We are Symphony: A conversation with Kenzo Yagi

Valeria Levantino
Communications Program Manager
Rakuten Symphony
April 25, 2023
minute read

A can-do attitude, a willingness to learn and an open mind; Kenzo Yagi, Head of Rollout Management at Rakuten Symphony Deutschland, demonstrates that even without prior experience in the Telecom space, if you’ve got the right mindset, you can excel.

Kenzo all smiles at a sake tasting.
Kenzo all smiles at a sake tasting.

Tell us about your journey to Rakuten Symphony and where your interest in the Telecom space came from.

During my time in university, I pursued a degree in International Studies and English Communication and had the opportunity to live abroad for seven years. Immersing myself in multicultural environments has always appealed to me and this is why I embarked on the adventure at Rakuten as a fresh-faced graduate in 2016. For the first four years, I worked in Rakuten Ichiba in the E-Commerce Consulting Department as a Consultant. It was interesting enough but something was missing. One day, the former president of Rakuten Mobile reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join the mobile side of the business as Rakuten had become an MNO (Mobile Network Operator) in 2019. I started studying the industry and quickly developed an interest in the technology behind Rakuten Mobile’s network. It was quite a deep rabbit hole of concepts I had no clue about but I couldn’t tear myself away from it because of how intricate it was. Fast forward to June 2022, thanks to some supportive colleagues and managers, I found myself in the midst of the exhilarating endeavor called Rakuten Symphony.

When Rakuten Symphony partnered with German telecom giant 1&1 to launch Europe’s first fully virtualized mobile network, the team knew that to achieve their ambitious goals, they needed experienced team members who could take the learnings of Rakuten Mobile and applications of Rakuten Symphony and translate it for this rollout. The prospect of contributing to this project and expanding my skillset further compelled me to seize the opportunity and become an expat at Rakuten Symphony Deutschland. I am thrilled to be a part of it all!

How would you describe your experience at Rakuten Symphony?

I’ll be honest, moving to Germany initially gave me a lot of culture shock. But what instantly made this better was the people here. The cultural diversity of our German office has been a pleasant surprise. We are a team made up of people from various countries, and it's great to work in an environment where everyone is figuring it out together and supporting each other.

Additionally, I will say that working on a project of this magnitude is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up. Being part of this growth is truly exciting to me and I know I'll look back on this experience with pride in the years to come.

 What do you do on a daily basis?

I’m the Head of Rollout Management and my responsibility is to manage and oversee the entire rollout for the 1&1 project. This involves coordinating with internal and external parties, managing project processes and KPIs, and driving vendors toward common project goals.

Given the different vendors involved, my day-to-day is about effective communication and relationship management. Although the amount of work we need to do can sometimes be overwhelming, the feeling of seeing everything come together and achieving the desired outcome is fulfilling.

"I believe that every opportunity is a chance to learn and grow, and I live by the motto of saying "yes" to new experiences to avoid regrets."
-Kenzo Yagi, Head of Rollout Management, Rakuten Symphony Deutschland

Where do you draw your motivation and inspiration from?

My father has played a major role in shaping who I am today. He inspired me to push myself and pursue new challenges. As a result of his career, our family moved to Arizona in the US where I spent my entire childhood up to middle school. This unique experience had a profound impact on me and sparked a strong connection to both Western and Japanese cultures.

I strive to combine the best of both worlds, and I’m always seeking self-improvement opportunities. I believe that every opportunity is a chance to learn and grow, and I live by the motto of saying "yes" to new experiences to avoid regrets. In fact, this attitude motivated me to move to Germany to explore new horizons and see what life has in store for me.

What are some hobbies you enjoy pursuing to recharge from your busy work life?

Sports has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. There's just something about the thrill of competition that I absolutely love. Tennis, in particular, has been my passion for the past two decades. I've competed at various levels, including the Japanese Nationals during my high school years. I also coached too!

My all-time favorite tennis player is James Blake. As an American tennis player, he's always been a bit of an underdog but his perseverance and skill on the court are remarkable. He's been a true role model for me over the years because he’s not only a skilled tennis player, he also dedicated his career to charitable causes. Through the establishment of the James Blake Foundation, he’s funding cancer research and provide financial resources for the development of more effective treatments.

A stroll through a picturesque shrine in Japan
A stroll through a picturesque temple in Japan.

What advice do you have for people considering to join Rakuten Symphony?

Rakuten Symphony has got that cool startup vibe with a fast-paced environment and many parallel activities going on all at once. We're also always striving to improve and make things more organized. There's so much room to add your personal touch, grow and develop. And as we improve in every aspect of what we do, there’s a really exciting feeling of being a part of something big. It's like being on a rollercoaster ride that we’re steering – we're directing, we’re hanging on tight and we’re enjoying the wild journey! Keep a positive mindset and have an open mind – that’s the key to success here.

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