Perhaps the lure of an adventurous, entrepreneurship lifestyle was as innate to John as his love for saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup. Just as his mother took off on her own to the mainland U.S. and his Japanese ancestors ran their small businesses, John was determined to realize his dreams no matter where they led him.
That persistence paid off, as today he is a Fleet Management Director in Colorado.
Along the way, starting 21 years ago as a Management Trainee in Southern California and through three moves as he rose the ranks within Enterprise Fleet Management, John leaned on his mentors and colleagues to support his pursuit. They are the ones who “challenge, encourage, and inspire me to be the best I can be every day while having a ton of fun,” he says.
As we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, John shares how his Japanese and Hawaiian roots influenced his Enterprise journey and what he says is the invaluable career asset everyone should have.
Tell us about your heritage.
My mom was Japanese, born and raised in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. She was a third-generation Japanese American (Sansei) as both sets of her grandparents immigrated to Hawaii from Japan in the early 1900s. Both of my grandparents were in Hawaii during the attacks on Pearl Harbor. To show his loyalty and allegiance to the United States, my grandfather immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which is best known as the most decorated unit (for its size and length of service) in U.S. military history, and for being composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese Ancestry (Nisei).
My mom moved to the mainland in 1968 to attend college in California where she met my dad (he’s of Irish descent born in California), and the two were married in 1973.
How do you celebrate your Asian Pacific Islander (API) heritage?
Growing up in southern California, my family traveled to Oahu during many summer vacations to visit my grandparents and extended family. In the Japanese culture (like many cultures) family is at the center and spending time with my immediate and secondary relatives was always something we prioritized. During family get-togethers we’d play hanafuda (a Japanese card game), eat tons of delicious food (saimin and manapua were always my favorites), and when celebrating a new year we’d enjoy a hot bowl of ozoni to bring us good luck and fortune. I try to carry on many of these traditions with my boys to keep the spirit of my mother and grandparents alive.
Is there an API person – within Enterprise or from your personal network – who inspires you?
My mom passed away a few years ago, but she was and will always be a major source of inspiration. She was so brave and adventurous to leave family, friends, and everything she knew and was comfortable with in Hawaii to attend college in California. That was her first time leaving Hawaii. She didn’t even own shoes, just flip-flops.
Professionally, Enterprise does so much to connect people that may have similar and unique perspectives with common backgrounds. It has been a pleasure meeting so many people throughout my career who have contributed to my success whether they be an ally, sponsor, or mentor. From an API perspective, it has been a lot of fun growing up in this company with Cameron, Fleet Management Director in Oregon, who has been a great friend, a true ally, and someone I connect with frequently.
What brought you to Enterprise, and what keeps you here?
I majored in Management Science at UC San Diego and always dreamed of running my own business one day. Enterprise hired me right out of college and showed me from day one, my dream could be a reality if I worked hard every day and took care of my customers and employees. I guess that entrepreneurial spirit has always been in my family as my great-great grandparents (grandma’s side) had a watch store in Japan and Hawaii, and my other great-grandfather (grandpa’s side) had his saimin shop in Hawaii.
Like most people, what keeps me here are the people. I have had the honor and privilege to work with some truly fantastic people who challenge, encourage, and inspire me to be the best I can be every day while having a ton of fun…can’t ask for more than that!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
First, I want to say thanks to all the great leaders who have taken the time to mentor me throughout my career.
Second, my advice to everyone reading this is on the importance of having a solid network of mentors to provide valuable advice, sponsors to be your voice at the table, and allies to push you out of your comfort zone. It will be an invaluable asset as you progress in your career.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to my wife and sons. We’ve been on quite a wild ride over the past few years as we’ve moved from California to Michigan to Ohio, and now to Colorado…they are my “why” and I am blessed to have them by my side.