Japan’s Executive of the Year Shinya Suda: “Don’t hesitate to share your ambition”

Japan’s Executive of the Year Shinya Suda.

Our Executive of the Year winner for Japan in the 2022 Adobe Experience Maker Awards may be a certified pharmacist, but it’s his three-decade-long career in Information Technology (IT) that earned him this notable recognition.

Shinya Suda is the senior vice president of information systems at Astellas Pharma Inc, an organization that aims to improve the health of people around the world through innovative medical solutions serving over 70 countries.

With the help of Adobe Experience Cloud solutions, Shinya led a company-wide effort to improve customer experiences and unify the organization’s technology stack globally. Following his big win, we spoke about his career, path to IT, and his advice for other experience makers.

Congratulations! Executive of the Year for Japan, that is a huge honor!

Quite honestly I’m very proud because it’s recognition for what my team and colleagues have achieved together. I feel very honored to have won this award.

This has been a company-wide effort affecting a full end-to-end customer experience, for an organization you’ve been with for quite some time, can you tell us about how you came to be in this role?

I have been with Astellas for 30 years through the continuous evolution of IT and digital. I joined the company just after graduating with my Masters in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. My 30-year career in IT actually started without any working knowledge of IT!

So you’re a certified pharmacist in Japan! What first attracted you to IT and working with technology?

When I started my career, I realized technology was everywhere. Through it, I can work with anyone, in any business area, anywhere in the world.

What’s more difficult, chemistry or IT?

A chemical reaction is when one entity and another are hit with energy to create new things, and I see similar things amongst people within the business world.

Two people have an exchange of ideas and opinions and can create innovative things. It’s quite similar to a chemical reaction, and IT is a bit of an enabler for this chemical reaction.

Can you tell us more about the digital transformation at Astellas Pharma?

We deal with prescription drugs in over 70 countries — it’s important for us to deliver information to healthcare professionals accurately and in compliance with local regulations. We implemented the Adobe platform to enable us to do this effectively.

One of my goals is to create the best mix of human capabilities and digital technologies. People can be burdened by so many things that digital technology can help with. So, technology doesn’t replace me, but rather empowers me. I want to build the best mix of data, technology and human ability to make that human more capable to innovate.

What advice can you share with others from your long career in this field?

We are in a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, but I believe we have one obvious thing — ambition. I believe leaders can be a source of energy to influence and inspire, and also empower the people on the team. My advice is to share your ambition with your team members and colleagues as often and early as you can.

“A child always says, “I want something, or I want to be something.” This is ambition and a dream without hesitation. Don’t hesitate to share your ambition, that is my simple advice for others.”

Shinya Suda

Without ambition, big things don’t happen. As Executive of the Year, you certainly inspire others. Who inspires you?

In 1997 I was transferred to the Netherlands to work out of our European regional headquarters. At that time, I couldn’t speak English very well and I didn’t believe I could survive outside of Japan. But I had many colleagues who were kind and quite supportive and helped with that transition.

After that, my career totally changed. After nine months in Europe, I returned to Tokyo and continued to work with various people around the world. Globalization of information systems became my life at Astellas, so my manager at that time was the most inspiring person for me.

“In these volatile times, no one knows what the right thing to do is, so we can create the right thing; we can decide what to do and make it happen.”

Some people look at ambiguity as a threat, and I think you see it as an opportunity.

Absolutely, yes. We are always focused on patient-centricity. So, even if we have different views or opinions, we elevate the conversation always to, “what is best for the patient?” It gives us one common goal to create and deliver value towards.

What other mantras guide you day-to-day?

When I send messages to my team, I close with the phrase, “Be professional, be passionate, and be proud.” Those are three things I always live by.

I have been working in global environments now with various types of people for decades. And I always consider which type of people I want to collaborate with again. I reached three keywords — open, honest, and fair. I believe this motto can be well accepted by people across the globe, even if they have a different culture or background, this is common for everyone.