We continue to celebrate female leaders at Houzz with a Houzzer Profile series in honor of Women’s History Month. Aiko Katoh is the managing director of Houzz Asia and was instrumental in making Houzz available for homeowners and home professionals in the region. When Aiko isn’t working, you can find her spending time with her family either at the park or in the kitchen as she experiments with new foods for her one-year old daughter — who just started eating solid foods and walking!
How did you first hear about Houzz? I was first introduced to Houzz in 2014 through a friend who was in touch with someone in the Palo Alto office. Houzz was looking to expand to Asia and after finding out more about the platform, it was love at first sight. I flew to Palo Alto to meet with the team and was the first hire based in Japan. I was really excited to bring Houzz to Japanese homeowners and home professionals.
*Fun fact: The friend that introduced Aiko to Houzz is now her husband!
What do you enjoy most about your role? I like the variety in my role, every day is different. One day, I could be joining calls with local home professionals and the next, I’m partnering with our People Services team on a new office-wide initiative. I’m grateful to be able to tackle every activity with such an amazing team — the people are what make my job so enjoyable.
How did you get into your particular field? I started my career in finance and, at one point, I decided I wanted to get more involved in running a business. So, I went back to school for my MBA and began working for a cosmetics start-up. I really love the excitement of creating a new business from scratch and the speed of start-ups!
What do you think makes the Houzz culture unique? People genuinely care about each other on a personal level, which is hard to come by. Everyone also really cares about the company’s success as well as our users’ experience. It’s an amazing feeling to hear first-hand how our product has improved someone’s life.
Who are your professional role models? I feel very fortunate to have had a lot of role models throughout my career but over the past year I have a whole new respect for working parents. I’m amazed by the parents who manage to juggle work and daily life. There are many parents In the Japan office, and I learn from them every single day.
Do you have any advice for working parents about how to find work/life balance? This is something I’m still learning to do and am very fortunate to have family and friends that are supportive in allowing me to balance the two. Some advice I can offer includes:
— Find time to unplug. Make sure to disconnect and be present with your family, your children, whoever is in front of you. Give your loved ones quality time.
— It’s ok to admit that things aren’t working, and ask for support. When you have a child, things don’t always go according to plan and it can be stressful but try not to put too much pressure on yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
When do you do your best work? I do my best work when I’m communicating well with the team I’m working with — when we’re all driving towards the same goal.
What characteristics make for a great leader? A great leader is someone who understands and acknowledges that their people are their success factor. Having the right team and motivating them in the right way will bring out the best in them, and also create the next set of leaders.
Do you have any advice for the next generation of female leaders?
— Be confident in yourself. You are your own number one supporter. Always believe in yourself, be courageous and take leaps.
— Be ready for the next big wave. Work hard, brush up on your skills, and continue to learn and reflect. I’ve found reflection to be super important – whether it’s every day, month or year, find a frequency that works best for you.
— Make sure to take good care of yourself. A lot of women forget this, but it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure you are happy.
— Don’t forget to laugh and have fun!
Have you used Houzz at home? If so, how? Yes! I used Houzz to find ideas to decorate my daughter’s room and used the Houzz Sketch tool to take photos of my house and collaborate on designs with my husband. We’ve also utilized the pro directory to find an architect because our family is looking to build a home in the near future.