Meet the Team: Misato Yoshigaki
Meet Misato Yoshigaki from the Scrum Studio team. Since joining in 2021, Misato has been working to launch Miles in Japan, a company that takes an innovative approach to transportation through its universal rewards app. Miles first became available in the United States in 2019 and was Scrum Studio’s first incubation project.
Since its launch in Japan in October 2021, the app has achieved more than 2 million downloads in its first three months. We sat down with Misato to discuss her work preparing for the launch of Miles and her career experiences before and since joining the Scrum Studio team.
Now that you work at Scrum Studio, what kind of work do you do?
I joined Scrum Studio in March 2021 and managed the launch of Miles Japan. I was there from the very beginning so I had to handle all kinds of tasks and responsibilities which was a new experience for me. Now, I’m working as the sales director with my own sales targets, but I am also in charge of back-office tasks such as accounting and general affairs. In a large company, work would be divided among different people, but because we are a start-up of just eight staff members, I am able to see and contribute to all aspects of the company which is very interesting. I even wrote the incorporation papers myself. I have been able to learn a lot through this experience.
Tell us about your career before joining Scrum Studio.
Most of my work background has been in sales. When I was a university student, my parents’ financial situation was tight because of the “Lehman shock,” so I worked very hard to cover my living expenses and not rely on my parents’ financial support.
After graduating from university, I was interested in human resources and started my career at en-Japan Inc. where my position was traditional advertising and sales. My first assigned area was Kabukicho in Shinjuku where many clubs are located, and my first client was an HR contact at a host club chain. They produced their own newspaper so I proposed to advertise job openings for editors and designers for their newspaper.
I worked in advertising sales at en-Japan for two and a half years. Although that amount of time may seem short, it’s an industry with rapid turnover. So after only two and a half years, I was senior enough to become a mentor to junior staff.
Did you have other work experiences that helped you advance your career in sales?
After leaving en-Japan, I joined a small recruiting firm. The work there was also very demanding, and I think I worked the longest hours of my life. For about a year, every day, I woke up at 7:00 a.m. and worked until midnight. There was also a lot of work on weekends. In retrospect, I think it was good that I had this experience in my 20s.
Next, I joined Indeed Japan KK, where I worked for four and a half years. When I initially joined the company, there were only about 10 people on the team, and I was the first to be hired as an agency relationship sales rep liaison. By the time I left, the company had grown to nearly 500 employees. It was a great learning experience to see the growing process. We started out in a small shared office in Yurakucho, then rented out one floor, then two floors, then moved to a new building in Azabu Juban. Now the company has an office in the more central Roppongi 1-Chome area and continues to grow rapidly.
During that time, I volunteered to help support the rapid growth by becoming a sales trainer. My job was to train about 20 new sales members every month for two and a half weeks after which I handed them over to the sales team.
My trainees would have no background in human resources, so I would start by asking them to define what human resources meant. We then taught them how the company’s services worked, reviewed product details, and administered a test to assess what they’d learned. They had a week of practice and the goal was to close at least one sale before they finished training.
That work experience made me realize how much I enjoy teaching people and creating processes.
From there, what led you to work at Scrum Studio?
After that, I wanted to grow and improve my skills as a trainer, so I took an opportunity in sales enablement at WeWork. While working there, I met Masami Takahashi, who is now the president of Miles Japan and my current boss. I ended up working as Masami’s chief of staff, a position where I was responsible for overseeing virtually everything on his team. I attended management meetings, worked as a project manager, and collaborated with him on projects that were central to the company’s success. I liked my work at WeWork but when he decided to move to a new role at a different company, I decided to leave.
However, before I could find a new role, Masami shared that he was going to work for Scrum Studio, and he would be launching the Japanese subsidiary of Miles. His enthusiasm for the project sparked my interest, and I decided to apply and join the Scrum Studio team preparing for the Miles launch.
What were your responsibilities while preparing for the launch of Miles Japan?
After joining the company in March 2021, it was a mad rush to prepare for the launch on October 20, 2021. The most difficult part was setting up the app rewards that could be redeemed from miles earned through the app. One of my main responsibilities was negotiating with the companies that would be offering these rewards.
At the time of the launch, we had 108 rewards available. Currently, that number has grown to about 150. We still need to add more, so preparing and negotiating new rewards are my current key responsibilities.
Right now, the most popular rewards are the free ones, such as earning a free cup of coffee from FamilyMart or a free bottle of Coca-Cola. Then there are raffles that users can enter. Many people enjoy seeing if they can win a big item in a raffle more than redeeming a free product.
People also appreciate the fact that the points they accumulate can be used for donations such as for the Red Cross. Additionally, when the number of Miles reward a user has donated reaches a goal, Miles or a sponsor company will donate additional funds to the recipient organization.
What kind of work would you like to do in the future?
I really enjoy working and interacting with teammates from other countries. I find that while we may have different values and there are often times when we don’t understand each other, when we overcome these difficulties, we can form a unique bond which is very rewarding.
Also, rather than doing sales work myself, I prefer sales enablement where I get to create and teach sales systems, explaining the most efficient ways to sell. At Miles Japan, while I handle sales, I also train the staff. I don’t think there is a sales enablement position in the U.S. yet, so if Miles wants to start up a sales enablement position in the U.S., I’m ready!
Do you have a message for people who want to work at Miles or other start-ups?
You have to challenge yourself in every aspect of the job. I don’t think people who draw a line and say, “My work ends here,” are suited for this. People who only do what they are told are also not a good fit. Working at Miles or other start-ups requires people to have an ambitious attitude — to pay attention and find needed work themselves.
Because Miles is Scrum Studio’s first incubation project, there will be more opportunities to launch new businesses in Japan in a similar way. We need people who will do whatever it takes for success. We provide on-site support, helping establish the company and nurture it from the ground up. Then, once the company has grown, we hand it over to their team. This kind of experience is only possible at a place like Scrum Studio.
People here need to be open to taking on a wide range of tasks. Even large projects are run by a surprisingly small number of people, so each person’s scope of work can be very broad. You can take charge of a lot of things by yourself, and there are times you need to figure things out without your manager’s input. I find this an exciting part of my work.
Scrum Studio and Scrum Ventures are like the Avengers, a company full of really talented people, so I was a little intimidated at first. But for a front-line position like mine, I think people who are willing to take on challenges will thrive, regardless of their educational background, because a lot is about having drive.