Staff interview #08 Tadashi Suzuki

How I began to want to work at helping children

I was born in Madrid, Spain, and lived there for the first eighteen years of my life, until graduating from high school. I attended local Spanish schools from kindergarten through elementary, middle, and high schools, and mostly spoke Spanish in my everyday life. I only used Japanese when speaking with my parents. Although I look 100 percent Japanese, I only spoke broken Japanese when I entered university in Japan.

Those were the golden days of iMode, and Japan was clearly the world leader in mobile internet development, in terms of both infrastructure and content. I wanted to take that technology to the world, and so I joined the number one mobile venture company at the time, right after graduating from university.

At that company, I was in charge of social gaming development and operations. Just as I’d hoped, I worked as a member of the overseas development group, expanding those services abroad while living in places like Shanghai and Santiago, Chile.

One of the biggest things I learned then was how important it is to actively gather direct knowledge in the marketplace. Even if a particular game was very successful in Japan, if we simply localized the language and brought it to overseas users, it wouldn’t be a big hit. It’s only when we gather a lot of information that can’t be seen just by looking at data, like each country’s culture and values, and really get some direct personal experience there, that we can begin to see what the users there want.

It was only when my child was born in November, 2014, that I suddenly became interested in something besides entertainment. When I started to think about the society our children would grow up in, I began to want to work at something that would help children more.

When I thought about it, I felt that education is one of the areas that needs to change the most in the years ahead. Education really hasn’t evolved that much since the industrial revolution, has it? I thought that the current educational system wasn’t really fostering the kind of skills people would need in the future, like creativity and communication. I wondered what kind of adults my children would become if they went through the existing educational system. I came to feel that something really has to change.

So I started looking to change my job and I joined RECRUIT in March, 2016. At first, I was assigned to the investment department, while also doing some Quipper-related work, and I started working full-time for Quipper in October of that year.

Now I’m working to expand our Quipper operation in Mexico. My goal for now is to build our presence to the point where students who are preparing for exams but don’t use Quipper will seem behind the times to their classmates. In order to achieve that, we have to steadily reach out to every single student we can, make them want to use our service, and above all, get to the point where students say that they were able to get into their school of choice thanks to preparing for their entrance exams with QuipperVideo.

In Mexico, we have to start from teaching parents the value of continuing education

For now, we’ve decided to focus our efforts on Mexico City and high school entrance exam preparation. Our target is the 300,000 third year middle school students who take high school entrance exams in Mexico City every year. Once we can show results in Mexico City, we can begin expanding to other areas and age groups.

One of the unique aspects of education in Mexico is the high dropout rate. More than half of third year middle school students do not continue on to high school. And of those who do enter high school, only about 60 percent graduate. On the other hand, there is a 300 percent difference in lifetime earnings depending on the highest level of education reached.

Even though education has such a direct impact on people’s futures, this concept isn’t widely understood. Since there isn’t much enthusiasm for education, we have to start from helping parents and guardians see the merits of continuing education. This is the first difficulty that I realized after taking up my post in Mexico.

Also, even if we catch the attention of students, it is the parents who pay for the service, and cultivating a sales channel that allows us to approach both students and parents efficiently has been difficult. Making full use of my native Spanish ability, I worked shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the team through a process of trial and error. We have phoned schools, made presentations in classrooms, talked with parents on the telephone, negotiated with school boards, and have been racing ahead trying many things.

We have also frequently made adjustments to team members’ roles and the work each person does. It may have been stressful at times, but thanks to everyone’s efforts, last year we finally started to see some encouraging signs. I’m so thankful for being blessed with this great team.

Even so, there are still many cases where despite their children saying they want to use our service, the parents hesitate. Currently, even though we are much less expensive than private prep schools, it’s difficult for an unproven online service to gain the parents’ trust. I think the concrete results we can show by providing a good service that improves students’ academic abilities is the key to gaining trust, so that is what we are focusing on every day.

If we let every setback get us down, we’d never make any progress in Mexico

We have a team of approximately 40 people here in Mexico, and more than half are working in sales.

We are opening up a new territory where online education hasn’t penetrated yet, so I made sure to establish a team of highly motivated people here. People who can persevere, who are enthusiastic about learning, who value education, and who want to grow — these are the people I have actively sought to hire, and that’s the kind of team I want to keep building.

It’s natural that we encounter difficulties and sometimes fail. We’re trying to open up a new market, and I believe the fastest way to improve is to try many things and fail quickly.

I’ve experienced many failures since starting here. For example, with the payment system. In Mexico, they have a culture of paying for everything in installments. But I didn’t know that, and set up a single lump sum payment system, so we lost potential customers who wanted to sign up but couldn’t pay except in installments.

Another example is I thought that since it’s an online service, it would be best to market it online too. But the parents weren’t comfortable with online registration and payment, so that approach failed too.

Looking back, there are a lot of things I could have done better. Like relying on theory too much and drifting away from the realities of our target market, or focusing too much on a short-term deal and losing sight of the bigger picture, or not deciding quickly enough to give up on things that weren’t working out. I’m always reflecting on these things.

But if I let these things get me down each time, it would be impossible to move forward. I just have to throw myself into a cycle of failing and learning, and one by one, discovering the keys to success.

The first priority is to steadily scale our business in Mexico, but after that, I’d like to consider expanding throughout Latin America. Apart from Brazil, the online education market is still undeveloped in Latin America, and I feel sure that all our efforts here in Mexico will prove to be a real advantage when we get to other countries.

As we work to expand our online educational service, one thing that really strikes me is that it is very hard for students to persevere in their studies. It’s even hard for adults, so it’s kind of unreasonable to expect that middle school kids will be able to keep on studying by themselves.

It’s essential to have a system that encourages students to keep studying, so we set up a support department in Mexico to send each student and parent things like the week’s assignments, test results, and study tips by weekly chat. As a result, WAL has significantly improved. We have confidence in our content, so I’m sure that if learners keep studying, they are sure to get good results.

Students and their parents are putting their trust in us by signing up for our service, and in turn, we are fully committed to the goal achievement of each individual student. And in this way, we will convince the marketplace of the effectiveness of QuipperVideo.

  1. Quipper Career London
  2. Staff Interview
  3. Tadashi Suzuki

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