Yuko Yamazaki is an extraordinary woman and a master in the field of data science, despite coming from a traditional Japanese family where having a career was not the expectation. When asked about her greatest accomplishment, she says it’s the friends she’s made in the workplace along the way. Her advice: seize opportunities when they present themselves.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Yuko Yamazaki
Director, Data Engineering & Analytics at Square
San Francisco, CA
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
YY: Well, I was born and raised in Japan and moved to the US when I was 15. Despite the fact that I could barely speak, read, or write English, I somehow managed to graduate both high-school and university early. I fell in love with data and analytics at my first job at E-Trade and asked myself, “What can I do to learn everything about this industry?” So I decided to try different fields of analytics at different companies until I knew all about it. Over the next 16 years, I worked for Wells Fargo, Google, Salesforce and Zynga doing software engineering, database engineering, production engineering, analysis, insights and leadership. I’m currently head of Data Engineering, Product Analytics and Science at Square.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
YY: If I were to pick one, that would be all of the friends I was able to make at the workplace. I believe that when you are making many lifelong friends at work, you must be doing something right - treating people with respect, having a good work ethic and challenging yourself and others.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
YY: My parents never thought I would become a career woman. Having been raised in Japan, my family, including myself, thought that I would meet someone, get married, and become a full-time mother. I still struggle to this day about the fact that my parents are not proud of my career accomplishments. It has affected my self-confidence at work tremendously. However, with the support from great friends, bosses, mentors and my husband, I was able to build a strong support system that has helped me to be where I am today.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
YY: I do everything to enjoy every bit of my life. :) I have an amazing husband, three of the cutest dogs, and friends and family I hang out with a lot. I also do lots of outdoor sports, such as kiteboarding, running and biking.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
YY: My grandfather. He was somewhat famous as a head of operations at one of the major banks in Japan. He is who influenced me to be kind, positive, humble, and hard-working. It has been 20 years since his passing, and I still look up to the sky and ask for his guidance.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
YY: “This Is My Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. :) The song always gives me chills and gets me going.
FGB: What is your favorite movie
YY: It’s a TV show, but Parenthood. I love everything to do with family love. “You will get a lot of curveballs thrown at you, and sometimes, they will make you want to run, hide, and despair. But embrace those curveballs and own them.” I love this quote!
FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
YY: My childhood journal. I’m proud of the woman I have become, and the journal teaches me how I became who I am.
FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
YY: I would buy all my friends and family a free trip to Iceland. It’s an amazing place to relax and redefine life goals.
FGB: Who is your Fairygodboss?
YY: Sheryl Sandberg. Her book, Lean In, has pushed me forward in my career. I’ve read the book so many times. But each of my friends and family is my Fairygodboss as well, because they get me going even when I don’t think I can do it myself.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
YY: Take opportunities! As a woman, I was not raised to be a leader, rather a supporter or a caretaker. But the world is in a better place now, and opportunities do appear in front of us. It’s on you to decide whether to take it or not. I see this happen within my teams and within the companies I’ve worked for. More often, men raise their hands immediately while women either wait until someone nudges them or just don’t raise their hands at all. We are more ready than we think we are. Do not forget that.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women. So each week, we celebrate a woman who makes a difference in other women’s careers. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate and thank her by nominating her here.