Tell us about your role and main responsibilities.
I am a Catalyst in the Art Product department at teamLab. My main responsibilities include product managing, scheduling and liaising with manufacturers and clients to make the product. On top of that, as a Catalyst, we each have our own speciality, some of us do design for spaces and others design websites.
I studied Product Design and Interactive Media in NTU, hence I chose a more hands-on role where I get to experiment with motors and electronics to produce product mock-ups using 3D printing, laser cutting and other woodworking tools.
A lot of testing has to be done together with other departments to create something new. I work with manufacturers directly to understand what can be mass manufactured and what cannot. Being multilingual, I also handle meetings with overseas clients and construction companies, updating and checking with them on what is needed for the project to go smoothly on their end and our end.
What made you pursue a career in this sector?
I enjoy having the freedom to learn about how different things work. When I heard about the work culture at teamLab, I decided to give it a go. At teamLab, I am free to explore and work on different projects as the company culture is rather free and easy in terms of work division.
Apart from this, teamLab is well-known worldwide in the arts industry, which will allow me to have many global opportunities. Having mainly worked on solo projects or in a small group in school, I was excited to be able to try creating a large-scale project with a big team that would be showcased all around the world.
What do you enjoy most about this role?
Apart from meetings, our work hours are flexible. I personally work better at night and would have a hard time working normal nine to five hours. I also enjoy the opportunities to work on a variety of different projects. I can always find something new and fresh that I have yet to try.
Furthermore, I get to work with people from diverse backgrounds, including those who are not trained in the arts. The melting pot of different ideas from people of vastly different backgrounds makes the work fun and unique.
My colleagues are some of the most interesting individuals I have ever met. All of them are friendly and open, and never fail to answer any questions that I may have regarding the artwork they are doing. Everyone is more like friends than co-workers and hangs out with one another even outside of working hours.
What were some work challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Language was a problem when I first started. Though teamLab is open to people who are not fluent in Japanese, meetings were often held in Japanese and thus, it is difficult to work without some comprehension of the language. While teamLab offered Japanese language classes, it took me some time to become more fluent in the language.
Another challenge for me was the culture. While there are many foreigners in teamLab, and most of the Japanese are very open, it was still challenging to navigate the cultural differences. I have to be mindful that the Japanese are more conservative in the way they speak and behave. Of course, I slowly got used to it and understood the reasons for the differences. Likewise, my colleagues also became more comfortable with my straightforwardness.
What is needed to be successful in this role?
The job scope of a Catalyst at teamLab is rather flexible and we have the liberty to work on as many different projects as we like. Consequently, it is important to be able to quickly adapt to the different kinds of work.
Other than tangible hard skills, you will have to learn fast and adapt quickly to solve problems. Being in the creative field means we have to experiment with new things all the time. There will be occasions where we will encounter problems that have not been encountered before, and these problems may be out of your domains of knowledge. As such, you will need to have the learning agility and critical thinking skills to learn how to solve them efficiently.
Being resourceful and knowing who you can seek help from will be useful. As a newcomer, take the initiative to get to know as many people from different departments as you can. The contacts you have may come in handy when you need help in different areas.
Share your advice with students who are keen to pursue a career in your field.
The art and design industry is ever-evolving. In times where AI can generate art and design, reflect on how we can use AI to our advantage to create work that is truly ours and “human”.
Continuously pick up new skills and widen your perspectives. Having a rough idea of how everything works will enable you to think of new ideas from different angles and give you a sense of how things may and could work.