Pakistani-born Jamil Ahmad has mastered the Japanese language. The corporate competitiveness manager at HSBC Global Asset Management Japan says experience is one of the best tools to mastering anything a person sets their heart on.
Jamil Ahmad has grown to love and appreciate Japanese culture and traditions.
After having spent 14 years in Japan, he not only speaks Japanese fluently, but has assimilated into the culture with relative ease. He has grown to love and appreciate the kindness and unity locals have for each other.
Jamil joined HSBC in October 2008 and received the prestigious ''Hexagon Award'' for leading an initiative to redesign and establish a more robust business continuity plan in case of a disaster. He holds an MBA from Hosei University (Tokyo) and is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt.
Jamil is an initiator of HSBC's volunteer programme for victims of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. The youth camp project is an activity close to his heart and he dedicates most of his time to helping children in disaster-stricken areas get back into the rhythm of a normal lifestyle.
How did you pick up the Japanese language to near perfection?
By learning practically by experiencing. I believe experience is one of the best teachers and a fast-track to mastering anything.
You are good with languages, so why did you study business management?
My father was a self-made businessman who used to run a small engineering firm in Pakistan. I think his influence was the main driver.
I believe the scope and implications of business management are very wide and in this global environment, regardless of industry or type of job, business management skills are required everywhere. I wanted to be a generalist so that regardless of the type of job, I can contribute by leveraging my management skills. And after working for more than five years at HSBC, I believe it is true _ during all the ups and downs of the financial market during last few years, I was able to contribute to the business in one way or another.
Why did you decide to study in Japan?
The main reason was a scholarship. I knew so many people who wanted to go to the US or the UK (the two most popular destinations for those in Pakistan who wish to study abroad) for higher studies and at the time it was becoming harder to differentiate yourself among so many others, and therefore I decided to do something unique. This is where Japan struck me and I applied for a university scholarship there.
Before finalising, I consulted with a few professors at my university and all of them supported my decision to go to Japan instead.
Did you study Japanese before leaving Pakistan?
No, not at all. To be honest, because of a lack of research, I did not know that people do not speak English in Japan. The good thing was that a 10-month Japanese language course was part of the scholarship.
After finishing language school, I joined full-time university classes, but to be honest, for the first year, I spent more time with the dictionary than listening to the professor. One thing that helped me a lot was that I was the only foreigner in my class during the first year of university and I had to speak Japanese all the time to make friends and to understand the lectures. Extra time spent learning Japanese, great friends, good teachers... all these things helped me to clear Level 1 of the language proficiency test in my second year. After that, my Japanese was good enough that I rarely needed to open dictionary during the lectures.
I think nothing is better that making good local friends _ and do not hesitate to speak. Learning in class is necessary, but nothing can improve language capabilities more than speaking and practising. I remember going to a post office on the same evening after learning ''basic conversation at a post-office counter'' in school just to practise what we learned that day.
Tell us how living in Japan has been for you so far.
Japan is a great place to live in a lot of ways. First of all, people are so nice and so disciplined. You rarely get into any people-related trouble in Japan. After living abroad for so many years, I believe that if people around you are good, you can mingle with the culture and overcome other challenges faster. This is what is good about Japan, not to mention that the food and weather are great as well.
A few things were different from what I imagined. First of all, there are no ninjas or kimono-wearing ladies in town. Also, that no one was speaking English was a shock for me. But again, these challenges seem small because of the good Japanese people.
Why did you become a volunteer for the HSBC youth programme?
It started as a volunteer project to help people after tsunami and earthquake in 2011. The only thing that came to my mind at that time was ''this is the time to return some of the things that Japan and Japanese people have given to me during the years''. There was not a single moment where I thought of leaving the country due to radiation risks or whatever after the earthquake. I joined the volunteer project a few times to help clean houses or land in that area, and then the programme was extended to a youth programme and a kids' camp. It is unique as you are not only giving your time and effort to give good memories to the kids in disaster-affected areas, but also you learn so much from these kids, and it refreshes you by letting go of stress from day-to-day work.