Today, we’re joining Naoki Kitora for lunch to talk about his experience, the reason for joining Hacarus, achieved growth, and motivation as Chief Data Officer. For lunch, we went to a restaurant that specialized in grilled eel (unagi), quite the delicacy!
Unagi is a popular dish in Japan mainly eaten in the summer. During a period of seasonal change, also known as Doyo no Ushi no Hi, many people eat unagi- where, in the past, people believed foods beginning with “u” would relieve them of the heat.
Hey Naoki! I’m glad to talk to you today! Could you give me a brief introduction of yourself to jumpstart our conversation?
I became a CDO at Hacarus from April 2018. I manage our team of data scientists. I started my career as a data scientist from 2011. I have been a data scientist for 8 years now.
What made you want to become a data scientist?
In 2011, I was involved in a project in machine learning. It made me a data scientist.
Is your work enjoyable? What part do you find the most challenging or exciting?
Yes! Work as a data scientist is difficult to explain. We can’t know the result whether we achieve the goal or not before we analyze the data. It’s the most exciting part.
What are some of your main projects?
It’s difficult to explain since it is confidential information. But for example, I deal with the management of interns for data scientist related projects. So, I assign an intern or members depending on their characteristics and talent who is the best fit for the job. Of course, I also include schedule management checking who is available for each project. Everyone has a different background in their majors or even university level as well and this can be a gap.
Can you talk about your current project?
I’m mainly working on a medical project. We’d like to classify disease types through the usage of images and diagnosis data.
So right now, do you work with Hacarus team in the Philippines at all for any projects?
Yeah. It’s for visual inspection. The data scientist team develops a sort of machine learning library. In many cases, you need to embed it in your application to make it available to users. In those cases, I explain to the PI team how to use the library when incorporating it. In addition, prior to becoming a data scientist, I was a data engineer infrastructure engineer and a software developer, so I sometimes receive technical questions and consultations.
What is your main responsibility for that project?
That is determined by the directionality of the function set that the machine learning library should be equipped with.
What made you come to Hacarus?
I was introduced by Hacarus CTO, Takashi Someda-san and decided to take on the challenge.
What issues do interns come to you for help?
Sometimes they are questions related to technical kind of software development or infrastructure or network or something like that.
What made you want to work at Hacarus?
The fact that Hacarus was a start-up with very few employees made it fun. Being at the stage of making business at that point held a lot of value for me. There were also people there that I felt I wanted to work with. The fact that its core business dealt with using machine learning, the fact that Kenshin Fujiwara, the CEO, who has an understanding of technology and is focused on the global development of his business were extremely attractive characteristics.
At a small startup, there is no sectionalism and it is good that you can move things quickly without spending time on political matters such as coordination among departments. It is attractive for me to be involved from the beginning of the organization because there are few people and the organization is still developing from now on. I have many reasons. This kind of environment is what I wanted to work in because I have been thinking that I have to improve my English skills to be able to work wherever in the world.
So the first time you started using English at a workplace was in Hacarus? How was that like for you?
Yes. I didn’t feel that my English skills were where I wanted it to be.
But I bet you’ve improved! Was it difficult speaking about technical subjects in English
A little bit! Definitely.
What is it like working with the Philippines team? What do you find enjoyable or difficulty in communicating with a global team or online?
My skill as an English speaker is still developing, so there are some difficult points. Unlike in Japanese, I can not predict where a conversation is going and sometimes cannot hear or come up with words to say, in particular, these limits are in verbal communication. However, team members are always helpful because they try to understand. There are difficult points, but it is fun to work together.
How did you grow as a CDO from when you first started at Hacarus and now? Did you find you grew a lot as a person or CDO and see many changes within yourself?
So far, we have been promoting actual projects as playing manager rather than as a CDO, so growing as a CDO, you could say, still has a way to go. Since the beginning of this year, we had sales members newly join and now I am less likely to be in charge of sales, but I got to be involved in sales-like activities. For example, I got learn perspectives of business development having experienced the preparation of a written estimate, to submission, and making a proposal.
Every time I learn something, things I don’t know and things I can not do come out one after another, so I always realize how I don’t know things and how many things I can’t do. At the same time, I sometimes wonder if I’m growing, but I think that growing up makes me feel more often that I don’t know. The more you think you know, you don’t truly know.