Page Thompson

Page Thompson
November 1, 2013
Where were you – and what did you do – during your PiA experience?
I spent the summer of 1982 in Japan, teaching English to employees of Takeda Pharmaceutical company.  I lived in the Takeda workers’ dorm in a suburb of Osaka, just like any other Japanese employee.  I didn’t speak any Japanese when I arrived there  and no one else at the dorm spoke English, but we all could watch Sumo wrestling or the high school baseball championship on TV together.  Every day I would take the train to the plant where I met a group of executives for English discussions. Takeda treated me very well and I really enjoyed the experience.
I just visited Osaka in October - for the first time in more than 30 years. I recently took a job as President, International Operation for Universal Parks & Resorts. So I went for work to see the Universal Studios Japan theme park, which happens to be located in Osaka. It is an exciting and popular theme park that is very well managed and marketed by our local partners. Being back reminded me how lucky I was to be part of Princeton-in-Asia.
What was one of the craziest or most interesting experiences you had while on PiA?

I had so many fun or odd experiences during my PiA time in Japan that it’s hard to pick just one.  One day, in a complete surprise to me, the Takeda plant assembled their entire company baseball team – chosen from the best of thousands of employees – in an office courtyard and asked me to take batting practice against them.  My highest accomplishment in baseball was playing little league in the U.S., but since I was an American, the Takeda workers apparently assumed I was a skilled player and would enjoy going up against their all-stars.  Many workers were hanging out the office windows to see the gaijin (foreigner) play baseball.  The only problem was I couldn’t hit any of their star pitcher’s fastballs.  Finally, one of the players suggested the pitcher throw me a curveball or two and I was able to make some contact.  I think I personally had a substantial impact in lowering the Japanese impression of the quality of American baseball.
What are you up to now? 
I’ve been working for Comcast (which owns NBCUniversal and its Universal Parks & Resorts division) for the past 11 years in a variety of jobs on the cable, programming, and other businesses.   I’ve had an opportunity to go to Japan twice on Comcast business – to Tokyo to negotiate a distribution deal when I ran Golf Channel, and this year to Osaka for the theme parks.  I expect to spend a fair amount of time in Asia as part of my new job and I’m looking forward to that.
How did your PiA experience influence your subsequent path through career and life?
I had lived in Brazil for more than three years as a kid and traveled a bit, so I already had some international experience, but Japan – especially in the early 1980s – was very different from any place I had been.  Tokyo or Osaka were like most big cities, but when I got to some of the smaller towns you would find groups of kids running after you yelling “gaijin, gaijin” and for many of those kids I got the impression that I was one of the first Westerners they had ever seen.  The experience accelerated my already strong interest in Japanese history and culture.  I am very fond of Japan and am delighted that I will get to spend more time there in the future.  I’m looking forward to taking my wife and kids over to visit someday. 
What was one of the most important things you gained as a result of your PiA experience?
The PiA experience teaches you to be flexible and adapt rapidly to different circumstances.  I found you need to always have a positive attitude.  These are great skills to have, no matter what you wind up doing in life.

What advice would you give to current PiA fellows in the field? 
PiA was a great experience for me.  I had a lot of flexibility in my job hours so I had the opportunity to travel widely around the Osaka area.  One of my good friends, Bill Brown ’83, was in Tokyo that summer with PiA and, after we finished our jobs, we traveled to several other cities, like Nagoya and Hiroshima, to try to see as much as we could before we went home.  

 The best advice I can give is to travel as much as you can while you are there because you never know when you’ll get back – in my case it took me more than 30 years before I returned to Osaka.  If you can learn the language while there and keep studying it when you return from your experience you will find that is a big advantage in your future career.  I wish I had continued to study Japanese – it would come in handy now!  There are huge business opportunities in Asia right now – it’s going to be a major area of focus for companies for decades to come. 

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