First-hand Experience and Enthusiasm
When I entered SECOM, the company was just beginning to expand into the medical services field, pursuing the corporate "Social System Industry" philosophy. Since my university background was in the medical field, I was assigned to a group developing an algorithm to automatically create the work-shift schedules for nurses at a hospital — a task complicated by the complex and sometimes contradicting relationship between the demands of the hospital and the nurses themselves. "Understanding the true nature of the problem" or gaining first-hand experience is the basic ideology behind research at SECOM and I wasted no time situating myself at a nurse station of a hospital for weeks to study the details of nursing duties and scheduling.
I have always liked devising computer algorithms and programming, so I repeatedly built and took a prototype program into the nurse station and asked for opinions — enthusiastically making use of the feedback every cycle. Finally, I was able to implement an algorithm that could make work schedules on par to the ones made by a nurse manager. Today, the system incorporating this algorithm is commercially available and used in many hospitals throughout Japan. In addition, I also applied for several patents based on this algorithm.
Obtaining a Doctoral Degree while working
After the success of that project, I was promoted as the manager of medically related research. It is very exciting and refreshing work for me to create new products and services by gathering talented researchers from a variety of research backgrounds and helping them work together towards a common goal. Meanwhile, when the patents applications became publicly available, one of the senior managers suggested that I join a part-time doctoral program focusing on work-shift scheduling. I jumped at this offer because I had always been interested in obtaining a Ph.D. One of the conditions in obtaining the Ph.D. was to continue with my full-time position in the laboratory was so in terms of time, it was very difficult to cope with both graduate and professional work. However, I was able to complete my coursework and dissertation to obtain the Ph.D. in two years.
Appeal of SECOM Intelligent Systems Laboratory
Looking back, I feel that I had a lot of chances where I could propose and research topics that I was interested in at the lab. I believe that SECOM offers its researchers a chance to simultaneously contribute to the company and grow individually.