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Leon Lai

Head of Strategic Sourcing, Japan & Asia-Pacific

Date of birth: May 9, 1988

Hometown: Singapore

Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 4 (as of October 2019)

Leon Lai
Q1: What was your first encounter with Japan?

It was a hot summer in 2013 when I did my 6-month exchange at Waseda University in Japanese language. Being an Asian foreigner, I was able to fly under the radar in social situations and study cultural differences from both perspectives. Compared to my Caucasian classmates, because of my looks I was expected to be able to speak Japanese, which provided me with ample opportunities to practice the language locally.

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

Never forget why you started, and your mission can be accomplished. It is easy for us to get distracted by information overload in this digital age. Staying laser-focused on original intentions is very challenging when one is living abroad. By speaking with people from all walks of life, you will be constantly reminding yourself of your passion, because they will be asking why you have started in the first place.

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

When I first started in Adobe, procurement in Japan was a dull back office that churns out orders and contracts. Being brought up from a country known for its efficiency, I made a complete overhaul by collaborating with the business as a strategic partner using data analytics and fixing supplier relationships with empathy and cross-cultural understanding. This partnering style built over time developed trust and has driven stronger business efficiency.

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

Working globally across major cities and discovering modern challenges of each region has always been my life-long mission. Japan has taught me a lot, both in my personal life and career, during these four years. Recently my role has been expanded to Asia-Pacific, and it will put things in new perspective as I begin to manage diversified business regions such as Greater China, Australasia and South-East Asia.

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

Resilience. I’ve always liked the quote from “The Martian” with Matt Damon saying: “At some point, everything's going to go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin.” Admittedly, Japan is drastically different than most of your home countries, therefore as a foreigner, the first few years will be tougher compared to other countries you’ve lived in before. You need to reframe your current situation and focus on solving the problems at hand one by one, instead of conveniently putting blame on cultural differences. By embracing your differences, you can spark innovation to achieve a competitive advantage for yourself.

Last updated: Jan 27, 2020