My knowledge in intercultural communication helps me build trust with diverse clients working in different sectors and countries

Eri Kikkawa
Eri Kikkawa
International Sales Executive
MA Intercultural Communication
Eri now works for a Japanese-British media company based in London, which provides business, economic and political news services on the EMEA.
Eri Kikkawa

What is your current role and your main responsibilities?

International Sales Executive: I work for a Japanese-British media company based in London, which provides business, economic and political news services on the EMEA. Our news services are written in Japanese and, I sell subscriptions of our services to Japanese professionals working across the EMEA. In my role, I get new subscriptions, renew existing contracts and do follow-ups to boost customer satisfaction through phone conversations or face to face communication with my clients. My knowledge in intercultural communication helps me build trust with diverse clients working in different sectors and countries.

Please summarise your overall career since graduation, but in particular, what was your first relevant role to the area in which you work now and how did you secure that position?

My first role since graduation is international sales executive, for which I started working since September 2019, just after my master's course finished. I found the recruitment advertisement in the university's career service ('Career Connect'). I secured my current job at the beginning of June, just before I became very busy with my dissertation. For international students who want to pursue their careers in the UK, it is crucial to find a job as early as possible, ideally before the course finishes. Having a clear goal and time management is very important as I needed to find a time for job hunting between course studies. I started my job hunting from the beginning of the Spring semester, and I made the most of school holidays to prepare my applications. To adapt myself to the British recruitment system, I referred to books on writing CVs or sometimes had consultations with the university career service. To add another thing, I think it is very important to have a thing that you can be passionate about during your campus life. It can be anything -your research, volunteering activities or societies. Putting much effort for one thing can develop your knowledge, skills and personality and it is very important to tell your future employers what values you can add to them because of your experiences so far.

How has your qualification helped you in your career?

My knowledge in intercultural communication helps me develop positive relationships with diverse clients. Clients make their purchase decisions when they convince that the sales person understands well about their needs and provides the best solutions for them. During my master’s course, I learned that ‘culture’ is not only about national cultures and this enables me to build trust with Japanese professionals who work in diverse sectors and countries over the EMEA, paying respect for their different cultural backgrounds. Also, a lot of competences for intercultural communication, such as confidence, open-mindedness or problem-solving skills, are also significant in working towards the sales target. To get best achievement, sales people are expected to talk to new people every day and deliver the best suggestion in persuasive ways.

What is an average day like for you in your current role?

Briefly speaking, my role includes getting new subscribers, renewal of contracts and follow-ups of existing subscribers to boost customer satisfactions. Those are done by communication with clients by phone or face to face business meetings. Since we have a lot of clients over the Europe, Middle east and Africa, most of the conversations are done by phone. On average, I speak with 15 clients over phone per day. I often visit my clients whose offices are based in London and occasionally I have business trips to foreign countries. In my role, an ability to get accustomed quickly to different countries is required to maximise the opportunities of business trips.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Exceeded the sales target which was set for the first three months of my current job. The experience of completing a lot of coursework within deadlines enabled me to react quickly to tasks and work creatively towards the goal. Since it was my first sales career, I studied about the job through relevant books and considered how I could build successful dialogues with my clients, depending on each different case. From now on, I want to advance my sales career further by constantly achieving as best goals as I can. Since I am working for a news company, I am expected to have broad interests for what is happening in the society. I learned an important lesson surrounded by countless number of books in the libraries of Sheffield; I know very little about the world. I want to keep motivating myself to be a sales person who can bring special values to the clients.

What were your previous academic qualifications?

I completed my BA in English literature at Sophia University in Tokyo. I specialised in Dickens and Shakespeare. My focus was on advancing my English ability and studying different cultures and values through literatures with British, American and Japanese professors. This experience taught me that learning a foreign language and understanding different values enable me to look at the world from various perspectives. During my BA, I joined an exchange programme at Newcastle University for a year. The most impressive module was on social and cultural studies, where I realised the complexity of our identity comprised of various social and cultural backgrounds. Outside the study, I visited a lot of historical places in the UK and Europe, ranging from the Globe Theatre to Sagrada Familia or Anne Frank House, and made friends from diverse cultural backgrounds. Overall, my exchange programme taught me that deep understanding of different cultures requires not only having knowledge about them but also experiencing them in person or interaction with the native people. These experiences in my BA and exchange programme had made me aspire for exploring how I can make the most of my international backgrounds for my career and life and this is why I decided to do MA Intercultural Communication at Sheffield.

What were your career aspirations when you were younger?

My career aspiration in my younger years was to pursue a bilingual career. I started to conceive this career aspiration when I joined an English essay contest in my teenage, where I realised a pleasure of delivering my ideas to people whose native language is different. Since then, I have tried to get myself involved to as many opportunities as possible, where I can use my knowledge of English language to communicate with diverse people, including exchange programme at Newcastle and doing master’s at Sheffield. I became to think that I want to make the most of my experiences where I had developed my ability to achieve mutual-respect and mutual-understanding with people from diverse backgrounds. Now I work in a bilingual environment, where I communicate with my diverse clients across the EMEA day by day. Throughout my life, I want to further develop my competence as a professional pursuing an intercultural career pathway.

What impact has attending University had on you?

My study in intercultural communication gave me an opportunity to understand well about who I am and consider seriously about how I can make the most of my bilingual and bicultural backgrounds for my future career. Compared with my undergraduate study, I was expected to understand each theory more deeply. This enabled me to identify what my strength differentiates me from other professionals because of my experience of living both in the UK and Japan. Also, I made a lot of great friends from diverse cultural backgrounds during my master’s and this always gives me confidence in living independently as a professional in London.

What advice would you give to young people considering University?

University offers you lots of opportunities to encounter with diverse values and ideas, through which you can foster competences to think critically and look at the world from various perspectives. Your experiences at University will enable you to judge what is right in today’s uncertain world and to positively influence others and the society. Also, friends who exchange honest opinions towards various subjects in pubs or survive the coursework together will surely be the treasure of your entire life. In the decision making of the course to get enrolled, I personally recommend you to consider what you can be passionate to study as well as how practical the subject is for your future career.

Why did you choose Sheffield? / What sets Sheffield apart from other Universities?

I chose Sheffield among offers from several universities because it suited best to achieve my goal of exploring how I can make the most of my intercultural backgrounds for my long-term career. At Sheffield, the numbers of theoretical and practical modules are well balanced throughout the one year academic curriculum. As expected, I got various opportunities to put theories into practice, ranging from ethnography field work project to a seminar where students designed intercultural training programmes for global organisations. These activities not only developed my competence to understand different others in the real world, but also enabled me to understand how my cross-cultural experiences can contribute to making global work places better.

What other elements of University life/extra-curricular activities helped you to achieve success?

I joined Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers (SUCV), where I also did my ethnography project. At weekends, I went out to different natural sites near around Sheffield and joined various activities to protect the local environment, such as helping out local farms, litter picking or wild heather protection. It was my first time dedicating for volunteering activities at regular basis and this had made me to think that I want to make good contributions to the British society, as an immigrant living in the country. Also, I worked for Museum Sheffield as a visitor survey volunteer. I asked visitors of Milleniam Galleries and Weston Park Museum to answer questionnaires for the improvement of the museums’ services. To obtain as many answers as possible, I was expected to build rapport with diverse visitors belonging to different ethnic or age groups. This experience gives me confidence in working successfully for my current sales job.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Sheffield?

I most enjoyed the time spending with my wonderful peers, working hard on the same coursework or going out to nice pubs, nice coffee places, the Peak District and museums. The students at Sheffield are very international coming from all over the world and I got lots of inspirations for my MA study through daily communications with my peers. I enjoyed stating my opinions in academic essays, presentations and lectures and seminars. Exchanging different views with diverse peers broadened my horizon significantly and the experience of building friendship beyond cultural differences always gives me confidence in standing on my own two feet within the British society.

Why would you recommend the University of Sheffield as a good place to study?

The University offers you the best place to concentrate on your study and spend a great time with your peers. Being a part of Russell Group, the University is known as a very good research institution across the world. Successful completion of your master’s degree at Sheffield will surely develop your critical thinking, self-management, teamwork and good communication skills, which are all important for the professional world. All of the University facilities are in the city centre and everything is walkable. You can easily access to resources in the libraries and book facilities for group studies or gatherings for societies. Outside the study, the University is famous for the best Student Union in the UK, which offers various activities such as volunteering opportunities, day trips, language exchange or exercise classes. Your campus life will be full of opportunities to try something new and make diverse friends from all over the world. The city has lots of places to enjoy free time between coursework, such as nice coffee places, pubs, Peak District, local farms and museums and galleries.

In one sentence, how would you describe the impact Sheffield had on your career and life after University?

Empowering me to pursue successfully for an international career as a Japanese professional in the UK.

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