Meet the team: Erika Osawa
Q & A with Erika
What’s your background and where are you from?
I was born in Japan and grew up moving with my family between Tokyo and Australia, as well as living in Spain, Switzerland and London over the years. I currently live in Hobart, Tasmania.
When did you start your journey with Symbiotech and what is your current role?
I joined Symbiotech in 2018 and manage the operational functions for Symbiotech including human resource, finance and legal activities.
How would you explain your role with Symbiotech to a 5 year old?
I look after the money and the people!
What was your impression of Symbiotech before you started, and why did you decide to apply for the role? And did this impression match with your feelings after the first couple of weeks?
I had worked with the Symbiotech company founders previously, so I was pretty familiar with the core business and knew it was a team I’d enjoy working with. I was also particularly excited about working in a software start-up, which was a big change from the corporate and academic environments I’d mostly worked in previously. I feel that a startup is a more family-like and personable environment, and offers more opportunities to contribute toward different areas of the business and to grow professionally. Coming into the business, I had stereotyped software engineers as being reclusive but it was more social than I expected, and we’ve actually had some really fun team social events like our surfing weekend at Phillip Island! I’ve really enjoyed being part of creating the company’s culture.
How has Symbiotech evolved since you started?
From being a very niche business focused on smart lighting, the variety of projects has increased and we’ve evolved from a Melbourne-based business into a global business. When I started we had 5 people in one city – now we’re a team of 15 in 8 different countries.
Where are you in the world? Are you stationary or do you travel whilst working remotely? If you travel, which places have you been & visited whilst working for Symbiotech?
When I started at Symbiotech I lived in Melbourne but mostly worked remotely, even though we had a physical office nearby. I love remote work as this gives me geographical freedom. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to take advantage of this as much as I’d like over the past two years because of lockdowns and border closures, but prior to this I had the opportunity to travel and work from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Tibet – and on my travels around Australia. Last year I relocated from Melbourne to Tasmania as I thrive on spending time in nature – and in my opinion Tasmania has some of the most beautiful natural environments in the world!
What does your day-to-day (and your office) look like and how do you take advantage of the remote position at Symbiotech, in regards to your work/life balance? What does working at Symbiotech enable you to do, what you could not do with a classic 9 – 5 job?
On a typical day I would drop my kids off at school, go for a run along the river and then start work around 9:30am at my home office, which overlooks the beautiful mountains of Hobart. My flexible work hours allow me to take advantage of beautiful weather and go rock climbing, hiking or kayaking while my kids are at school – or to simply be more available for my family when I’m needed.
What was your biggest success and biggest mess-up whilst working for Symbiotech?
I feel my biggest success has been helping the partners grow the business from a small local start-up to one that operates across four continents. I work hard to stay on top of all the operational aspects of the company growth to allow the partners to seamlessly focus on our clients and projects and building the team. Working with the management team to attract, recruit and retain a great global team has also been a real achievement – and something I really enjoy!
Biggest mess-up – I really can’t think of anything!
Which new skills have you acquired since you started at Symbiotech? How do you use them in your daily work? How do they help you achieve your long term career aspirations?
I’ve developed bookkeeping and cashflow management skills, and gained a lot of hands-on experience in HR – where previously I’ve always had finance and HR departments to support me in larger organisations. I’ve also learned a lot about corporate governance, and of course developed some basic knowledge around IoT! My long term career aspirations are to get involved with a social enterprise, so all of these skills are very valuable for my future career.
What is the most challenging part of working for Symbiotech, and how do you overcome this challenge day-by-day?
The corporate and industrial relations legalities are the most challenging. It’s hard enough to stay abreast of legislation in Australia, but having staff and projects in so many different countries with their own (ever changing!) rules & regulations significantly adds to the challenge. It’s really important to “know what you don’t know” and seek out good expertise and support.
Do you have any other (personal or professional) projects besides the work for Symbiotech, and does the remote work help you keep track of them?
Since being a mother of three, I have the opportunity to spend more time with my children, whilst also going after my personal hobbies. Tasmania being such a great place for outdoor activities, I can schedule my work in a way that we can go on long, sometimes multi-day hikes together as a family when the weather is right, which is the best perk of my job at Symbiotech.