Succeeding with speedy strategies. Tackling the challenges of a startup as a consultant. Naoka Uchida.

In Vital WOVNeer, we introduce active WOVN members.
Today, we interviewed Naoka Uchida, who leverages her execution and on-site management skills to lead BizDev projects. Her attitude of viewing each job as a new challenge helps boost company growth even further.

Naoka Uchida / BizDev
May 2021: Joined WOVN
Naoka worked in strategic planning and new business development at a Japanese consulting firm, focusing on government agencies and companies in the financial sector. With managerial experience and having traveled to 13 countries for business, Naoka Uchida joined WOVN in 2021. As a BizDev member, she handles projects for new businesses and workflow improvement.

Leadership that doesn’t leave any room for shyness

Until high school, Naoka says she was so shy that she couldn’t project her voice further than a meter.
At WOVN, she is trailblazing projects, getting others involved, and even manning the microphone on stage at company events to promote the projects.

“I honestly don’t think I’ve overcome my shyness yet. The first time I broke out of my shell was in graduate school in the United States. I was the only Japanese person there and I was surrounded by assertive people. To create a place for myself, I first had to make my presence known, so I started by baking and handing out cookies.”

Naoka explained that just wanting to get along with people didn’t change anything, so she devised ways to make people want to approach her.

“On that same note, I’m thankful for work. It allows me to create relationships with people I don’t expect. So I think work is a good way to make friends.”

She told us her current challenge is to lead projects to success and make more friends along the way, not only with her smarts but through her words and actions as well.

Applying her consulting skills to the fullest

Naoka says she was molded by her eight years at a strategy consulting firm, which she joined as a new graduate.
This experience was more than enough to prepare her for BizDev at WOVN.
She is unmatched in her skill of zeroing in on the most important things during chaotic times, cyphering out only the important tasks, and executing them.

“I define a consultant as ‘a professional who transforms an organization’s problems and challenges into successes by setting goals and practices acceptable to stakeholders.’

BizDev’s work revolves around the jobs that teams can’t handle in their current state. Or the jobs they’re structurally not equipped to handle. It’s our job to lay down a foundation with our own hands so that the next person who takes on that role can do it smoothly, so structuring things.”

Naoka is involved in launching new businesses and improving operations at the project level.
Although she intended on just improving marketing operations, she recently has become a project manager and project leader of a new campaign initiative as a marketer herself.

“I think of anything without an element of challenge as menial labor, but at WOVN, things I’m inexperienced and unfamiliar with always come my way, which is a good thing. It turns into a battle with myself, and I’m so bent on succeeding that I don’t have time to enjoy it, but it does indeed make me grow (laughs). Then there’s the joy of being entrusted with certain responsibilities and the pleasure of working with a variety of members.”

Naoka is expanding her playing field with her natural resilience and ability to stay focused even when thrown a curveball.
It seems that “involvement” is the key to the success of her projects.

“WOVN has specialists in a variety of fields, and as a generalist, I’m not afraid of asking for their help in setting up a project for success.”

Startups demand speed - Get 60% of the wheels turning tomorrow

Naoka recalls that while she was able to utilize the skill set she had acquired in consulting, she found the speed required at startup companies challenging.

“I was a timid and cautious person by nature. I was the kind of person who would get things rolling only after careful planning and many document revisions. I didn’t want to make promises I couldn’t keep, so I carefully prepared my proposals. However, the speed demanded at WOVN was on a whole different level.
During my first three months with the company, my supervisor pointed this out to me several times. I was told, “Better to get 60% of the wheels turning tomorrow than wait and turn 100% at the end of the week.” I was the type to aim for 120% by the end of the month, and I realized that I had to change!”

Naoka learned that trial and error is actually a good process and now follows “lean business practices.”
Once again, she is breaking out of her shell, forging her way forward. Everyone has peace of mind knowing things will go smoothly with Naoka around.

“My desire to witness the rapid growth and increased market presence unique to startups is one of the things motivating me in my daily work. And I feel that my work in BizDev will contribute greatly to achieving this. So I regularly ask myself if my work is fitting for a startup.”

WBS is like a musical score

When assigned a large project, many people might start by identifying tasks, deciding on the assignees, and drawing a work breakdown structure diagram (WBS).
From middle school through college, Naoka was a piano accompanist in the chorus clubs. She used a unique analogy that likens WBS to writing a musical score and she is the project’s accompanist.

“WBS isn’t particularly fun, so I’ve decided to liken it to sheet music.
The accompanist must first keep time with the conductor. In other words, the company or supervisor’s policies. The singers are at the forefront while the accompanist is behind the scenes. So each person involved in leading the project shares the limelight.
When starting a project, 1 week is equal to 1 bar, and everyone practices the melody until they can sing it flawlessly. If this process is the prelude, then my job is closing the piece with the postlude after the singing ends.”

She writes her musical scores while asking herself, “How do I perform this song and put on the best show possible?
And who to assign each part to?” The challenge is finding the right person and making the request - not to do as a task - but as an opportunity to contribute to the company.

“I’m not good at asking people I’ve never worked with before and I always need to rustle up some courage.” Naoka smiled as she left a final message for WOVN members.

“The very presence of various specialists is a great asset for us at WOVN. Like many of our other members, I also want to go beyond departmental lines and create more value by collaborating.
When Vital Work needs to get done but you don’t know how to proceed, adding just one generalist to the mix will help the team function more smoothly. Drop me a line if you need me!”

(Scenes from the day of GLOBALIZED, an event managed by Naoka)