Every so often, our editorial staff selects one aftermarket industry professional to get to know a little better. Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions that can be answered in about the same amount of time you might spend chatting at the office coffee pot or waiting for an elevator. In this installment of “5 Minutes With,” we get to know Fumiko Higa-Bales, assistant manager, branding and supply chain management for ADVICS North America.
What was your first job in the industry?
Actually, I started with this company. It was a first job out of college. I’ve been working at ADVICS since the start of its existence in 2002. Prior to that, I worked for a company called Sumitomo Electric. ADVICS was founded by four companies: Sumitomo Electric, Denso, Toyota and Aisin.
When they established ADVICS North America, I basically transferred. I was right out of college; I didn’t have any experience. I started out as an administrative assistant. At the time, it was a really small group of us and I ended up assisting on the sales side. In the first part of my ADVICS career, I worked on the OE side. By 2008, or around that time, ADVICS decided to establish its own aftermarket team. The manager I worked with at the time basically pulled me into his team. That’s really how I started in the aftermarket. When I first started, I was actually working more in product and catalog development. Now I’m more focused on branding and supply chain.
What would you say you like most about your current position?
From a branding and marketing perspective, I like when I see a result, or when I reach certain goals. For instance, we relaunched our Facebook page about a year and a half ago. So, when we reached a certain number of “likes,” that was kind of a feel-good moment. We were just awarded Best Technical Article/Blog/Content Piece in the B2B category from the Automotive Communications Awards at AAPEX. That is two years in a row now. The first one was for Best Website. Again, when you see results, you feel kind of different, right? You feel more rewarded when you see output; you feel like your effort has been recognized.
Did you initially intend to pursue a career in the aftermarket? If not, what drew you to the industry and what keeps you here?
Honestly, the people I work with and the people I run into in this industry are what keep me here. I love it. I am a people person. I think at the end of the day, who you work with will keep you going. I think on both sides I have always had good people around me my entire career. It doesn’t matter if it was when I was OE or aftermarket.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I like to go to the gym and spend time with my family. I have two kids. My daughter plays soccer, and my son has just started hockey. So I’m a kind of rookie hockey mom.
What one word would you say best sums up your personality?
I was talking to my daughter about this, and I would say: adjustable. My daughter is 16 and deals with me all the time and she agreed. I’m flexible. Sometimes I’m fun Fumiko; sometimes you see serious Fumiko. Basically, I’m up for a fun time but I can be serious when I need to be.
What kind of car do you currently drive?
I drive a 2020 Ford Explorer. I lease my car, and this is my second Explorer. I like driving a newer car so I can enjoy some of the newer features. I also kind of enjoy driving a bigger car because I’m short. So I feel more comfortable being up high. Also, having the extra space in the back [is helpful] now that we have hockey equipment – sometimes hockey and baseball at the same time.
Who was your childhood hero?
He’s a character called Doraemon. He’s a robot cat who could time-travel. He’s a cat, as you can see, but he doesn’t have an ear. It was bitten by a mouse. Every time something happens, he pulls some gadget out of his pocket like a door – this is an anywhere door. It takes you to anywhere you want or need to go.