KIOXIA has established “Uplifting the world with ‘memory’” as its mission. How do the employees of KIOXIA view memory? Though a series of interviews, we will look at “My Future Memories,” which each employee will pursue going forward. In this edition, we spoke with Mai Ohno, who was involved in the operation of a joint venture between Toshiba Memory (now KIOXIA) and Western Digital of the US in her capacity as Specialist, Strategic Partnership Group, Strategy Division. Ohno wants to pass the enjoyable and happy memories from her childhood and her adult life on to future generations.
Negotiator in Charge of Concluding Joint Venture Contract with Western Digital
KIOXIA operates three joint venture companies through joint investment with Western Digital, a manufacturer of hard disk drives and flash memory that is based in California. One of those joint ventures is KIOXIA’s Yokkaichi Plant, a flash memory manufacturing base that is one of the world’s largest, and has been operating under joint investment with Western Digital subsidiary SanDisk. Additionally, in 2019, KIOXIA announced a joint capital investment with Western Digital at its Kitakami Plant site in Iwate Prefecture.
Providing this general support including joint venture business operation and contract negotiations with Western Digital is Mai Ohno of the Specialist, Strategic Partnership Group, Strategy Division. Ohno shared with us her path to involvement in her current duties, and some of the details from that period.
“While legal knowledge and language proficiency are required of the person in charge of the Strategic Partnership Group Strategy Division, my specialty was originally commerce. When I was first assigned to this position, I was not particularly adept at either the law or language. For the first year or two of my involvement in this work, I struggled with English-language contracts, relying on dictionaries and web searches,” recalls Ohno with a smile.
Ohno, who joined Toshiba about 13 years ago, worked in production management and budget planning for the semiconductor division’s memory business after entering the company. In the seventh year of her career with Toshiba, Ohno became involved in joint venture business operations and budget and production adjustment, bringing us to the present day.
A Rewarding Feeling From an Encouraging E-mail
“I hadn’t particularly wanted to be involved in that,” Ohno says of joint venture operation. And with regard to contract negotiations with Western Digital, Ohno describes it as a job where she was “constantly cloaked in tension.” Despite this, she says there were times when she felt a tremendous sense of achievement.
“There was one instance where I concluded a contract that remains with me as a very good memory. Leading those negotiations was my boss on the strategy team. At some point, my boss began to include me in his e-mail reports to company executives. At the time, I was in charge on an operational level, but in one e-mail my boss complimented me, saying that “these members are also done their best in the negotiations.” Later, I received encouraging e-mails from company executives, and I felt that I was really a member of the strategy team. I was really moved, and it’s something I know I’ll never forget.”
The Memory of Looking for Santa Claus at Christmas
The work of Ohno’s father led to her spending her childhood near New York City. A memory of hers that remains vividly to this day concerns Christmas. She says that the atmosphere surrounding Christmas in the US is different from that in Japan – they had wreaths and decorative illumination in their home’s entryway, and a tree almost completely made from real wood decked out in ornaments in the living room. In Ohno family, if they left a letter for Santa Claus, and the next morning, he would always leave presents beneath the tree.
“Naturally, I believed in Santa Claus, so I wrote the letters. I’m pretty sure it happened when I was four years old – I actually had the chance to meet Santa. One night, I heard a surprised ‘What?’ from my father, who was in the bath. My mother and I went there together to see what had happened, and my father said, ‘I just saw Santa Claus through the window.’ For a while after that, I stayed close by the window looking for Santa.”
She says that the presents appeared after that, but her wish of seeing Santa Claus was not fulfilled.
“I never got confirmation from my parents about whether or not it was true. I’m sure it was their plan to make me, a young girl who believed in Santa, happy. As an extension of that memory, though, there is another memory that is somewhat bitter. I have a brother who is four years younger than me, and we got along really well. When I was a junior high school student, my mother, planning to surprise him, asked me what kind of toy he wanted. That was the moment I was drawn over to the set-up side,” recalled Ohno with a grin.
A Desire to Contribute to Cultivating a Partner to Make the Impossible Possible
Ohno clearly remembers feelings of excitement such as the memories of happy Christmases spent with her family. She spoke about the characteristics of memories that people don’t retain.
“The human brain is a mysterious organ, and it seems to me that we soon forget the sad or tough experiences we’ve had. Naturally the lessons from things like large-scale disasters and social events are indelibly etched in our memories, and we have to pass them on to future generations. Our ability to forget bad times is probably one of the positive aspects of human memory.”
She added that “while forgetting unpleasant memories, we also seem to lose the good ones.”
“Basically how I feel is that, even if we could pass the details of how our emotions were stirred on to future generations, it would be difficult to communicate or share the emotions themselves. Like the sense of achievement and happiness I felt when I received those encouraging e-mails, or the excitement of standing by the window looking for Santa when I was a child. There are also things like the words of a veteran at my workplace – “Think deeply about things” – or the love my parents showed me. There are more such positive emotional experiences than I could ever count. I want to convey those emotions to people who are important to me,” Ohno shared.
Ohno told us about how she views the possibilities of memory.
“Even with things that are not possible due to current technological limitations, I want to believe in the possibility that the new KIOXIA will achieve the transmission and sharing of memories. Will that be made possible by next-generation memory, or another new technology? That’s not clear, but I feel like we have the technological capability to make it happen. As a member of Strategic Partnership Group Strategy Division, I want to contribute to the company by cultivating partners with technological prowess and by developing relationships to realize this goal.”
Strategic Partnership Group
Ohno joined Toshiba in 2007 and her responsibilities included production management and budget planning for the semiconductor division’s memory business. From 2013, she was involved in joint venture operation and budget and production planning at the Yokkaichi Plant. Ohno was transferred to Toshiba Memory in 2017, and she assumed her current duties of joint venture operational support and contract negotiation and formulation with the strategy division at headquarters in 2019.
The content and profile are current as of the time of the interview (October 2019).