Be Borderless with AlphaSights

May 11, 2022 11 min read

On April 20, 2022, JPort by SPeak Corporation held a collaboration event with two former international students who currently work at AlphaSights, one of the fastest-growing information services firms in the world. AlphaSights is a company that specializes in connecting investment and business leaders with a dynamic network of industry professionals. In this event, the speakers shared their experiences on how they paved the way for their success as global talents and provided opportunities for interested students to gain insightful tips regarding interviews and advice on building a successful career in the HR field.

#1 - Speaker Introductions

Ayaka Kai  

Senior Recruiter at AlphaSights

After working at an insurance company following her graduation, Ayaka decided to pursue her ambition to become an individual contributor and began working at AlphaSights as a Senior Recruiter. Her primary role in the company is to search and hire determined bilingual talents to further expand the team.

Lily Ngo

Client Services Associate at AlphaSights

Graduating from Tsukuba University with a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences, Lily soon began working at AlphaSights as an Associate of the Client Services Team. At the company, she is responsible for managing relationships with consulting clients from all over the world, including Japan, the UK, the US, and countries in Europe.

#2 Company Culture Insight from Ayaka Kai

When sharing about the company culture of AlphaSights, Ayaka Kai provided participants with an in-depth understanding of the interesting background, unique qualities, various roles, and progressive growth of the firm. 

AlphaSights was officially established in 2008 and currently has nine offices across the US, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. With diversity in its key value, AlphaSights fosters a global environment within the company with a global team. While approximately 1,200+ employees are women, the team also has members joining from 63 different nationalities. In terms of what they do, AlphaSights directly connects business leaders with global experts whose informed perspectives help the company’s clients make superior investment and business decisions. What primarily differentiates them from other consulting firms is that experts are typically within the company, but at AlphaSights, their purpose is to find those experts from around the world who can potentially assist and apply their knowledge to the clients’ needs. 

Employees at AlphaSights each have their individual roles and responsibilities and receive different projects on a daily basis. For example, the role of a Client Service Associate consists of receiving questions and requests from clients, deepening their understanding of their clients, researching companies that are related to the clients’ root problems through the company’s expert database, connecting experts to these clients via conference or phone calls, and other various tasks. The assignment and completion of one’s duties are relatively fast-paced, with the time length of one project typically being between 24 to 72 hours. Therefore, as an associate, you are expected to have multitasking skills and time management skills in order to work smoothly across different time zones. However, despite the heavy responsibilities, Client Service Associates are able to learn how to effectively cooperate with clients through such experiences with training and support from the company as well. In this way, at AlphaSights, workers are given autonomy at an early stage of their career and opportunities to thrive and grow while being surrounded by a supportive but challenging environment. With the help and contributions of such young, motivated, and fast-learning talents, the company was able to grow significantly and successfully worldwide.

AlphaSights has three pillars of value proposition, which are enriching experience, accelerated growth, and full potential. Firstly, the company offers an enriching experience for employees by sponsoring an annual event where they have the opportunity to have fun and create a community, developing a vibrant workplace where employees are able to work alongside others from the same generations and who possess similar mindsets. Secondly, AlphaSights values accelerated growth by providing employees with mentorship and a full schedule for them to be trained, which is done entirely in English. After two years, employees will be given the choice either to become a manager, where they have their own team, projects, account managers, and others, or to participate in the global associate program where they have the chance to work abroad for 10 months. Moreover, after five years, employees may even be able to become vice president of the company. Lastly, AlphaSights encourages employees to reach their full potential by allowing them to do their own projects, talk to different clients, and work with experts within the span of six months. Through such opportunities, they will be able to develop skills related to communication, research, and sales, which are all transferable to other industries and companies.  

The AlphaSights Tokyo branch was established in 2018 with only four people, and expanded to over 25 people within the past few years. Its principal goal by 2025 is to be one of the top 100 employers in regard to its work culture and training system. As a global firm, they use more than two languages (i.e., Japanese, English, Vietnamese, etc.) in the company, and the average age of the employees is  25 years old. The company also has an alumni network, providing external support where employees could directly connect with those who have already graduated AlphaSights to provide transparency and an opportunity to listen to the experiences during their time at  AlphaSights. Therefore, if you are a result-oriented, empathetic, and adaptable person who is interested in learning about other industries and fields, AlphaSights is the perfect place for you.

#3 Career Talk with Lily Ngo

Topic 1: Personal Motives

When asked about her motivation behind studying Japan, Lily Ngo answered that she actually had both academic and financial reasons behind her decision. During her high school years, she majored in Japanese despite being most comfortable with English, which motivated her to seek an international environment when applying to a university. However, for financial reasons, she also sought financial aid and scholarships, and Japan was very generous in terms of these aspects. Among the numerous universities in the country, Tsukuba University was the perfect fit for her as it was a national institution, had an international environment, provided scholarships, and offered courses in the social sciences/economic field she was interested in. 

Even after graduating, Lily decided to stay and pursue a career in Japan based on her take on what she is good at, what she wants, and what the society needs. As an international individual from Vietnam, she was confident in her language proficiency in English, Japanese, and Vietnamese, in addition to having a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university in Japan. She hoped to utilize such valuable skills and advantages she had to become a global talent in Japan, where she believed had more exposure to the world compared to the Vietnamese market. In other words, she thought that the Japanese market was a great first stepping stone for her career as there are many large and global businesses where there is not much demand for international talents. Furthermore, she was aware that Japan has the financial capacity to hire foreigners due to the country’s lack of laborers. In the future, she intends to expand her international exposure by being a manager in Japan to accumulate her skills enough to transfer to a different country. She looks forward to starting her own company one day and plans to continuously surround herself with an international environment in order to not limit herself or her future passions of becoming a global entrepreneur. 

When Lily was in her job-hunting process, she was initially looking for a company either from the IT or recruitment sector, as they were both related to her interest and future aspirations. However, a recruiter from AlphaSights reached out to her via LinkedIn and introduced her to what they do, and the knowledge demand industry became the driving force for her to apply. For this reason, she always recommends people doing shukatsu to set a strong, eye-catching profile, grow their network, and post once a week to upsell themselves on platforms like LinkedIn and Wantedly. In addition, the payment, environment, location of work, and job function were also all motivating factors for her to join the team. The company pays an average of 310,000 Japanese yen—whereas the average for most companies is 230,000 yen, it has an international environment despite it being relatively small, there is an exposure to larger markets since Japan is one of the spots of economic development, and she can utilize her interpersonal skills and apply her social sciences background. 

Topic 2: Work Atmosphere

Regarding the overall work atmosphere of AlphaSights, Lily explained that various policies assist new members of the team get on board. For example, the company gave her a lot of autonomy and responsibilities from an early stage but simultaneously provided her with the opportunities to attend camps and online training programmes, including a 1-on-1 mentorship where she can receive individual feedback. When asked about relatively sensitive topics like incentive measures and expected overtime for employees, she shared that bonuses are based on the employee’s number of sales, which she believes is a relatively fair and straightforward system because benefits are typically capped and are a fixed system in other companies. Furthermore, Lily clarified that staying after work hours is not required at AlphaSights, however, many employees do it in order to raise KPI sales or out of personal motives to help their clients. She advised that overtime can be managed by being very transparent (e.g., informing clients of a specific, time zone friendly time range that you will get back to them), limiting oneself only to a certain duration of overworking (e.g., setting a maximum of 30 minutes to stay back), and strictly establishing rules for oneself (e.g., choosing not to text back on weekends or after some time). In terms of the details of her work, Lily specified that she utilizes an equal amount of English and Japanese in her job since she primarily serves Japanese clients and experts who come from abroad. At AlphaSights, internal communication is done in both languages, but communication with clients is mostly done in Japanese, which requires employees to push themselves to improve their language proficiency.           

#4 Interview Tips & Special Offer from Ayaka Kai

As a successful senior recruiter herself, Ayaka Kai had a lot of professional tips to share on how to ace an interview when doing job hunting in Japan. First, she suggested that students see through the lens of be (who you want to be), do (what you want to do), and how (how you want to work)—in other words, your aspirations, skills, and environment—to have a clear vision of their future. Second, it is a must to have an accurate understanding of the position you are applying for. Third, enthusiasm and honesty are key. Make sure to have a positive and genuine mindset when talking about your interests to the interviewer, especially when asked about why you chose the company. People often present a distorted version of themselves to appear more suitable for the job, however, Ayaka advised that being sincere is truly the best and sole option when it comes to interviews. 

#5 Audience Q&A Session

Are there any opportunities for long-term or short-term internships?

[Ayaka] Currently we are only conducting a one-day internship event with our target being 2024 graduates. This will be conducted during the summer break where there will be a more in-depth explanation of the CST and will have hands-on experiences such as group work and the actual work that is done as a client service associate. Subsequent to the event, the individual will receive feedback. We have previously conducted this event online and hope to hold it in person this time, but monitoring the situation, we are also considering a hybrid style in order to have as many people to participate.

What is the selection/interview process of AlphaSights?

[Ayaka] There are essentially four steps: screening (whether they have a work permit in Japan), checking of Japanese and English proficiency, a 5-minute video assessment, and interviews (one hour interview with the recruiter, a 2-hour interview with managers, and a final interview with the senior vice president). If you are able to complete the selection process, you will receive a message within a week and the results would come in between three weeks to a month. If you are unsure about what position you want to apply for, I recommend that you find one that interests you the most during your interview with the recruiter and bring up your request or consult with them about what is the best for your path. 

Why does AlphaSights have such a good corporate culture? 

[Ayaka] There is a balance of diversity of people; there are many international employees and you will be able to learn how to accept and collaborate with one another. The environment is also energetic, open-minded, and friendly which is one of the core values of the company—adaptability and humility—where feedback is always a must. By being able to receive criticism, employees could communicate with each other without having the fear of providing honest feedback. 

If I apply and am not accepted this year, can I reapply to AlphaSights again next year?

[Ayaka] The application deadlines are in January, April, July, and October to accommodate students graduating at different times of the year. In addition, anyone can apply for any desired position after 6 months. 

How proficient do your Japanese skills have to be?

[Ayaka] Although there is no requirement for the language (i.e., no need to have a certificate for JLPT), in 1-2 months you will have to communicate with Japanese experts via phone or email on a daily basis. Considering this, AlphaSights will assess how comfortable you are in both Japanese and English during the interview process. Nevertheless, a JLPT score of N1 or N2 would definitely be suitable for the job. Otherwise, internal communications are mostly done in English as they usually work with other offices around the globe. However, Japanese clients do expect Japanese experts, so I would say that 60% of English and 40% of Japanese is used within the company. 

Is feedback expected to be a one-way communication (listen to the higher authorities) or is it a two-way communication?

[Lily] It is a two-way communication: both from the bottom-up and top-bottom. As an employee, you have the right to receive feedback or not, but being an active listener is good as a means to understand where the feedback is coming from. By actively listening, even if you do not agree with what you are told, you at least have evidence to back yourself up. 

Was your academic path useful? Does your current job position have a connection to your studies?

[Lily] There are some times when the project you take on overlaps with what you have learned in your university. In the past, I could not talk about automotive technology but now I am able to name famous cars. Academic knowledge in university is useful but it is the skills that you cultivate and develop during university that are more useful. By majoring in social sciences, I was able to be more mindful of the current market job in terms of the different business cultures and the economic situation around the world. 

Do you have any tips for practicing business Japanese?

[Lily] You should learn business Japanese beforehand as it is different from the daily language. Although you will learn it through the company, you don’t want to make grammatical mistakes as you are the person who provides prime quality service. Therefore, try to communicate clearly in both (or more) languages in order to be able to get your message across to people. What is important is how well you can articulate your ideas even through basic language. 

#6 Final Words from Guests

The event concluded with a few final words from our speakers. As for Lily, she states that “if you can do the job, your background doesn’t matter.” She emphasizes the importance of the quality, value and pride of work you provide, which many of her clients commend her for. Moreover, through AlphaSights she was able to gain confidence in her work. Based on her experiences as a successful global talent, she shared, “You are never the best version of yourself; there is always room for you and other people to grow. Become a great professional with your own success.” 

As for Ayaka, she says the first step is to choose the path that is most suitable for you. At AlphaSights, in one to two years you could work with international people globally, who play a key role in being an asset for their company's growth and development. She ended by stating that driven and motivated individuals are encouraged to connect with JPort and apply to AlphaSights to work together! 

Stay updated on more of our future events by following our social media platforms.

Instagram / Facebook / LinkedIn / JPort Journal

JPort Student Support Team
We create Borderless Japan

Table of contents

Not a JPort user yet? Start today for free.

On JPort Journal,

Ask Senpais about 就活 on the forum

Watch & Read Contents made by Senpais & JPort

Participate on JPort’s events

On JPort Match,

Connect with HR of companies in Japan on JPort Match

Related Contents