Podcast: Women @ RopesTalk: Conversation with Chika Hirata, Takeda Japan
In this episode of Women @ RopesTalk, hosted by partner Megan Baca, partner and Co-Chair of Ropes & Gray’s Women’s Forum, Kaede Toh, interviews Chika Hirata, the Head of Ethics and Compliance at Takeda Japan. Chika has had a unique career path, working as a lawyer in both the U.S. and Japan for both private law firms and companies across the finance and life sciences sectors. She shares her experience of making the jump from the C-suite at a U.S. company to senior management at a fast-growing Japanese pharmaceutical company. Reflecting on her own career, Chika explains how she achieves some semblance of “work/life balance” and shares the one piece of advice that continues to guide her to this day.
Megan Baca: Welcome, and thank you for joining us on Women @ RopesTalk, a podcast series brought to you by The Women's Forum at Ropes & Gray. In this podcast, we spotlight extraordinary women who have had successful careers and interesting lives, and are also making a positive impact in their workplaces and in their communities. We feature women attorneys at Ropes & Gray in conversation with prominent women clients, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and others, about their careers and what's led to their successes, the challenges they've faced, and the hard-earned wisdom they've acquired. My name is Megan Baca. I'm a partner at Ropes & Gray, based in the firm's Silicon Valley office, and my practice focuses on intellectual property and technology transactions. In this episode, I am thrilled to be joined by my colleague, Kaede Toh, a partner in our Tokyo office. Kaede, thank you so much for joining us, it's wonderful to have you. To start, can you please introduce yourself and provide just a brief overview of your own practice and the roles that you may have had here at Ropes & Gray?
Megan Baca: Thanks, Kaede. I'm so excited to hear from you today and from your guest. So let's just kick things off. Can you tell us who you'll be interviewing in this episode?
Kaede Toh: Today, I wanted to introduce my good friend, Chika Hirata of Takeda Pharmaceutical – she is the Head of Ethics and Compliance. I truly believe she's a trailblazer in her own right. Chika joined a traditional Japanese company that's trying to go global. I met Chika a few months after the Takeda-Shire merger at a networking event. I loved her positive energy and was truly inspired by the huge challenge that she is undertaking.
Megan Baca: What kind of matters have you worked on with Chika so far?
Kaede Toh: Last fall, Chika invited me to present on anti-corruption issues to Takeda Japan's compliance committee. There are about 50 people – Chika is the chair of this committee. It was awesome to see her run this meeting in front of an audience that was mostly men. I truly believe she's a role model for both men and women at Takeda.
Megan Baca: What would you say is most notable about what you know about Chika's career?
Kaede Toh: After working in private practice and in-house at various foreign companies, she basically gave up her prior C-suite position and joined Takeda in order to try and globalize this Japanese company.
Megan Baca: That's fantastic. I can't wait to hear what she has to say. So with that, I will turn it over to you.
Kaede Toh: Chika-san, thank you very much for participating in our Women @ RopesTalk podcast series. I'm honored to have the opportunity to sit down and chat with you. Chika-san, I'd love if you could introduce yourself, in particular if you could tell us about your career trajectory and your path to your current role today at Takeda.
Kaede Toh: Could you tell us about your career path? You're a licensed attorney. Were you in private practice first, and then I believe you assumed some in-house positions? If you could tell us about that?
Chika Hirata: Yes, I actually have a pretty unique career. I'm admitted to practice in the New York state, but I also started my career as in-house actually. As a junior paralegal position, I started in the bank and then moved up the chain and also worked in the U.S. for awhile. During that time, I went to law school in the U.S. I already had a law degree in Japan, but in addition to that, I got the law degree in the U.S., and then I was admitted and worked as an in-house counsel in Boston for four-and-a-half years, and then I switched to private practice for the first time.
Kaede Toh: Was this in Japan or in the States?
Chika Hirata: I was hired by a law firm in New York. When I was hired by that New York firm, they actually sent me back to Tokyo, so I started my career as a private practice lawyer in Tokyo. A couple years later, I moved back to in-house counsel again and took the head of legal position. Since then, I'm the general counsel at a couple of companies, and now I'm the Chief Compliance Officer of the Tokyo office.
Kaede Toh: Were you always in the life sciences area when you were working in-house?
Chika Hirata: No, I started my career in finance. I basically worked in the finance area as a finance lawyer. This is my first time working in the life sciences business, and also my first time to work as the Head of Ethics and Compliance, so two new big challenges this time.
Kaede Toh: Could you tell us about your job responsibilities as Head of Ethics and Compliance at Takeda Japan?
Chika Hirata: We have approximately ten people in the senior management team all around Takeda. Takeda takes a business unit, business partner, business function approach, so I'm in charge of Japan as a region, but my primary responsibility is commercial side. Under my responsibility, I need to take care of the approximately 3,000 MRs (medical reps, sales reps) in Japan. We manage the risk of these medical reps, sales reps, and also take care of the ethics and compliance strategy in Japan.
Kaede Toh: How many people report to you?
Chika Hirata: I have approximately 28 people in my team, and also a couple of global reporting line ethics and compliance officers in Japan, which I also regard – not my reporting line, but also in the E&C community. So we have about 30, I would say.
Kaede Toh: Being a woman manager, that must be something quite rare at Takeda?
Chika Hirata: Yes, when I joined Takeda, we have a Japan leadership committee consisting of the senior management people of business side, commercial side. What happened was at some point I think I was one of the two women, VP-level, in that room, and the other woman is a MD from the Philippines. So basically, I was the only Japanese woman sitting there as a VP-level.
Kaede Toh: As a Japanese female VP at Takeda, were there any challenges you had when most of your subordinates are Japanese men?
Chika Hirata: I wouldn't take it as a challenge, but it's an interesting experience I would say. I always had that because probably working women in Japan and also working as a manager, it's still we are a minority. At Takeda, as I said, I was probably one of the two women sitting in the senior management team of 20-30 people. Also my team members, when I joined, and I didn't know, I was the third women in the team out of the 28 people. I think I remember one of my colleagues told me, by me joining the team, they actually increased the percentage of women 300% compared to one year ago because they used to have one and now they have three.
Kaede Toh: Last October, you invited me to present on compliance issues before the risk, ethics and compliance committee at Takeda Japan. I would say there were about 50 attendees, the majority of them men – I saw a handful of women, maybe five, including yourself. I was just so inspired to see you moderating this entire conference and also in English, and you were fielding all these questions coming left and right. I imagine that you're a true role model for both men and women at Takeda, and so I'd like to hear what kind of initiatives you have or you've been doing to be a role model or to mentor your colleagues at Takeda?
Chika Hirata: I'm actually a chair of the risk, ethics and compliance committee, and that's my job to actually run the committee appropriately, so I take it really as playing my role. Sometimes you're not confident, but you just need to make yourself as confident as possible and as comfortable as possible when you show up in the office, show presence. It's really about practice, I would say. One of the issues or one of the challenges I have right now is my team members, women team members, and some of my women colleagues feel that, "Oh, I can never be like Chika." Maybe or maybe not, but it's really about you take the role, you stand up and you practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll be. I also make it clear that I'm not really focusing on the success for the first time. What I'm focusing more on is the resilience. So try hard, and most likely you’ll fail or you're not perfect, but then try to just get back on track again.
Kaede Toh: It's also about letting go and also giving them ownership, right?
Chika Hirata: Yes, and they will learn how to survive. Even if they fail, make sure in advance to tell them, "I got your back. No matter what happens, don't worry about it."
Kaede Toh: That's wonderful. I think they're really lucky to have you as a mentor and manager. What is one of your biggest career wins to date and how did it come about?
Chika Hirata: It's been a year-and-a-half since I joined Takeda Japan. Time flies, to be honest – I feel like three years or something, but it's only a year-and-half. I'm still on my way to building my team, but I feel like this is one of the big successes. I was the general counsel chief legal officer and I was also working as a corporate officer in my previous job, which was a life insurance company, but I left the C-suite to take the Takeda job. If a Japanese company wants to change and needs my help, okay, that would be interesting. So when I moved to Takeda, I felt like I really wanted to work for a domestic company trying to be global, and maybe all male, and also young people maybe get lost – and I think I got what I was looking for. It was a big challenge too, I think, because I always worked in a foreign U.S. company. Even in the law firm, it was a U.S. law firm, so it was a very U.S.-style company. This is my first time working in a Japanese company. I tried a lot of things when I was working in my foreign companies. I also tried a lot of things in this company, as a Japanese company, and tweaked a little bit too. But both worked. So far it gave me a lot of good confidence.
Kaede Toh: You're truly inspiring. You say you've been at Takeda for a year-and-a-half now, so that means shortly after you joined, the merger with Shire happened. How has that changed your role, responsibilities, if at all?
Chika Hirata: I think the company itself is becoming really globalized. Now we have 50,000 employees at Takeda, so one of the top ten mega pharma. So it's a huge company, and also the responsibility gets bigger and bigger. For us at the leadership team too, now we have ten people on the senior leadership team and we basically divide up the world in ten parts and take responsibility of each of the parts, or sometimes one of the functions, like manufacture or research. And it's still not enough – it's a lot of things to cover. The company is accelerating the speed to become globalized, so one thing I see in Japan is especially a big change in culture.
Kaede Toh: How so?
Chika Hirata: I think language is one thing too, but also everybody needs to work or be aware of working with global people, otherwise none of your work goes further. When you launch something like a product, you need to be aware of the global initiatives or global products. When you build a relationship with the HCP doctors, you need to be aware of what's in the future, what you're going to see in the next five-to-ten years. So it's a really forward-looking mindset you need, especially in ethics and compliance. The UK and Europe, Canada, U.S., these are the countries which are probably far beyond Japan’s situation, so there's always something we learn from them. We also need to implement some of the changes which will hit Japan very soon, and also be mindful that Takeda is in the center of the Japanese pharmaceutical companies, so we are in the position to lead the industry too.
Kaede Toh: What was the most important piece of advice someone gave to you?
Chika Hirata: “It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.” I think that's the word I got from my mentor, who brought me to the U.S. when I was young and also helped me develop myself and probably led me to this career.
Kaede Toh: Is that similar advice you've been giving to your team, your colleagues?
Chika Hirata: In our generation, we kept running, and some who are good might follow us, but I think it's a different era right now. What does it mean to be role models? Sometimes it doesn't mean we need to be on the top speed, so also slowing down intentionally, or showing the empathy, or even showing our weakness or vulnerability would be the role model. I pay attention a lot to that these days. The “sprint and marathon” thing is also the same – I mean, I can run/sprint probably longer than a lot of people, but I intentionally slow down.
Kaede Toh: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Chika Hirata: In terms of the work/life balance, of course we need to abide with the law because Japan is also a highly regulated country with the labor law, but you need to find your own balance – what's your priority? It's really about that. I think for especially maybe women and maybe for men too now, life is all about up and down. You have a good time – you can really focus on your career. Sometimes you need to focus on your family or your health. So there are just so many priorities in your life, and if you can adjust that speed according to your priority, I think that would be the work/life balance. I think in that sense, I do have a work/life balance. When I want to work hard, I can work hard. If I want to take care of someone, I spend that time with somebody else or my family or whatever it is. So I can adjust my work/life balance, and that's the balance and control I've got throughout my career. I really want people to focus on that, and sometimes it needs practice.
Kaede Toh: I was wondering if you had any advice for young women who are thinking about moving in-house?
Chika Hirata: I think it's really about starting with the private practice is a big plus. I didn't do that, so I'm telling you actually. At some point in your career it's good to have a private practice career, and that will be the time you really concentrate on work. So pick up the right time and put your right energy into it and work hard because as I said, it's really about the up and down in your life and in your career too. If you know your limit, it could be a physical limit, it could be a capacity limit, and if you know your limit, you can really control your workload and work/life balance in the future. As a woman, we all have a life, probably different from a traditional male, so we have options. Everybody's life is different, so be prepared for your multiple options in the future and build what you can do, put your energy in. Also thinking about the strength of your team members and working from the private practice in-house is really working for somebody else, so you need to have that room. While you're in the private practice, work hard, concentrate on yourself, but once you move to in-house, you need to have that extra room to think about others because it's a totally different environment. To do that, you need to know your limit when you’re working the private practice, then you can focus a lot on the people. If you can do that, you'll be a really successful in-house lawyer and people manager, in my view.
Kaede Toh: Chika-san, thank you again for joining us. This has been really fun and just very, very inspiring. Thank you so much.
Chika Hirata: Thank you so much, Kaede.
Megan Baca: Thank you so much, Kaede and Chika. That was a wonderful discussion. And thank you to our listeners – we appreciate you tuning into our Women @ RopesTalk podcast series. For more information about Ropes & Gray's Women's Forum and our women attorneys, please visit ropesgray.com/women. You can also subscribe to this series wherever you regularly listen to podcasts, including on Apple, Google and Spotify. Thanks again for listening.