In many cases, change can be slow to come about, whether it’s related to technology, culture or societal norms. Invariably, change prevails, however, and takes hold in the blink of an eye.
Akisa Matsuda has first-hand knowledge of the impact of change and its acceptance. The associate director, software product management for Sharp Electronics, learned from her mother that even long-held beliefs and customs are never permanent. Matsuda’s mother grew up in the traditional Japanese culture, where a woman’s obligations were relegated to taking care of her family and not pursuing a career with personal fulfillment.
“She told me ‘You think you know the best, but the world is bigger and changing. Do not stop learning,’” Matsuda related. “She was not allowed to go to college when she graduated from high school. Later, she enrolled herself in college at the age of 40 and obtained a bachelor’s degree. At the age of 70, she still organizes a study group involving highly-ranked researchers and professors. I follow her words every day.”
That her mother serves as an inspiration on multiple levels is not lost on Matsuda. A member of the Sharp team since 2011, she has immersed herself in game-changing technologies for clients, ranging from document workflow and security to cloud and mobile connectivity. Still, one of the most rewarding aspects for Matsuda is seeing the happy look on customers’ faces when the power of these solutions translates into simplifying their business needs.
“It is proof that our products have helped to solve problems and provide a positive impact by transforming the device that just copies and prints into the device which can truly get the job done for the customer,” she said.
Matsuda came to the industry during a time when analog printers were evolving into true multi-functional devices. She enjoyed figuring out how complex hardware components are controlled and how their functionalities can be extended with software.
As a product manager earlier in her career, Matsuda received a call from a U.K.-based IT reseller that shaped her thinking. “He passionately explained how copiers need to be a part of the corporate network resources and criticized how we were doing it totally wrong,” she said. “At that moment, I saw the great potential of integrated copiers not just as an output device, but also as one that can be extended to a workflow device and play an important role in the office.”
Learning is still very much a critical element of Matsuda’s makeup; in fact, she relishes the opportunity to step outside of her comfort zone and glean insight from customers, dealers and people outside of the industry for ideas that can be incorporated into firmware and applications. This, she feels, adds strength and a competitive advantage to Sharp’s products.
On a more personal level, one of Matsuda’s most influential mentors was Akihiro Nasu, who served as a father figure to her in the U.S. while providing guidance throughout her career. “He gave me the courage to make the right decisions and take the right actions to be successful in my long-term career,” she said.
The past few years have been particularly exciting for Matsuda from a new product perspective, as Sharp continues to heed its customers’ calls for innovation while providing inroads to an expanded scope of solutions. Moving forward, Matsuda seeks to play a pivotal role in helping Sharp and its dealers transform by delivering products that speak to an outcome-driven approach.
Feedback is an important variable to enable Sharp to drive its platform forward, and that means accepting the need for change where warranted. “Criticism is very important and provides a very powerful first step to improve and invent something new,” she said. “By dissecting criticism and understanding why, I believe we can deliver successful products and services with clarity.”
Matsuda and her husband, Roy Carrinho, reside in New Jersey. They enjoy traveling to islands with pristine beaches where they can love to snorkel. Their favorite sun spot is Miyako Island in the south of Japan. The island has unfortunately attracted floating plastics from the ocean, which has spurred Matsuda’s interest in reducing plastic waste. She is a champion of Sharp’s latest offering, the Skywell Atmospheric Water Generator, which repurposes water from the air for consumption.
“We have so many opportunities to reinvent our industry by adopting emerging technology, including AI and IoT,” she said. “I think together with our dealers, we can transform the document industry into a smart industry.”