Beyond borders: Learning by doing

Meet Yoshinori Sakuno, a student of a part-time master's program at Hyper Island in Singapore.

Hi Yoshi! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Yoshi: “I am the founder and global managing director of doq® – a micro global agency based in Sydney and Tokyo. I’ve been in marketing and advertising for over 16 years. As you can imagine, the industry has changed drastically over the past 15 years and I’ve really enjoyed experiencing and being part of the transformation. My first and last job before starting doq® was working for Leo Burnett, a multinational advertising agency, both in Tokyo and Chicago. I was lucky enough to work for global blue chip brands for multiple markets with cross-cultural teams. This has given me the confidence to be able to build the best global teams that come together from countries all over the world, no matter what city I am in.

I founded doq®, a cross-cultural marketing agency in Sydney, 8 years ago and launched a new office in Tokyo last year. Our team members are based in Japan, USA, and Australia. This year, we are launching a new company focused solely on digital marketing and emerging digital technologies. I decided to take a learning opportunity at Hyper Island because I wanted to equip and enhance my digital capabilities, confidence, and network of like-minded people to make my new digital business successful.”

What are you passionate about?

Yoshi: “Professionally, I am passionate about solving cross-cultural problems. With life experiences of living in Japan, USA, and Australia, I have cultivated different life perspectives based on different cultures by experiencing how consumers behave or businesses respond to cultural differences. With the internet and new technologies, borders continue to disappear across markets, however, these cultural differences and issues are becoming more prominent than ever. I enjoy the opportunity to observe and create solutions for them.

Personally, soccer, travel, and food are my biggest passions. I’ve been playing soccer since I was 6 years old, the longest career of my life, and I still play soccer for a team that has over 50 years’ history in the over-35s league in Australia. I don’t mind having to drive all day to have good ramen in Japan, to fly to eat the best tacos in Mexico, or to travel to discover the best street food stand in Malaysia. One of the best things that I enjoy in the commute to Singapore is that I can explore a lot of great food – such as chicken rice, bak kut teh and nasi lemak.”

You are from Japan, working in Sydney, and you travel to Singapore for classes. How has this experience of different cultures been so far?

Yoshi: “I really enjoy this cross-cultural fusion style life of living, working and studying in different countries. I think it is going to become more of a normal thing to do in the future. By seeing the differences in countries, it enables us to discover the best ideas and solutions by experiencing the best parts of each country and culture. In terms of education, I did my undergraduate in Business Administration at a university in Japan, my MBA from Australia and now the Master of Digital Media Management in Singapore with a UK grade system and Scandinavian educational method.

Each country has its uniqueness in learning styles from both the lecturers and also classroom students. By going through these learning experiences, I feel like I am traveling all over the world to receive the best input and it is completely up to me how I then use this to create the best output. My learning style is to learn from others and apply this to real life immediately.”

What’s the biggest need that people have to address in today’s changing and digital world?

Yoshi: “I see a lot of opportunities in humanizing digital technology. Within that area, I am particularly interested in making them more user culture-centric. We used to call it ‘localisation’ or ‘adaptation’. Most digital services and platforms are globally available and this is one of the best advantages of the digital world. However, many of them focus on scalability, trying to make one platform or service fit all markets without much focus on user insights from each different culture. This results in prioritizing either a US/ UK English or Chinese market-centric approach.

This is perhaps the logical approach to capture share in the beginning. However, the digital behavior is different in each market. For example, because of my life journey, I have friends all over the world on facebook. The length and depth of Facebook post content seems very different depending on each country. Coming from Japan, using emoji was such a common way to communicate via digital devices 15 years ago when we used i-mode. In the last few years, other markets have now started to adopt this. Up until now, digital users have fit into the global template however, I think it will be vice versa soon. Digital manufacturers should look to customize the experience to local digital users to better address user experience as a whole.”

If you were to reflect on your learning journey so far, has anything within you/your mindset changed?

Yoshi: “This course has taken me outside of my comfort zone constantly in every module. However, after a few modules, I started enjoying this sense of feeling‘uncomfortable’. I have started to gain confidence in my understanding of the digital world. Having gone through a few intense prototyping experiences through the program, I have obtained a belief and spirit that it is possible to create anything quickly at minimal cost. These experiences have taught me how to deal with the fast-changing digital world in my professional life.”

“I decided to take a learning opportunity at Hyper Island because I wanted to equip and enhance my digital capabilities, confidence, and network of like-minded people to make my new digital business successful.”