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Company Background

From Semiconductor to Translator to Human Resources

In my 40+ years of professional life, I am proud to say that I have worked in three different fields in conjunction with career changes and entrepreneurial ventures. I can say that these three (3) areas are semiconductors, translation, and human resources (HR). Each of these fields is undoubtedly different from the others, so you may not find a consistent thread running through them, but in retrospect, I believe there was a solid reason for the transition in my work.

During my first ten (10) years with the company, I was involved in semiconductor manufacturing at a leading Japanese conglomerate. I came to the U.S. as an expatriate and was transferred to the U.S. I was involved in the manufacture of silicon wafers. When I say semiconductor, I was manufacturing silicon substrates for semiconductor devices: silicon wafers that are round and shaped like polished mirrors. This field had already been a Japanese specialty since the 1980s when I joined the company, and even today, Japanese manufacturers are the frontrunners, accounting for more than half of the global market. I was an engineer on the manufacturing floor at one of those silicon wafer manufacturers, and my first overseas assignment in the U.S. was to Oregon in the Great Pacific Northwest during the money glut of the bubble era, when the Japanese headquarters acquired a well-established wafer manufacturer in the U.S. at the time.

As a manufacturing engineer, I spent almost every day in the cleanroom where the production line was located and quickly became friends with the local American employees and supervisors who worked on the line. It did not take me long to learn that there were various labor issues and conflicts between employees and management on the shop floor. At the time, the U.S. Human Resources Department had just been renamed the Human Resources Department (HR Dept.), replacing the old Personnel Department, and even Americans were dubiously asking, “What is the HR Department?” or “What does HR mean?”

In the meantime, the vice president at the time, the top Japanese executive at the company, asked me to report monthly on the company’s HR matters. When I tried to refuse, saying I was an engineer and not in charge of HR, he retorted, “You are a Japanese employee, so we need you to do everything or at least work twice as hard as an American. So, I asked him to double my salary, and he said, “That’s just not possible.”

I became friends with the American staff of the HR Department and benefited from their attentive guidance. This is the start of our company’s HR consulting business. I still keep in touch with the people in the HR Department through Facebook, etc., and although we don’t see each other very often anymore, I feel that our hearts are still deeply connected.

Meanwhile, in the area of manufacturing, there was a time when the number of jobs related to technology transfer from Japan to the U.S. continued to increase steadily. In short, I was frequently asked to translate technical documents, quality assurance (QA) manuals, and other documents into English and to interpret for engineers from Japan. Of course, there was no language translation software at that time, and there were no Japanese who could speak English and were as knowledgeable about technology as there are now, so I was very much valued and worked very hard every day. Through my work and experience, I realized that there would always be a strong demand for translators and interpreters in the technical field. I left the company in April 1996 and entrusted myself 100% to the present company, Pacific Dreams, Inc.

Since the late 1990s, the number of Japanese companies in the manufacturing industry has been increasing in the U.S., and the need for technical translation and interpretation services related to semiconductors and IT has continued to grow. This all suddenly worsened after the Financial Crisis in late 2008. The Financial Crisis wiped out all our translation projects in the blink of an eye, just like water evaporating under the blazing sun in the desert. At the same time, some Japanese companies were laying off employees or closing their offices and withdrawing from the U.S. after the financial crisis. So, we began receiving serious HR consultations from such companies on behalf of our translation services.

In the 2000s, we gradually began to engage in HR-related work, such as creating handbooks and job descriptions, in addition to our translation services. These services also had an affinity with translation, and we had the additional benefit of translating the handbooks and other materials we created. However, the Financial Crisis forced the company to change its operations drastically. Since then, HR consulting has become the core of our business, and we have shifted to a comprehensive HR consulting services company (excluding placement and temporary staffing services) for Japanese companies in the United States.

I hope you now understand how our company has transitioned from semiconductors to translation and HR consulting. Although I have made several shifts, I have always considered the work I am doing my calling. I tell myself that there is no other job out there as rewarding as the one I am doing now. Retirement and pension benefits are not likely to enter my lexicon anytime soon. However, I do feel that at my age, I cannot ignore taking care of my health on a daily basis.

Pacific Dreams, Inc.
President & CEO
Ken Sakai