Interview

Employee inerview

The challenges of energy are borderless.
To spread "afterFIT" that started in Japan throughout the world.

Profile

Kota SAITO
(Nickname in afterFIT: Chota)

Born in Yokohama in 1988.
After experiencing as a construction supervisor at a major general contractor, moved to a renewable energy company.
Engaged in the development of nationwide solar and biomass power plants as a project manager.
Worked in Indonesia and Malaysia as a procurement manager of ASEAN biomass fuel.
Joined the Indonesian subsidiary to develop biomass fuel suppliers as well as new fuel for biomass power plants.
Joined afterFIT in January 2019.
Loves painting and music.

Leave imagination and learn realism.
Supervised building construction in a major general contractor.

― Please tell us about your school days and the first company life.

I spent creative days from childhood to my days at the university. I liked experiencing artworks while being into soccer. I was going to go to a university of arts. I was linked by fate to enter in the Department of Architecture.

During the days in the university, I traveled around the world for so long that I didn't come back until the end of summer vacation. I visited about 20 countries, including the Middle East countries such as Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, which were prohibited from visiting at that time. Traveling that region eliminated the resistance to live in different environments. Seeing is believing. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Although I was such a student, I became conservative when I saw the "ice age" of job hunting when I was in the third grade.
Now I wonder why I didn't take a risk at that time, but I was influenced by the professor's saying, "You cannot make a living with design. It's better to learn the construction structure and join a general contractor."

I joined a major general contractor as a new graduate and worked as a supervisor of building constructions for five years. At that time, I went to work on Monday morning with clothes for six days packed in a large bag, and came home by the last train on Saturday.

I was in charge of a medium-sized building with a total construction cost of about 1 billion yen. I supervised eight constructions in four years. Because I was in different environments for each project, I was able to work with a fresh feeling every year.
But I suddenly felt I had worked enough when I entered the fourth year. I was tired of repeating the same thing every day.

As I gained experience, I had more discretion, stronger decision-making power, and bigger responsibility. However, when I look at my seniors, the work itself is the same whether they are 10 years or 20 years older than me. The content of their work was actually the same as mine, just joined five years ago.
Of course, I think there are differences in their ways of working, arising from their experience. But it seemed to me that the skill would not grow in proportion to the age.
"I gotta do this for another 20 years." Once I imagined that, I developed a feeling that I had other things to do.

I took almost sole responsibilities at construction sites after four years, and I was well experienced for all of my tasks. Then I decided to change my job.

Indonesia, a new field I reached through working as I like.

― Why did you choose the energy business for your new job?

Honestly speaking, I wanted to leave architecture.
What I was conscious about in my job-hunting was these three things: related to energy, avoid major companies, and management.

I had been interested in the energy field. It's because I thought that the earth cannot manage without energy.
I avoided major companies because I wanted to work on plowing the soil and sowing seeds, rather than watering seeds to grow. At the same time, I didn't want to serve as a soldier of an organization. I hoped to take a management position and work for a big project with a group of people under me.
In the end, I decided to join a renewable energy company. There I was involved in the biomass power generation and learned about renewable resources. After changing the job, I realized the flexibility of promoting my own business that I had never experienced before. I was able to work as I really like.

There are various fields in the renewable energy business. The renewable resource I dealt with was a material called wood pellets. Since we needed to procure resources from overseas, I became a procurement officer.
When my name was called at the management meeting as the only person suitable for the task, I took it without hesitating. Soon I visited Indonesia and Malaysia to procure palms. I worked there as a procurement officer for a year. I couldn't speak Indonesian at first, but it didn't cause many troubles because it's the simplest language in the world.

After that, I was invited by a local Indonesian to be in charge of exporting biomass fuel, and decided to join the local subsidiary. It was a supplier for the biomass power generation in Japan.
I worked there for about two years, exporting renewable energy to Japan. I could also learn Indonesian at that time.

― How was the working life in Indonesia?

I like the country very much. Indonesians have a strong motivation to overtake developed countries in the future. I was also able to see Japan from an objective viewpoint. I noticed that Japan, as well as Indonesia, is just one of the countries in the world.

Indonesia has poor infrastructure. There are people who don't have enough electricity or cannot drink water. Some people don't have gases or sewage, or perhaps even paved roads.
When I heard that there was no electricity here and there, I thought about how I can make electricity.

Indonesia has a population of 250 million and the country is five times as large as Japan. I think there would be no better place to do the energy business.

I felt the possibility when I met afterFIT.
To solve the problems of countries that lack electricity.

― How did you join afterFIT?

When I returned to Japan after that, I met Kan-chan※1, the CEO of afterFIT. At first, it was not a job interview, but just someone introduced me that "there is an interesting person in Japan doing energy business."
Kan-chan is familiar with electricity, full of fighting spirit, out of the box, but has a stable axis. Although it was our first meeting, I felt he was an interesting person. The balance between ambition and the logic toward it was wonderful.
I told him then that "the best place for renewable energy is outside Japan", as well as, "I want to do business in Indonesia." Since that day, I decided to participate in afterFIT.

From my experience of living and doing business locally, I wanted to bring electricity throughout Indonesia. In the houses in Indonesia, electricity may stop by using electrical appliances. Although the country has plenty of coal and had been increasing thermal power generation, it still lacked electricity.
On the other hand, Japan is small and has enough electricity so that we have no more system available for supplying it. Certain time had passed since the launch of Japan's FIT system※2, and the world of "afterFIT" became gradually visible.

We should develop a renewable energy business in Indonesia with the experiences in construction, electrical technology, and power plant maintenance that afterFIT has as a company. And we should pay attention to the areas that are not yet provided with electricity.

Indonesia has many people and a large area, however, there is not enough electricity.
As countries try to move from coal-fired thermal power to renewable energy for the global environment, increasing thermal power generation is going against the global trend. But there is nothing wrong with them.
It is rather suitable for a demonstration experiment for the future that stabilizes unstable power in the process of supplementing insufficient electricity. If provided with electrical technology and information, the country has a high potential to utilize renewable energy.

Never tired thanks to the big ambition.
When I'm in afterFIT, I feel like having fun.

― What kind of work are you doing in afterFIT, while aiming for the project in Indonesia?

In afterFIT, I'm in charge of investigation of new transactions as well as finance.
As I'm working in finance, I need to know all of the cases, such as the land for the power plant, the METI system, risk management, and even sales. I think it is the best environment to develop a business sense. Now I'm working with a sense of fulfillment.
There are many younger team members, including experienced seniors. The atmosphere in the company is pretty good.

The project in Indonesia will soon start and become my main task.

When I'm in afterFIT, I don't feel like I'm doing a job. It's closer to the feeling like I'm just having fun. Even when doing plain tasks, I never get tired thanks to the big ambition I have. I feel myself is in a quite good condition.

I have the feeling that Japan is just one of the countries in the world. I happened to be in Japan, but when I have a global viewpoint, I felt that "afterFIT" also happened to have started in Japan.

As a human being who lives on the earth, we have to promote renewable energy.
This issue is borderless.
The responsibility is not borne by someone and each of us should have the same mind. As an individual among such people, I want to work on solving energy problems around the world.

  • ※1.Kan-chan: The nickname of CEO Kanzo Tanimoto. We call each other by their nicknames.
  • ※2.FIT system: Feed-In Tariff; The fixed price purchase system for renewable energy. The system that government promises that electric power company buy electricity generated by renewable energy at a fixed price in a fixed period. In Japan, it started from 2012.