japan in the fall of 2012.

Iyer searched among the field of fluid dynamics, which she had majored in at her laboratory, and collected information from Indian researchers in Japan before selecting a laboratory that offered a specific study image as her study destination. Ultimately, she decided to study at Kyoto University. Iyer arrived in Kyoto on March 31, 2010.

Experiencing an unexpected daily life in Japan, to which she had only come to study

"The cherry blossoms had just entered full bloom in Kyoto. I lived in a dormitory called the International Center for Women Exchange Students, so I really did come to Japan with just my personal belongings. I felt that everything was proceeding smoothly because I was able to start my life in Japan at such a well-prepared facility. Although I studied Japanese before coming to Japan, I only really knew greetings, and wasn’t able to read kanji at all. When I would leave the dorm and go to the supermarket, I couldn't even buy anything. I had also originally heard that the graduate school entrance exam questions could be answered in English, but my laboratory professor told me that the questions would be written in Japanese, which really shocked me.”

As an international student, Iyer also attended classes where she studied Japanese starting from the basics, yet she was nowhere near good enough to read the test questions. Iyer says that when the members of her laboratory saw her struggling with the Japanese language barrier, they suggested a solution. Every day, everyone took turns using the exam questions from the past 10 years to help her learn Japanese specifically for the exam.

"At that point, we didn't understand what we were saying to each other, so we communicated through gestures. Thanks to their truly kind support, however, my Japanese reading ability improved to the level where I could even understand engineering terms, and I was able to pass the entrance exam six months later."

Iyer says that before coming to Japan she thought that all she would do there was study. This was because in India that was her normal routine from the time she was a high school student. However, she recalls her surprise at finding that she had various other experiences and interactions during the days she spent studying in the laboratory, for her Japanese language classes, and to learn Japanese for her exams.

In addition to her interactions with other international students in the dormitory, the Panasonic Scholarship Program exchange events, and being selected as a Kyoto Prefecture Friendship Ambassador, Iyer went to schools in Japan where she interacted with children and students, and gained experience holding talks on India during public lectures. Along with deepening her interest in and understanding of Japan, these activities also served as opportunities to reexamine her home country of India.

"I had interacted with Europeans at work, but I didn't really think of myself in terms of 'India.' India has a large population and the official language varies from state to state. So, my sense when looking at India was similar to that of ‘Europe,’ which is composed of different countries. Living in Japan and interacting with my fellow Panasonic Scholarship Program students from Asian countries, however, made me aware of the common elements of being an ‘Asian’ myself, and the perspectives on ‘India’ from the interest in me from the people around me.”

By studying in Japan through the Panasonic Scholarship Program, Iyer was able to further study her field of specialty as she had hoped to and complete her master's degree as she had dreamed of. And through her experiences in Japan, she says she was able to expand her knowledge by communicating with others, and recognize the greater number of roles that she could play in relation to society, which became major assets for her later on.

Continuously expanding possibilities by acquiring Japanese proficiency

"As part of the Panasonic Scholarship Program, I was required to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test each time, and aim to pass N1, the highest level. At first, I was a little skeptical as to why I had to spend so much time learning Japanese even though I had only come to study for my master's degree. As I became better at Japanese, however, I found more and more opportunities to get involved with the people around me, such as talking with others in my laboratory and interacting with local people and children. These interactions were rewarding, and allowed me to pass the N1 level Japanese Language Proficiency Test after two years. This qualification opened up significant potential for my career choices following graduation."

After graduating from Kyoto University, Iyer found a job at a Japanese company. Although the field allowed her to apply her expertise in mechanical engineering and science, in order to develop products that meet the needs of the market, the work required her to take an interest and learn new things. Iyer's high level of Japanese language ability helped her to refine and develop herself within a Japanese organization, for example through on-the-job training after joining the company and by analyzing and addressing problems onsite at product delivery destinations. This not only gave her confidence, but it also raised the expectations of those around her.

Iyer enjoyed Japanese culture while studying in Japan. In 2010, she had a wonderful time traveling the country with a cousin who was also studying in Japan.

In 2011, Iyer had the opportunity to wear a kimono at the Kyoto International Community Center.

"My unique background has attracted interest, which has given me the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities beyond my duties. For example, I have been part of teams involved in recruitment activities and corporate PR activities, and have been asked my opinions on diversity from the standpoint of a foreigner and a woman. I have even participated in labor union activities. I changed jobs three years ago, and now work for the Japanese subsidiary of a French company. My job requires me to develop innovative solutions to solve problems at distribution and logistics sites. In retrospect, you could say that the reason why I have always sought a different career from others was because I didn't think I could survive the competition. But when I was changing jobs, I realized that I had a wide range of options. My unique career was a source of solid confidence. And I feel that what gave me this unique career was my time in the Panasonic Scholarship Program, which allowed me to do more than just study for my master's degree. For example, it let me endeavor to master Japanese and gave me the opportunity to expand my range of communication with others."

Currently living in Japan with her husband and two children, Iyer is really glad she chose to come and live in Japan. In addition to the fact that Japanese society offers a favorable environment for raising children in terms of public safety, medical care, and education, Iyer says that Japanese companies have many supportive policies in place that allow women to balance their work and private life.

“Some Japanese people are surprised to hear me say so. They say that in reality it is difficult to balance work and family, let alone raising children. This is certainly true. And it is a common issue, especially among Asian countries. Japan's systems for childcare leave and for helping women return to work after childbirth are highly advanced. However, many managers in companies are men, and many of them retain the old image of women quitting the company due to marriage or childbirth, so have little desire to utilize women as human resources. In addition, men still do not cooperate much in household chores and child rearing. I feel that these aspects have become a challenge to increasing the use of these systems and the participation of women."

Iyer sees these social issues as her own, and works with others to solve them. Studying abroad to learn about technology and science for the purpose of improving her own career opened up possibilities for her future that she had never expected. Iyer says that she wants students in India to consider studying abroad, which has changed her greatly, as one option for life.

“There are still many Indians who feel that there is a language barrier to studying in Japan. However, the environment here allows you to develop yourself because you learn not only about technologies and systems, but also about history, culture, and other areas in a well-rounded manner. I am grateful to the Panasonic Scholarship Program for giving me this opportunity, and want as many people as possible to know that there are great opportunities here."