Fly High

If you had told Shoha 15 years ago he’d be a finance professional in Tokyo one day, he would’ve thought you were pulling his leg. Yet he now works for a major Wall Street bank, providing financial services to corporate clients the world over through their Japanese arm.

Shoha’s drive to push himself to new heights can be traced back to his humble beginnings in Uzbekistan. “Being the middle child and eldest son, I felt a lot of pressure,” he says, adding how he wanted to prove himself by hitting the books. So he aimed to get into Academic Lyceum under University of World Economy and Diplomacy, a high-ranking school founded by the president then. Doubts and fears initially got the better of him:

“How could a guy like me, who lived far away from Tashkent, the capital, go there and compete with others who spent months, if not years, in preparation when I just found out about this school a couple of months before the entrance exam?”

Thankfully persistence trumped over bouts of insecurity and Shoha was able to pass. “That’s when I started to believe; not be afraid. There’s nothing to lose anyway.”

Getting his fix of iced coffee on a hot Sunday afternoon in Tokyo

Our Uzbek hero would then go on a tear, getting accepted to the school and then later being admitted to The University of World Economy and Diplomacy. After three years, he applied for a Monbusho (MEXT) scholarship in Japan and eventually landed a highly coveted job in finance. His uncanny ability to perform well when surrounded by smart people paid dividends in his academic journey and career. “There were so many brilliant people in my circles. Everyone wanted to go abroad to study or for work. They’d come back having seen and experienced more—which I admired,” he says, noting the difference in their weltanschauung.

Today, Shoha’s glad he stuck around Japan since first arriving in 2005. He’s grown really fond of the people, especially their dedication to excellent service. “Everybody has pride in what they do. You see it everywhere: at the airport, in hotels, even at the municipal ward.” And hailing from a landlocked country with no adjacent sea, he quickly developed a taste for Japanese food.

When asked to give advice to young, hopefuls making their way, he says “play your strengths while working on your weakness. When I was looking for a job, it was hard to compete because I wasn’t a native Japanese speaker. Good thing I had other advantages, like English, Uzbek, and Russian (not to mention a hunger to fight). So bring to the table what others don’t have. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You can always change course.” That’s according to someone who originally wanted to study chemistry.

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Finding diversity and inclusion. Breaking down barriers one post at a time. Stories and snapshots of foreigners making their way in Japan.

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