Tak Adachi: "Japan is a country that has always been innovating"
Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance.
Tak Adachi has been the Queensland Government’s Commissioner in Japan, one of the state’s largest export markets, since 2004.
Prior to this, Tak was a Senior Investment Commissioner for North Asia, within the Australian Embassy Tokyo, following a successful private sector career as an investment banker, working in both Japan and Australia.
Tak completed a Bachelor of International Law from Sophia University in Tokyo and an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management, UNSW, two degrees that he describes as giving him “a foundation to understand business in a broader sense”.
Tak spoke to Advance about his experience at UNSW, the benefits of a business degree, and his favourite thing about Australia.
What precipitated your decision to complete your MBA at UNSW?
It started when I completed an exchange program in Australia. I studied International Law at a Japanese University, during which I spent one year overseas at the University of Queensland. That whole year was absolutely life-changing because up until then, I had never really experienced life outside of Japan. The experience in terms of the intellectual stimulation and meeting new people was incredible.
After I completed my law degree, I had a choice to work in Japan at a major bank. I knew I wanted to do an MBA at some stage, and I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to UNSW. The AGSM program there was number one in Australia, it was the leading graduate school in Asia as well. Most Japanese students went to America to do an MBA, but I already knew a little bit about Australia and saw a huge opportunity to be different.
What was your experience like at UNSW culture-wise?
Very interactive. There were lots of different people from different parts of the world, so interacting with different nationalities was an education in itself. The diversity offered a lot of intellectual stimulation. The lifestyle in Sydney was also amazing.
What are the benefits of completing an MBA?
I benefited greatly from a combination of studying law and studying business. I think it's great to be exposed to different parts of Business Studies, not just economics or finance but a whole range of different things, because being a generalist, you have a greater exposure to different sectors. This important particularly if you're working across different industries like I do.
How did completing a business assist you in your current role as Trade and Investment Commissioner to Japan?
Completing my MBA gave me a foundation to understand business in a broader sense. My current role for the Queensland Government as Trade and Investment Commissioner to Japan obviously involves helping businesses to invest or export. I think it's critical to be able to understand what drives businesses to invest and do trade. My work experience, backed by academic foundations, gave me a good benchmark to be well-rounded because we work across all sorts of industries.
You’re in a really unique position to comment on the relationship between Australia and Japan, what do you think is our two countries biggest strength?
I think the relationship between the two countries has been good for many years. It started with resources, trade, tourism, and investment, and now there's a bigger focus on innovation.
Japan is a country that has always been innovating. Because it doesn't have many natural resources, it has needed to rely on knowledge capital from its people. It’s a great time for our two countries to collaborate because knowledge and innovation are becoming a much more important part of the economy.
Do you recognise any opportunities in Australia – in terms of education – that may not otherwise be able in Japan?
I think Universities in Japan need to be more global. In Japan, you don't see many nationalities sitting in one classroom. The aging population is pushing Japanese businesses to be more global because domestic markets are shrinking.
The Japanese style of education is more a traditional lecture-style format and is less focused on discussion and debate. That’s not actually creating the people of the future in terms of being able to compete in a global marketplace. That’s a skillset I think that Australia can offer to the Japanese, who want to compete in the global market.
Do you think that Australia is too reliant on its natural resources?
I think it’s easy to become too complacent when natural resources are readily available. However, I think we've been able to capitalise on the opportunity to recycle proceeds or dividends into new sectors. Australia has had a very good run, with over 27 years of consecutive growth.
That’s unheard of, and it’s something we should be very proud of. I think investing in people is very important for the future, so that's why education is one sector that's always going to be very important.
What’s your personal favorite thing about Australia in general?
Australia has a really good work/life balance where people work very productively. You don’t have to work 100 hours a week to be productive, like a lot of Japanese companies do. I think that's something to learn from Australia.
The GDP has grown consecutively over 27 years, so Australia must be doing something right!