Q: What drew you to the design profession, and what’s keeping you here?
A: My parents were building a new house when I was in high school. They had the vision of “the dream house” and worked with an architect to design it. The entire process fascinated me, and I realized that when you design, you’re making someone’s dream come true. Fast forward to 2021, I am still in this profession because I like seeing how clients enjoy their new space when they move in. Working in the corporate interiors sector, you deal with many HR issues as well. It is a big puzzle for them to solve—how do I excite employees about the changes coming to their physical space? Add COVID-19 to the picture: everyone is working hard to make their office spaces safe for return. It excites me to talk with companies who care about their employees, and want to provide the workspaces people look forward to coming back to.
Q: In what ways do you feel your work is contributing to diversity, inclusion, and engagement in broader society?
A: I was reading “Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses” by E. Freya Williams. She talked about how some “green” billion-dollar companies also demand their suppliers to pay living wages, as well as provide healthy, safe, and sanitary workplaces. For the corporate interiors market, we specify beautiful materials, but do we care where they come from or who makes them? I think we need to, and should. We can change how materials are made. It is like how we asked manufacturers to provide material transparency information. If we do not ask, it will not change.
Q: Describe a design project you’re working on right now, whether professional or personal, that you’re especially proud of—and why.
A: One project I’m proud of is a design for a non-profit organization. I co-founded Dallas Japanese Career Women (DJCW) in 2018 with my friend who is a supply chain director at Hitachi Hi-tech. It is not a physical design, but it is a design in a sense you mold the organization out of nothing. We registered as 501©(3) in June 2020. We grew from 2 people to 240 members, and 5 board members including founders to date. The organization’s idea was to create a platform for the growing number of Japanese working women in Dallas area to connect, inspire, and empower. After Toyota moved their US headquarter to Dallas, we have more Japanese people in Dallas!
We’re still figuring out how to provide for members during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we have not been able to meet in person. How do you keep the sense of connection while you meet only over Teams and Zoom? We have hosted many events with Japanese working women from around the world: Spain, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan. Because it is online, we do not have to limit where people live. We aim to provide a strong network and value to Dallas residents while expanding our horizon to the world.
Q: In what ways do you think our firm stands apart from other firms as far as diversity, inclusion, and engagement go—and how has our firm enabled you to thrive as a professional?
When I saw the Justice, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) spirit leading the Dallas studio’s diversity committee through a “So you wanna talk about….” series, my eyes opened wide. The discourse started after the killing of George Floyd, and aimed to provide a safe space to discuss various topics related to police brutality, systematic racism, and many other topics related to being a black person in the U.S. I saw other candid conversation happened before in some diversity events, but not this open.
Further, our CEO sends messages each time political issues arise, or tragedies related to diversity, inclusion, and equity transpire. I appreciate him for staying informed and sending encouraging messages.