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David W. Nichols

President and Representative Director
State Street Global Markets (Japan)

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 18 (as of December 2017)

David W. Nichols
Q1: What was your first encounter with Japan?

During my first shogatsu (New Year’s) in Japan we went to Kagoshima because we thought it would be warm. Of course it wasn’t and most shops were closed, but it was very interesting anyway. Sightseeing is fun, but the best experiences were getting out and meeting people and experiencing daily life. One of the best discoveries was finding out how much better Japanese beer is than American beer.

Q2: Please state your motto in life and why you have chosen it.

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I think I should make plans, but I need to be flexible because unexpected opportunities often come up. My plan was to come to Japan as part of a round-the-world tour. I never made it. I’m on my 18th year of my one-year plan.

Q3 : Over your career, what achievement are you the proudest of?

One career is a long time. But, what I’m most proud of are the people I’ve coached and mentored. Developing people that will be productive long after I’ve left the scene will be the best legacy I can leave. It would be nice if they remember me every now and then, too.

Q4 : What are your goals during your time in Japan, your current position or in life?

My goals in Japan probably would have been the same no matter where I was. In my 20s it was new experiences and having fun. I focused on my career and family during my 30s and 40s. Now, I focus on creating a society that will support me when I retire. Japan specific, I want to add value to U.S. and Japanese relations.

Q5 : What wisdom, advice or tips can you give to people living and working in Japan?

Japan is an interesting and exciting place. Tokyo is a very cosmopolitan city that is easy to live in, so enjoy it while you are here. Basically the same things get done, but different cultures do it in different ways. For example, every company in the world needs to make decisions (where to expand, where to cease operations, etc.) but how companies in Japanese culture come to a decision is different from other cultures. It is important to check your assumptions at the door about how things get done and abide by “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” Get used to ambiguity over certainty and stay flexible and willing to try new approaches. Also, keep in mind that Japan is changing, so even experts on Japan have to keep learning and adapting to be effective in Japan.

Last updated: Oct 2, 2018