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Yukari INOUE (Managing Director for Japan and Korea, Kellogg Company)

A turning point in her life

 Ms. Inoue was living in Senri New Town (Suita, Osaka) when the World Expo was being held. “The World Expo was a big influence on my admiration for people, places, and cultures abroad. The Expo was also the first time that I had interacted directly with people from overseas.”

As an elementary school student, Ms. Inoue was completely engrossed in playtime, but in 5th grade, her class fell into chaos. This atmosphere did not allow her to properly take classes, so she began to attend juku [private tutoring school] from 6th grade. Her grades improved as a result, and she was accepted into Kobe College’s junior high school, which provides an integrated education system comprised of junior and senior high schools. “If my class hadn’t been so chaotic, I would have probably entered a public junior high school, which would have made my life completely different than it is now. It was a turning point in my life.”

The true enjoyment of managing others

At Kobe College, Ms. Inoue displayed her natural energy. At the junior and senior high schools at the College, there is a sports festival in which grades from 1st grade junior high school to 3rd grade high school compete against each other. The main event, however, is the cheering competition. In her third year of junior high school, she served as cheer captain, and her grade got the overall victory. Her grade continued to win the overall competition until she graduated from senior high school, a streak of 4 years in a row. "I enjoyed bringing individuals together for the sports festival," she said.

Expanding her horizons

In high school, Ms. Inoue entered the broadcasting club. When she was in her first year, the club produced a radio show in order to apply to NHK’s National High School Broadcasting Contest. After discussing with members of the club, the theme of the show ended up being "friendship." However, it turned out that other schools dealt with topics such as pollution and other socials problems on their shows. “I thought, ‘This is no good.’ (laughs) My world was so small. I felt a real sense of urgency.”

Ms. Inoue, a natural bookworm, had read a number of works of famous writers from all over the world, but after that revelation, she passionately began reading books in other genres, such as economics books by Saburo SHIROYAMA, which greatly expanded her views. Eventually, a feeling took root in her that women need to become independent, so after deciding to become an office worker, she entered the School of Economics at OU.

Meeting her mentor

Ms. Inoue mentioned, “Since I attended girls’ junior and senior high schools, I was amazed at the variety of students at OU, as there were a lot of male students and students focused in scientific fields. I’m glad I was able to study in that kind of environment.” She was also in the rakugo society [comic storytelling club]  and learned how to play shamisen, making for a fulfilling student life.

During her 3rd year, she had a turning point in her life. When choosing which advanced study group she would enter, she decided to enter Professor Shoichi ROYAMA’s study group on financial theory. At the time, Prof. Royama was known as a controversialist on financial issues, serving as a member of government councils. Under the guidance of Prof. Royama, who taught the importance of pragmatism, Ms. Inoue’s feeling that she “wanted to enter the business world” grew stronger.

But her job hunt took place before the enactment of the Equal Opportunity Employment Act in 1986. Male students received recruitment letters from many companies, but not female students. Prof. Royama strongly suggested that Ms. Inoue go into foreign-owned companies as opposed to Japanese businesses where it was difficult for women to establish long careers. “If I got into a Japanese company, I would have probably quit because of inequality in many aspects. I am who I am today thanks to Prof. Royama,” recalls Ms. Inoue with deep emotion.

Understanding “why”

 After graduation, Ms. Inoue entered major foreign household product manufacturer Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G). Her work was tough. “My first boss was Dutch. I couldn't speak English, and I didn’t know data analysis methods, so my reports were corrected in red ink pen many times, but he taught me very kindly.”

10 years later, she got promoted and moved to the headquarters in the United States. But, she ran into another wall; she wasn’t able to get the staff around her to work well. After consulting with her boss, she had a specialist coach her, which improved her communication dramatically. “I learned that it was important to get my employees to understand ‘why’ they needed to do the work, and work together.”

She continued to build her career and, at the age of 40, she left P&G for a different foreign-owned company in search of a new challenge. She became a managing director at Kellogg Company, Japan in 2013. Ms. Inoue hadn’t had cereal since she was a child, so she was quite surprised at how delicious it was. "The cereal market is seeing rapid growth," said Ms. Inoue excitedly. “Cereal that is made from natural ingredients is full of vitamins, mineral, and dietary fiber, making it a well-balanced food, and it’s easy to eat, even in the busiest of mornings. I want more people in Japan to try it out for breakfast.”

There’s always a next time

Ms. Inoue has also collaborated with her alma mater. For 2 years in a row, she has provided free breakfast for students on Osaka University’s Toyonaka Campus “in order for students to get into the habit of eating breakfast and live a healthy and regular life.”

To current students at OU, she spoke about the importance of taking risks: “There are things that you can do just because you're young. If you try something and fail, there’s always a next time.”

Her favorite expression is “Happiness is a choice.” “Happiness is different for everyone. The you of today is a result of the decisions you’ve made out of all the various choices you were given, so it’s important to be thankful for what you have now. I hope that I can help expand the possibility of the people around me by using my own experience.”

Yukari INOUE

A 1985 graduate of the School of Economics, Osaka University, Ms. Inoue entered Procter & Gamble, Inc. Far East, gathering experience in roles such as North American Marketing Director. In 2003, she became executive director of Jardine Wines and Spirits (Now: MHD), and in 2005, she become CEO of Cadbury Japan (later Kraft Foods Japan, now: Mondelez Japan, Ltd.). She began at her current position as Managing Director of Japan and Korea, Kellogg Company in July 2013.

Kellogg Company, Japan
(5F, Shinagawa Grand Central Tower, 2-16-4, Konan, Minato-ku, Tokyo)

Kellogg Company, Japan was established in October 1962 as a 100% subsidiary company of Kellogg Company in the U.S.A. and sells cereal products, from “All Bran” to “Genmai Flakes,” “Fruit Granola,” “Frosties,” and “Coco-kun,” Kellogg Company, Japan has developed a wide range of brands for both children and adults, and has put together a hearty lineup of products.

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