March 8 is International Women's Day. Yamaha Motor has a variety of programs and initiatives to support and encourage contributions from our women employees, such as various training programs for career advancement, seminars to help balance work with childbirth and parenting, and an expanded system for shorter working hours.
These initiatives have helped accelerate the rise of women to manager positions, and many women are now active in product development and other areas that used to be dominated by men.
In this issue, we introduce a woman who initially worked in motorcycle design and planning before her current position as an instructor for the Yamaha Riding Academy (YRA), Yamaha's riding technique and safety promotion program.■Setting High Goals and Reveling in the Sense of Accomplishment
Harumi Ota is primarily in charge of planning and running Yamaha Riding Academy programs for children and young adults.
"It really fills me with joy when I see the kids I'm teaching yell 'I did it!', because I love that moment myself," says Harumi Ota. As part of Yamaha Motor's Customer Experience Business Unit, Ota's role is planning and operations at the Yamaha Riding Academy (YRA), and at the motorcycle course for junior high and high school students held the day we spoke with her, "I did it!" could be heard over and over.
Ota went to one of Japan's powerhouse high schools for volleyball and played as a setter for the company's women's volleyball team. After deciding to move on from playing volleyball, she got her motorcycle license and started going touring with some of her like-minded friends--and she loved it. But things changed not long after she was transferred to the design and planning department.
"I was in charge of planning the design of our off-road racing motorcycles, and all the members of the project team were accomplished professionals in their respective fields, whether it was engineering or track testing. Honestly, I felt that I had no business expressing my thoughts, nor did I think my words would have much weight when all I was doing was going touring as a hobby."
But Ota's years and experience in volleyball gave her direction: to set a high goal, envision yourself the moment you reach that goal, and to use that image as a driving force. ■From All Japan Enduro Champion to the Enduro World Championship
"I really want kids to experience the joy that comes from accomplishing something."
The goal Ota set for herself was to learn the ropes of off-road racing and win the All Japan Enduro Championship in two years. From that day onward, she and her coach worked hard training and practicing on the bike, and she indeed made it happen, being crowned All Japan Enduro Champion in the women's class in 2022. "I remember how great the sense of accomplishment felt at that moment. Like, 'I did it! I knew I could if I tried!'" she recalls.
Ota then set a new goal and continued her training, this time seeking to enter a round of the FIM Women's Enduro World Championship in two years. She achieved that goal as well by competing in the 2022 season opener in Germany, but admitted she struggled with the various procedures and bike preparations just to enter, as well as fundraising and other issues. "But when I was at the starting point next to the world's fastest enduro riders that I'd only ever seen online, it felt like, 'Wow, look how far you've come," she explains.
Currently, Ota handles the YRA's courses for younger riders, which include the Parent-Child Motorcycle Class targeting elementary schoolers and the Junior/High School Student Motorcycle Class. For a young child, the power produced by even a small engine or using a clutch to change gears are certainly not easy to get accustomed to. But it is precisely because they are difficult that the feeling of accomplishment is that much sweeter. That is what Ota wants her students to taste and it motivates her the most.
She was unfortunately unable to finish the Enduro World Championship round due to going over the allowed time, but there still were happy and memorable moments for her. A Swedish rider competing aboard a bike Ota worked on said how much she loved its design, and she says that just hearing that made her feel like all her work to that point had been worth it. And of course, Ota already has her next goal in mind.
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"That fulfilling feeling that makes you yell out 'I did it!' without thinking comes when you've worked your way up from nothing and finally accomplish what you set out to do. To experience that, a motorcycle is a great partner," explains Ota. As she spends her days now as a planner and instructor for the YRA, she confidently states that for these activities to continue hereafter, she wants to not only rely on her own personal drive but also build the foundations to take them to the next stage.
Ayuko Kobayashi■Contact us from the Press
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