The Global Operations Team: Using Language to Support Mercari’s Business, D&I, and More! Mercari’s In-house Language Services Team Enables More Voices to Be Represented in the Group’s Mission

One of the most unique aspects of Mercari Group is our emphasis on Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace; we want to be a place where the top talent from across the globe can feel included and welcome. It is our belief that, in order for Mercari Group to achieve its mission and deliver services that are welcoming of all the diverse societies and cultures around the world, we must first reflect that vision internally.

The Global Operations Team, known simply as “GOT” within Mercari, is one of the teams that supports Mercari’s ever-diversifying members. It primarily functions as an in-house translation and interpretation team, but its actual impact and contribution to the organization and business far surpasses that description. In this short series, “The Global Operations Team: Using language to support Mercari’s business, D&I, and more!”, we take a deep dive on GOT and their important role in the company.

This past February, Mercari Group proudly announced a brand new Group mission: “Circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people.” In the second article of this series, we will hear from Emma Davis (GOT translator) and Aya Walraven (Mercoin engineer), who will tell us more about how this mission was created and how GOT support allowed for a more inclusive mission!
※Aya Walraven was interviewed online

Featured in this article

  • Emma Davis (@emma)

    Originally from Massachusetts, Emma graduated from Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, California) in 2015 with a degree in computer science and a humanities concentration in Japanese. Following this, she moved to Toyama, Japan, where she taught English for two years as an ALT. In September 2017, she relocated to Tokyo and joined Mercari, and has worked as an in-house translator, editor, and translation manager in the Global Operations Team ever since. In addition to languages and localization, she enjoys theater, 2.5D idols, and mobile games.

  • Aya Walraven (@aya.eth)

    Aya is from Victoria and has a background in Frontend Development, Design, and Product Management. She has been working in the cryptocurrency industry for the past 10 years and in 2020 co-founded a startup focusing on cryptocurrency transaction analysis, which was later acquired by Mercari Group. Since joining, she has done design and video production for Pacific League Exciting Moments (NFT) as well as Product Management for it and the growth of Mercoin.

It was important to us that the Group mission reflect as many people and perspectives as possible

──First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today! I have two questions to get us started: What is the Group mission and why did Mercari choose to create it?

@aya.eth:The Group mission is “circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people.” Our original mission was to “create value in a global marketplace where anyone can buy and sell,” which was very focused on the marketplace model of the business. Now, however, as the Group has grown over the years, the scope of our business has grown and is projected to continue to grow, so I think that this was the right time for us to reconsider what Mercari can provide to the world—not just what we’re doing right now, but what we can do in the future as well.

One example of this is Mercoin, a Mercari Group company developing a service that allows people to buy and sell bitcoin. This is something that we do that is distinct from the Mercari marketplace app, and I think that the Group adding these new business models and new services was a good impetus to start reconsidering what our mission should be.

@emma:To add to what Aya said, our original mission was created as the mission for our marketplace business, and will remain so going forward. For a long time, we treated it as our Group mission because the marketplace was our main business, but we realized that we should have a true Group mission that encompasses the entire Group.

While our original mission describes “what” we do, we wanted this mission to answer “why” we’re doing it. It’s intended to be more abstract and broader than the Mercari Japan mission as it includes the missions of all Mercari Group companies.

Emma Davis (@emma)

──Could you give an overview of the process behind creating the mission?

@emma:The first step was to form an internal project team that had project leaders as well as representatives from each of the Group companies. This allowed us to source opinions from various perspectives over the course of our discussions, which went on for a long time… I think that discussions started around the summer of 2020, so it took more than two years from the original idea of “let’s make a Group mission” to finally adopting this one.

Overall, the process involved the project team meeting to have these discussions on a weekly basis. We would also hold open-door sessions and send out surveys in order to get feedback from the rest of the company on our thoughts and ideas. So even though we had a project team dedicated to creating the mission, we had input from everyone in the company. In that sense, it’s kind of like we all came up with it together!

@aya.eth:Another thing is that, throughout the process, we talked with people from every layer of the company—we had open-door and feedback sessions with executives and managers, and some with a mix of members from all layers of the organization. It was important to us that the mission reflect as many people and perspectives as possible.

──Was the project team also diverse in order to reflect the diversity you wanted to achieve in the mission statement itself?

@aya.eth:I think so. As Emma said, we had representatives from all over the Group—Marketplace, Fintech, Kashima Antlers, Souzoh, and Mercari US—but we also had a diverse mix of languages and cultures represented. For example, the project team had members who were native English speakers, members who were native Japanese speakers, and even members who were neither.
We had members who are PMs, people who are involved in development work or engineering management—just a lot of people from all different departments and backgrounds. So yes, I think that this level of diversity and inclusion in the project team itself was very helpful in reflecting all of those different perspectives.

GOT’s language support enabled the English and Japanese versions of the mission to be created simultaneously

──So, Emma, can you tell us more about what GOT’s role was in the creation of the Group mission?

@emma:We had a couple of different roles. I joined the project team as a representative of GOT, but not to do translation or interpretation work. My role was to represent the perspective and opinions of GOT, like providing insight on the English version of the mission.

One thing that made this project very unique is that the English and Japanese versions of the mission were created simultaneously, as opposed to the Japanese version being created first and then the English being a translation of the Japanese. So I gave advice and opinions on English wording and other things like that.

GOT also provided interpretation support for the project team meetings because, as Aya mentioned, not everyone on the project team was fluent in Japanese; there were some members from Mercari US and others located in Japan who needed interpretation so that they could actively participate and contribute to the discussions.

──Regarding interpretation at the meetings, while I don’t think either of you had to use the interpretation yourselves, did you feel that having that interpretation support allowed more voices to be represented in the mission?

@aya.eth:I was definitely one of the people that made use of GOT’s interpretation services at various times over the course of this project!

But I think that even just having the GOT presence there at the meetings made it something of a safe space, you know? It allowed people to feel more free to express their opinions in the language they feel the most comfortable with—project team members didn’t have to worry about things like “will I be able to say what I want to say?” or “do I have the Japanese vocabulary to really express myself?” It was important for people to be able to think about the project instead of whether they would be able to actually say what they truly felt. So yeah, I think that having GOT support strengthened this idea that we wanted to approach this project in a global manner; we don’t explicitly use the word “global” in the mission, but the process was definitely very global.

Aya Walraven (@aya.eth)

@emma:I agree. Many of the people leading the discussions were Japanese and looking at things from a Japanese perspective, so we definitely had to make an effort to consider lots of different cultures and backgrounds and make sure that we were proactively seeking out those other perspectives. Let’s take the word “value” from the mission as an example. The word “value” in English has lots of different meanings and nuances—it could be referring to a system of values, the value of an item, or even “discount” in some contexts—and it was a project team member from Mercari US who pointed this out. GOT’s interpretation was pivotal in allowing helpful opinions and perspectives like this to be considered.

──Earlier, you mentioned that your initial contribution was mostly based around providing context and nuance support for the English version. Were there any other similar considerations you had to make during the process?

@emma:Definitely. For example, conveying the subtle differences of Japanese wording in English, or alternatively choosing not to because in the end it’s saying the same thing. Once we had drafts of the Japanese and English versions, we actually finalized them independently, rather than saying, “okay, we made a change to the Japanese version, now we have to reflect that same change in the English version.” We wanted to keep the nuance the same, of course, but Japanese and English are fundamentally different languages, so if we tied them too closely together, it wouldn’t sound as natural. So that balance was a challenge.

On the flip side of that, another challenge was that not everyone on the project team necessarily understood English well enough to understand the words that we wanted to use in the English version. For example, one of the key words of the mission is “unleash,” which is a word that a non-native English speaker may not be familiar with, and because of that, it was the source of a lot of debate and discussion.

We wanted to make sure that there was a clear D&I nuance in the mission

──So now that the mission has been released to the public, what do you hope that people will take away from it? Also, being involved in the behind-the-scenes stuff on this project, is there anything you want people to know about the mission itself or the process behind it that maybe isn’t so obvious?

@aya.eth:Something interesting to think about is how much of this mission is for Mercari Group internally and how much is it for others to see, right? Because we designed the mission to be more abstract and broad, each company in the Group can kind of have their own take on what the “right” answer to that question is. In that sense, my hope is that each person in the company can connect what they do every day, in one way or another, to the mission.

For people outside of the company who are maybe our users or investors, or maybe just outside observers, I hope that they see this new mission and think, “Mercari is working towards something good.”

In terms of behind-the-scenes stuff, something that has been interesting for me personally is that I joined right as the pandemic was starting, so I have been remote this entire time. That means that, until just recently, I had never actually met any of my project team members who I had been working with for so long. The whole process of creating the mission was done online in a remote working environment. I often wonder how the process might have been different under other circumstances, but in a lot of ways the remote style has been great in that it’s easy to listen to the interpretation provided, or gather opinions and feedback through a questionnaire—all of that can be done very easily remotely.

But of course remote work presents its own challenges, so I was super impressed with the way our project team came together, and I think we did a fantastic job of facilitating the process and communicating despite being geographically so far from one another. Being a member of this project team and being able to have all of these discussions with everyone helped us feel a bit closer to one another as coworkers working together outside of our normal roles.

@emma:I agree with Aya that this was a great opportunity to really meet and work with people outside of our own teams. I joined Mercari a while before the pandemic, so I was interacting with people in person on a regular basis until then, but then once the pandemic hit there weren’t as many of those opportunities anymore, so this project was great in that sense.

Something that I hope people will take away from the mission is the emphasis on unleashing the potential in all people. I really wanted to make sure that there was a clear D&I nuance in the mission and that it would apply to everyone all over the world regardless of location or social status or anything like that. I think that ties back into Shintaro traveling the world, which is what made him want to create Mercari in the first place. This is something that might not be so obvious, but is also something that we worked hard to incorporate into the mission, so I hope that that gets across.

──This has been a really enlightening conversation. Thank you both again for lending us some of your time!

Be sure to stay tuned for the third and final installment of this series, which will feature how GOT supported Ground Up—Mercari’s incredibly ambitious project to completely rewrite the code for Mercari from scratch!

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