With her curious mind and can-do attitude, she is on track to be yet another example of great leadership in Honda Malaysia
As of 1st April 2021, Honda Malaysia happily welcomes Ms. Madoka Chujo, the 9th Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer. Her predecessors have left significant impact on the brand’s local history, and Ms. Madoka Chujo will no doubt follow in their very capable footsteps, with 23 years’ worth of experience up her sleeve.
Before we dive deeper into her story, here are some things about her that will be of interest. Growing up, she found her hometown in Yugawara, Japan, to be too small for her liking. However, as she moved from one city to another, she developed a newfound sense of appreciation for Yugawara’s sea-and-mountain landscape. Plus, it’s just one hour away from Tokyo, so she could always visit the city whenever the city bug bit.
However, her career path has led her to our shores. Luckily, her taste for spicy food will fit her right in with the food scene here. She’s explored many different types of cuisines across the world—Austrian, Sichuan, you name it—and she’s looking forward to embarking on another flavourful journey here. We hear that she’s already grown fond of our dry chilli pan mee!
She adores the James Bond movies, particularly ones starring Daniel Craig. When it comes to her favourite books, both of them are written by Ichiro Kishimi, a well-known Japanese Adlerian psychology professor. The Courage to be Disliked and The Courage to Become Happy have both provided her with enlightening and philosophical perspectives that often help her with life. She’s quoted saying, “I would get back to these books, and every time I read them, there is a new eye-opening discovery.”
Now that you’re better acquainted with Honda Malaysia’s latest CEO, let’s get into her journey with Honda and how she plans to fulfil her role here at Honda Malaysia.
1. What was your childhood like?
My family runs a small company in my hometown and I was raised not only by my parents, but also by the employees of my parents’ company, as well as the customers and the suppliers. There are lots of visitors and guests at my house at all times. Through such an environment, I believe I acquired good social skills naturally.
2. What was a defining moment for you when you were growing up?
One time, my friend described me as ‘a woman of curiosity’. Curiosity towards something I’ve never experienced or something totally different gave me the push to move forward.
I believe my curiosity toward things and people became evident during my studies in Austria, where I was in my third year of university. I stayed there for about a year, and lived together with an Austrian family and an American female student who was studying music.
Through this experience, there were lots of difficulties and surprises, and I struggled to adapt in the beginning. However, I really enjoyed all those different experiences. I think it was a very valuable opportunity for me to come in contact with different cultures and people when I was young.
3. What was your first job?
My first and only job is at Honda.
4. What skills did you develop in the early years of your career? Which ones were important skills to sharpen, in your opinion?
In my first overseas assignment in Hong Kong, I worked as a manager for both the auto and motorcycle department there. As it was a small company, there were no expats for the finance department, so I had to support even the finance department as well. I had to multitask. During this experience, I learned that it is more important to achieve some results within a certain time, even if they are not perfect. I also learned that you cannot do everything on your own and therefore, you should trust your teammates to work as a team.
5. Who or what do you credit your success to? Did you have a mentor?
I don’t have any specific mentor but I learned a lot from the senior colleagues I have been working with. Their leadership styles differ depending on their characters. I may not be able to completely follow their lead, but there were some things they said and actions they took which influenced me a lot.
6. What is your favourite motivational life quote?
“Ichigo-Ichie (一期一会),” which is translated to,
“Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
It originated from the spirit of Japanese tea ceremony. It means, “Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur every moment.” Especially because of my work experiences working in various countries, and in various situations, I really cherish the proverb.
Also, I believe in the saying: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
7. Have you ever visited Malaysia prior to landing your role at Honda? What are you looking forward to experiencing in Malaysia?
I came here only for one day just to transit, so I had never really visited Malaysia before this. I look forward to exploring and experiencing all the different cultures in Malaysia. Experiencing local cuisine is definitely the most crucial part!
8. What do you do in your spare time?
I love reading and jogging. Both give me lots of thoughts and inspiration.
Also, I love to go hiking and travelling to enjoy the beauty of nature.
9. Do you have any hidden talent?
I love cooking too. When I lived overseas or travelled to other countries, I tried to find an opportunity in learning to cook their traditional dishes. I learned Spanish cooking, Chinese (Cantonese) cooking, and Austrian cooking. While I am in Malaysia, I would definitely like to learn some Malaysian recipes!
10. How did your career journey begin?
When I was studying in Austria during a student exchange program, I saw lots of Japanese products such as cars and electric products prevalent in Austrian people’s lives. So, I was vaguely thinking in my mind to look for a job in one of those famous Japanese manufacturers. Then one day, I happened to read a book about our founder Mr. Soichiro Honda. I was really impressed by his passion for pursuing his dreams and his way of thinking, and I strongly felt that I want to work at Honda.
I had lots of interviews with other companies but failed to pass them. But when I had an interview with Honda, somehow I was rather confident that I would pass it. I believe this is because I knew my words about Honda were convincing enough for Honda interviewers, while they were not convincing enough for other companies.
That’s why one of my favorite quotes is, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
11. How many years have you served in the industry?
I have been serving Honda for 23 years.
12. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The higher the position you assume, the more difficult decisions you have to make. Sometimes it is difficult to judge between what’s right and wrong. But what’s important to bear in mind during your decision-making process is that what you decide today might influence what the company will be like 10 years after.
13. How does it feel like to be the first female MD and CEO of Honda Malaysia?
Since I joined Honda 23 years ago, I believe Honda has always given me equal opportunities as my male associates. If you look at Honda Malaysia, lots of women are in management positions, so I myself am not so conscious about being the first female MD and CEO of Honda Malaysia. However, if my experience can be considered as something inspirational and motivational to others that regardless of gender, anyone can have the chance to become an MD and CEO, I would be happy because it is indeed the Honda way.
14. What would you say your leadership style is like?
My leadership style is participative. Before I make a final decision, I would like to listen to my team members’ opinions, as I believe that they take care of their areas and have the expertise. I believe teamwork and mutual communication are always most important.
15. With you at the helm, what changes can the company expect? How do you plan on executing that change?
There is an overall trend toward electrification in the automotive industry, and the same goes to Malaysia. The competition among non-national and national brands is getting tougher and tougher. We need to pursue the best possible operation and strengthen the business foundation, preparing for such innovation and tougher competition.
As I am quite new to Malaysia and have fresh eyes, I would like to make a zero-based review about everything, rather than just to see things as they are.
16. What are your plans for the company? Where do you see the company going under your leadership? And where do you see the industry going in the future?
I believe the automotive industry is in a period of once-in-a-decade transformation, where the industry is seeking to contribute to a more sustainable society by focusing on environmental and safety issues. So I believe Honda must also change in order to adapt to the change in our environment. At the same time, our core values should remain constant. Honda is also committed to this direction worldwide.
During my helm, with no prejudice, I would like to probe what to change and what shouldn’t be changed. Afterwards, if there need to be some changes, I would like to take action quickly.
17. What would you say to someone who aspires to follow in your footsteps as the next CEO?
I have been working here at Honda Malaysia for only three months, but I already feel that our associates are all very passionate about Honda and also very supportive.
Even under the current tough and uncertain situation, I am sure you can overcome those difficulties as long as you work with them closely as a united team in both Melaka and PJ.
18. What would you like to say to the readers of With Dreams magazine?
Although I have only been in Malaysia for three months, I have been pleasantly surprised to see and feel how much our dealers, customers, and associates place their trust and love in Honda. This is surely thanks to all the efforts by my predecessors, customers, as well as all our associates and dealers nationwide. Therefore, in order to meet their expectations and maintain their trust, Honda Malaysia will keep providing unique and innovative products and reliable service.
Please stay tuned!