Secrets of the Strength of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. According to Its Employees Freedom, Flexibility, and Openness Bring About Excellent Research

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., which is taking the lead in research and development of the world’s cutting-edge technologies, has approximately 1,200 employees. Employees in research posts come from various backgrounds and have differing goals. Four current employees of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. gathered to talk about their carriers and workplace, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.

April 25, 2019

Employee round-table discussion

MEMBERS

  • S. Choudhary

    Digital Service Project, Software Laboratory

    “Nothing is IMPOSSIBLE, because the word itself says I’M POSSIBLE.” It is difficult to succeed in all research, but talking with various people on a daily basis leads to good research and new ideas.
  • Kotaro Ohori

    Research Manager, Machine Discovery Technology Project, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

    “Today's Problems Come From Yesterday's Solutions.” In many cases, the cause of the problem in front of you can be found in a place you cannot see. When I start new research and development, I try to take time to deeply understand problem situations and look for essential issues.
  • Takuya Makino

    Knowledge Technology Project, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

    Time is money. I try to finish my work by the end of the working day and work to make my output as efficient as possible in this limited time. I enjoy private time and study during my free time.
  • Naoko Hayashida

    Sensecomputing Research Center

    When a quotation, "Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door" comes into my mind at work or privately, I lately ask myself whether I could have enough strength to break down the wall or I could find some doors. At least, think something let it be somewhat better.

There are many options as a researcher.

As a self introduction, please tell us about the theme of the research you are currently working on at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.

Ohori

I work at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as a member of the Machine Discovery Technology Project and my work involves developing AI systems based on mathematical technologies. Lately, I am focusing on systems for solving various social issues with a mathematical approach. For example, I am trying to solve issues with respect to screening of children for admission to daycare centers and consultation regarding relocation, both of which staff at local governments have trouble handling, using AI.

Hayashida

I belong to Sensecomputing Research Center. Sensecomputing - its core value is aiming to realize future computers and/or technologies that could treat and support people's empathetic thoughts, behaviors and feelings. Currently we have tried to computationally implement its basic model using not only people's sensory information but people's psychological needs.

Makino

Like Mr. Ohori, I also work at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory but am a member of the Knowledge Technology Project. I am working on research on developing application based on natural language processing. For example, automatic document summarization of newspaper articles and chemical compound name extraction from patent application documents and research papers.

Choudhary

I work at Software Laboratory as a member of the Digital Service Project. The main difference from the research of the other three researchers is that we try to create new digital services in fields closer to business. We combine various ideas and technologies inside and outside the company and advance forming the basis of a demonstration experiment.

Four staff gathered in a modern Japanese style room at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. The reception room where the achievements of Kanjiro Okada, the fifth president, are exhibited, was refurbished as a co-creation space by integrating Japanese culture and spirit and the latest technology, and it is used for various purposes.

Your research covers a very wide range of fields. How did you become a researcher at a private company? You might have had the option to be a researcher in the academic world.

Ohori

It may be mainstream that most researchers want to make a living in the academic world. Actually, I used to work at a university as a teacher. A university teaching position is not always guaranteed, so I applied for a career position at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. when my term expired. The opportunity arose when member of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. who did joint research with us at our university invited me. If you change the place where you conduct research to a private company, your future course of direction is not changed. It is not rare for researchers at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. to become university teachers, so there are a lot of options as a researcher according to the timing and circumstances.

Makino

I chose to join a private company as a freshman when I finished my master’s course. However, I was also thinking about undertaking a doctoral program. In this situation, I became interested in Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. because it has a PhD support program. In fact, I am currently on this program and am working to obtain a doctorate degree. Of course, you need to go through a lot of trouble when you have two jobs at the same time, but if you select an appropriate research theme, you can write a paper using your achievements at work, so it's a shortcut to obtaining a degree. I believe this advantage is enormous.

Choudhary

I got a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and came to Japan as an international student from India. I had a strong intention to work at a Japanese company from the beginning. During the first year of my master’s course, I worked at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. as an intern after being introduced by alumni, and entered the company after finishing graduate school. So because of this I didn’t have a second thought or any trouble regarding joining a private company. I felt great joy at joining Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. who opened the door and gave a person like me, who is management-oriented rather than research-oriented, a chance.

Hayashida

Before I joined Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., I eared my Ph.D. in Informatics. My educational background in Computer Science and Informatics was started at national college of technology, and my research interests were varied at university and at graduate school such as concurrent computation, mobile computing, and Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), it was mainly caused by dynamic change provided with the Internet. With this changing speed of research areas, as Mr. Choudhary would said, research laboratory in industrial sector come to my first option at my job selection list. In addition, the differences between laboratories in university and in industrial sector are people working there, their variety of professions, and their purpose why they cooperate with each other. The reason why we work together is not only for a research community, but actual affective liver. It was a huge attractive point of industrial sector.

Flexibly taking on a research theme and living as a researcher

You decided to be a researcher at a private company with a forward-looking manner. You must have had a lot of companies you could have chosen from. What are the reasons that made you decide to choose Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.?

Ohori

Currently, companies are proactively seeking T-type personnel and π-type personnel. T-type personnel refers to those who master a specific specialized field and have knowledge of a wide range of fields with their specialized field as the axis. π-type personnel is an advanced type of T-type personnel and refers to those who have detailed knowledge of two or more specialized fields and are able to make multiple decisions and adjustments. Researchers are not exceptional, and having knowledge, information, and experience across multiple specialized fields will be important requirements for them in the future. With this in mind, at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., for instance, when you visit the office next door, you can find a lot of researchers in completely different fields and have discussions with them freely. I think this kind of open corporate culture is the most attractive point of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.

Is it actually possible to change your research theme?

Ohori

It happens all the time. When your interests change and you want to conduct research related to business or master basic technologies, you can change your department flexibly. A current issue is that needs concerning research themes are changed with the times. For instance, we are now in the third AI boom, but if we look back to a little while ago, AI research was struggling and did not see the light of day. Therefore, it is a very important strategy to actively find places where researchers can play an important role and take on challenges so that they can survive. Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. prepares programs and environments to support such passions of researchers. Actually, my department is changed almost every year. Whenever I visit the research laboratory of the university where I used to work and present a new name card to my former professor, he worries about me and says, “Mr. Ohori, is it ok to change departments so often?” (laughter)

Choudhary

It is one of the features of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. This is very rare for the research institutes of private companies on a global basis. In principle, research institutes hire specialized personnel for specific research themes. Therefore, you cannot be hired if you don’t have sufficient skills and achievements, and it is not easy to change a research theme midway.

Ohori

It goes without saying that researchers who push forward a single research theme without flirting with other themes regardless of the changes of the times are also important. Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. keeps a balance between them.

Watching the world’s research environment closely and learning about cutting edge research

As you work in your research post, are there any programs that you think are good?

Hayashida

I will introduce my experience of visiting scholar at Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. In Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., several people have conducted their research at overseas, their visiting program to internationally leading research laboratories are fully supported, and 5 to 6 people have used this program every year. The reason why I chose CMU was there were an energetic laboratory in the research area we had tried to catch up as a possible new research theme. Not only these research activities, I felt a lot of advantages to this program putting myself in an outside of Japan.

Specifically, what advantages are there?

Hayashida

Carnegie Mellon University is also famous for its business school as well as robotics research. I negotiated with some professors in business school too, to attend some classes and to take advantages for visiting CMU, world-widely leading university. I was shock in the classes in business school. One day, all attendee of the class went to a cafeteria on the campus, and we, as business design team, checked and discussed how we can improve a business at the cafeteria. The 1st thing shock me was that young business leaders here become actual leaders in U.S. near future and their methodologies how they extract business problems and users’ needs are based practical theory and real space. And another thing shock me was that their team members had different professions for each such as engineering, and design. It means that business leaders learned at internationally competitive universities would create a broad range of personal connections and have skills work with individuals coming from a variety of different backgrounds.
These things made me realize what kind of difficulties Japanese companies might have to compete in global markets.

Makino

I’d like to apply for the overseas visiting program someday. Since I’m currently using the PhD support program, I have to get the degree first. After that, I’d like to closely watch and bring back the high-level research trends in the US. Even if I don’t go abroad, it is very inspiring to listen to the experience of those who have been abroad like Ms. Hayashida.

Showing respect to diversity to create synergy and reinforce advantages

Each researcher is allowed to perform activities with a certain level of freedom despite it being a research institute of a private company. The organization has the flexibility to accept the diversity. While both the employees and organization are attractive, what kind of approach do you want to take regarding to take on the challenge of research activities, or vitalize Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.?

Makino

My motivation is to make innovations with an AI data model focusing on natural language processing as I explained earlier. I have steadily made achievements that are taken up by various media and exhibits, and I feel I am getting great responses. However, I should be aware that I am in a position where I am responsible for the activities of the team. I should not see element technologies with shortsightedness, but should instead consider what kind of values we should provide to the world from a broader perspective and strive to make contributions to society.

Choudhary

I’ve promoted proof of concept with various customers towards deployment of new digital services and clarified various issues at the same time. Of these efforts, what I am concerned with most is the difference in awareness between ICT engineers and actual business sites. Unless this difference is eliminated, we cannot advance innovative digital services. This is the very mission that I should tackle from now on. To fulfill this mission, I have to enhance the ability of project management and would like to actively take a role as a liaison between Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. and the operating divisions of Fujitsu Ltd.

Hayashida

My research is exploring a next generation human-centered technology. How does a next-era computer interact with people by human-desirable way? When we find out some answers to this question, multidiscipline research method is necessary. To investigate what things make the technology human-desirable, we need multiple aspects the view from multiple individuals have different professional backgrounds. It will be achieved if we could flexibly make cooperative working relationship with individuals belonging internal and/or external organization depends what kind of values are desired. The necessity of this kind of collaboration will be increased at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. too. A collaboration in general will be caused increasing communication costs, in light of this situation, I personally think the things work collectively but not with one all-around person is very important especially research and development area in coming years.

Ohori

I agree with Ms. Hayashida’s brilliant idea. Last year, I became a senior staff member and am in a position where I lead an organization. Looking at the team directly under my control, there are researchers with various goals. For instance, some want to competitively write papers on cutting-edge basic research, some want to research applied technologies, and some want to advance practical uses for business. It is only Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. that respects and accepts such diversity and has created synergy. One should not think “I cannot do any research other than this one,” or “this is the only way,” and we seek researchers who sympathize with this idea.
As the revolution throughout society known as digital transformation advances rapidly, I want us to work together to establish a new dynamism at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. that takes advantage of the strengths of this revolution.

Thank you.

Exhibition hall where the history of Fujitsu Laboratories and past awards are exhibited. The great achievements of their predecessors make the current researchers sit up and think.

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