Four Letters

“It’s the greatest news of the year that you became the executive director,” a long-time friend of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) said to me.  

Noriko Ishida, Executive Director, Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan

“I’m happy to learn that you became the executive director,” a member of the CCCJ, offered someone involved with the chamber for years, before adding, “I have been wondering where you might be going after McGill MBA Japan.”

And these are only two of the messages I received when my appointment to the position of executive director was announced.

It was 11 years ago when I found out about the CCCJ quite by accident. After a three-month homestay in Toronto, I was looking for opportunities in Japan to remain connected with Canada. One day, when I Googled “Canada” and “Japan,” a web page popped up: “Volunteer for the Maple Leaf Ball Wanted.”

I immediately applied, was accepted and went on to volunteer for the following two galas as well. Each time, I was honoured to meet new people and make new friends. I include among them former Governor Yuko Sudoh and Tad Furuta (current chair of the Team Canada Committee), who kept encouraging me to attend other CCCJ events, even though they knew I then lived outside Tokyo. I must admit, at the time I was not even quite sure exactly what the CCCJ did.

GROWING WITH THE CHAMBER 

In April 2013, I started to work at McGill MBA Japan program’s Tokyo office. As an affiliate member, I was privileged to be able to attend events such as social gatherings, seminars and of course, Maple Leaf Galas. I never imagined I’d attend them as a guest. 

I enjoyed working with the CCCJ office to arrange co-host speaker events and, as the chamber continued to give me opportunities, I gradually took on two leadership roles because I wanted to help it grow.  

For months and years to come, I am at your service. 

One role was as the chair of the Membership Committee, which enabled me to revise the membership brochures. The other role was as chair of the Events Committee, which not only meant I was the “chief entertainment officer,” but I managed and systematized event planning, and most recently, adapted planning procedures to meet our current pandemic-related situation.  

At times, it was challenging to work as a volunteer for the CCCJ while working full time. But through these experiences my knowledge has deepened, while my social and professional networks have expanded.

Life is, indeed, full of unexpected encounters and surprises. The person who, through the internet, found the CCCJ is now working there. As paragraph 10.1 of the chamber’s by-laws explains, she is “responsible for managing and operating the chamber office, including the planning, development, initiation and implementation of policy, programs, administration, and operations related to all activities of the chamber.”

I am glad when members voice their expectations of me. But, at the same time, I realize the responsibilities I have taken on are huge. Yet, while I don’t have a magic wand that can solve all issues, I am surrounded by people — the Board of Governors, members, friends, those I’ve met through the CCCJ — who are guiding me, who are willing to offer a helping hand and who give me sound advice. For that reason, I’m really looking forward to working with you all. 

NEW TERRITORY 

The chamber’s relocation in September was one of the organization’s biggest events since I took office. The premises are in the beautiful Cambridge Innovation Center Tokyo, located in the Toranomon Hills Business Tower. The more than one week it took to unpack boxes and organize the documents turned out to be a good opportunity for me to learn how the office is organized and how it was run by previous executive directors and office managers.

It is now four months since I assumed my role in an organization that promotes the development of commerce between Canada and Japan — exactly the work I had hoped to be doing one day. It’s really wonderful when one’s dream comes true, isn’t it? And so, for the months and years to come, I am at your service with my #CCCJ: Capable, Communicative, Competent and Joyful. 

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