Q&A with Ko Asami: Country Lead, Japan
The leader of Slalom Japan talks about his vision for growing a diverse and global team.
Tell us about your career before you came to Slalom.
I started my career at IBM as an engineer. I did what we called National Language Support, or Double-Byte Character Set Support, which was making systems compatible with Asian languages like Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
I then worked with my former IBM boss to help launch a Santa Barbara-based ERP [enterprise resource planning] software company.
I joined Deloitte in 2002 and became a partner in 2006. I led our life sciences and healthcare business, which included pharmaceuticals, medical devices, medical tech companies, and healthcare providers. I became the head of our life sciences and healthcare practice for the Asia-Pacific in 2007 and led that practice for 14 years.
What drew you to this opportunity with Slalom?
Slalom felt like the new era of consulting. It’s very modern, technology-based, and agile. And very diverse and people-centric. This is a great opportunity for me to pursue my passion of building a diverse, global team.
What emerging technology trends are you seeing in Tokyo?
Organizations are very interested in applying digital, cloud, data, AI, etc. for their business transformation. Japan is several years behind the US with these trends, and we’re trying to catch up.
The Japanese government recently launched an agency to make the public sector digitalized in the next ten years. And this will accelerate digital transformation among private sector as well. This is a perfect fit for our expertise at Slalom. Our team is looking forward to helping companies in Japan modernize.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
If I’m being very honest, the first thing that comes to mind was my hole in one. It was 190 yards and I thought my ball was off the green. The caddie came to me saying, “Asami-san, your ball is in the hole." And I was like, "You've got to be kidding me!"
But when I think of my proudest professional accomplishment, it’s not something I built or launched. I think of creating great teams and building relationships that I still have today. I have friends across the Asia-Pacific and the world—people I can trust, who can trust me. My relationships and connections are what I’m most proud of.
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
This is a difficult question. One was B.B. King. I saw him in California about 30 years ago when he was still alive. The second was Prince when he came to Tokyo. And another—I love live music so it’s hard to choose—was Aretha Franklin. Aerosmith and Cindy Lauper were also favorites. And Billy Joel when he came to Japan. And Branford Marsalis, who’s a great jazz player. I love jazz and miss going to jazz bars in New York City, Chicago, or New Orleans.
Quick game of this or that. First, dogs or cats?
Dogs! Our five-year-old dog May makes our day, every day.
Coffee or tea?
Both. Coffee, green tea, black tea, hot and cold.
Early-morning or late-night person?
Early morning. I wake up at 5am every day.
Mountains or water?
Water if I have to choose. I was on the swimming team when I was in high school.
Reading books or watching TV?
Superman or Batman?