Q&A with Michael Shimota: President and Country Leader, Australia and New Zealand
We sat down with the country lead of Slalom’s new Australian office to find out where he came from, what motivates him, and the differences in work culture between Australia and the US.
Can you tell us a bit about your career in consulting?
Wow, it’s tough to summarize 30 years of consulting! I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some of the most interesting and largest transformation programs across the globe—all over the US, in Germany, Japan, Australia, and throughout APAC (Asia Pacific). All these experiences, especially the exposure to diverse cultures, languages, approaches, and styles, have shaped me both personally and professionally.
Tell us about any lessons you’ve learned along the way.
There have been so many, but here’s an important one: I started my career in the US working in what was very much a command-and-control environment. Working in other countries—especially Japan, where consensus is key and I was a minority and unfamiliar with the language and the culture—taught me to observe, listen, adapt. That’s enabled me to evolve and be more effective in Australia and across APAC. It’s helped me work with the next generation of people and with collaborative methods and approaches too.
How about your life outside of work?
My life revolves around my family: my wife Kelly, our boys Lucas, 19, Adam, 17, and Aaron, 15. Our latest addition is Olive, a groodle (goldendoodle) puppy. We’re kept busy around the boys’ interests in sports, art, and dance. We love to take advantage of the spoils of Melbourne outdoor life. Living a five-minute walk from the water, we enjoy starting our day with a walk, a run, or a paddle along the bay or maybe some golf or mountain biking.
What advice do you have for Slalom as we enter Australia?
Be Slalom. The Slalom model and brand will be successful in Australia. Because it’s innovative, collaborative, and confident—but humble. That’s key. “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is a thing in Australia. It means if you get too big for your britches, you will be cut down to size. If you stay humble and produce results, you will succeed.
From a cultural standpoint, Australia is definitely a more laid-back business environment. Not nearly as intense and in-your-face as Silicon Valley can be. A hard-sell approach does not work here. You must develop trusting relationships. As a smaller, tighter market, negative issues become known quickly. Your reputation is critical.
Where do you see Slalom 10 years from now?
Slalom Australia will be a top consultancy, offering a full suite of modern consulting services to enterprise, government, and mid-market clients. Slalom Global will have expanded its footprint to all major markets across the world.
Any fun facts to share?
Here’s a fun fact: I am the great-great-grandson of a Japanese princess, and fourth in line to the throne. OK, not really. That’s just the story I tell when asked “Where did the name Shimota come from?” The truth is not as cool. It was a translation error. Dad’s side is Bohemian (Western Czech) and my grandparents got the spelling from immigration.