LUJ Alumni Spotlight: Ryoji Kodera - From Top Rugby Player to Entrepreneur
By: Bill Kurata
Ryoji Kodera, class of 2005, is originally from Hokkaido. He had a passion for rugby throughout his high school years. He even had the opportunity to pursue rugby at Japanese University famous for their varsity Rugby, but his aversion to the strict athletic club environment led him to reconsider.
Feeling like he had run out of options, he found himself intrigued by the American higher education system that allowed students to choose their path after three years, prompting him to enroll at Lakeland University Japan.
During his university years, Ryoji turned to boxing as an outlet while absorbing a new set of ideas and thoughts from courses he was taking at Lakeland. After a couple of years, he transferred to the main campus in Wisconsin to complete his B.A. degree in Psychology.
In 2005, after completing his studies, he joined Recruit Co., Ltd., a giant HR company in Japan. At the start of his professional career, he spent two years in Nagoya working in the HR Business Division, focusing on job advertisements for platforms like Rikunabi and Townwork.
After leaving Recruit, he ventured into a Tokyo-based startup called Pigma, which had only five members at the time. There, he specialized in aiding companies with their recruitment efforts, catering to both new graduates and experienced professionals. This experience led him to explore the idea of internships and dispatching students to companies.
After a while, the ‘Lehman Shock’ (or the ‘Great Recession,’ as it’s called in English) brought about a wave of job offer cancellations, prompting Ryoji to shift his focus to the operation of job-hunting courses and supporting instructors. It was during this time that he realized the incredible aptitude some instructors had for teaching.
In 2009, he ventured out as an independent career consultant, specializing in organizing company briefings and forming candidate pools. This endeavor launched him toward developing a supportive business geared toward fresh-grad hiring for both companies and college students.
Around 2011 or 2012, Kodera transitioned from working alone to collaborating with corporations, co-founding the Recruit and Jobseeker Employment Support Program.
He also began teaching at Liaison Education in parallel with his consulting work.
By 2015, his focus shifted toward training professors from various Japanese universities. The goal was to foster internal capabilities within universities for employee development, emphasizing the structuring of educational systems.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Kodera continued to champion the concept of Active Learning online. While the shift to entirely online operations had an impact on volume and revenue, it also provided the impetus to seriously consider relocating.
In March 2021, he made the move to Ishigaki, a decision he had been contemplating as a potential relocation destination even during the pandemic. For him, the key was finding a place in Japan where he could experience a different culture, one far removed from the relentless urbanity found in Japan’s major cities.
Reflecting on his journey, Kodera realized the importance of pursuing what one excels at. He began to distance himself from his role as a lecturer, feeling it had become too routine, and started declining offers.
Managing a soba restaurant shed light on what was truly valuable to him in his work. He recognized the importance of not staying in one place for too long and utilizing what he had been given the opportunity to nurture. Despite the current busy schedule, he embraces this as a period of renewed challenges and growth.
As a lecturer, he considers himself still relatively young or perhaps in the mid-career stage. He currently teaches a class of nineteen students at Chukyo University, focusing on Project Management in the Faculty of Business Administration. The class involves real-life case studies to provide students with practical learning experiences.
Observing today's university students, Kodera feels that while the core values may remain unchanged compared to previous generations, they tend to be more reserved. More often than not, they prefer to gauge the situation before taking initiative. That said, he acknowledges their inherent goodness and their comfort in assimilating into a normal routine.
For his LUJ ‘juniors,’ Kodera leaves a heartfelt message: "My perspective on life changed drastically during my university days. I want you to focus on how you can maximize the quality of your life as a student. Whatever passion you follow, please try to invest all your time and energy into it. What matters the most is that you have a passion, any passion, that you can invest in. This is vital, and it will become your backbone when you start your job hunting or any other aspect of life. You will never regret immersing yourself in a passion, especially when you go head-on into it.”
Are you LUJ alumni and have a story to share? Contact Outreach and Career Coordinator Bill Kurata at firstname.lastname@example.org