Meghan Barstow, who was recently named as president of our Japan office, reflects on what it took to build a thriving employee experience practice in Washington, D.C. and what she’s most excited for in her transition back to Japan after starting her Edelman career there 14 years ago.

What is one thing that you’d like to accomplish in your job this year?

It is really hard to narrow down to one—I have so many goals on my list. But, I’d say the most important is that Edelman Japan is well on the way to being perceived as the most trusted agency in the market. Trusted by our clients, our partners, our extended Edelman network, our team on the ground and potential hires. As we say at Edelman, trust is the foundation for everything, so we must do as we tell our clients.

Advice for your 25-year-old self?

This was very fun to reflect on. I have three pieces of interconnected advice.

  1. Ask for what you want. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately in many cases, people can’t read your mind. So if you want something, put it out there. Make it clear where you want to go, why and what you need to make it happen.
  2. The follow-on counsel to the first is to always look for the win-win. You can achieve so much more for yourself and others when you start with the upside for all involved.
  3. The final, and probably biggest piece of advice, is to follow your heart. Careers and experiences aren’t linear and I find that the most growth happens when you trust your instincts and pursue a path that might at first glance seem counterproductive.

What is your proudest moment at Edelman?

So many proud moments at Edelman. The experience that makes me smile every time is helping build the Employee Experience team in our Washington, D.C. office. At the start, I was told that the market could not sustain a robust practice because it is not traditionally a hub for corporations which drives a lot of the demand. But, the team and I chose to ignore that and simply focused on what matters: being great partners to other teams, hiring people who were the right cultural fit and focusing on delivering the most outstanding work possible. We ultimately became the largest Employee Experience team at Edelman, and I continue to count these colleagues as the best in the business and part of my extended Edelman family.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?

Singing. I LOVE singing and sometimes envision an alter ego rock star life. Except I am tone deaf and simply can’t hit the right notes. Of course, that doesn’t stop me at karaoke. Hmm. Was that question supposed to be a work skill…?

What are you most excited for when you return to Tokyo as president of Edelman’s Tokyo office?

Re-discovering Japan. A lot has changed in Japan in the decade since I last lived there. Even though I’ve visited quite a few times in that period, I know a lot is fundamentally different. I’m determined to live in a different neighborhood than last time to force myself to continue exploring and seeing it all with fresh eyes and an open mind. The same goes for our Tokyo office—it is a very different place than it was a decade ago and, hopefully, it will continue to evolve and grow in the coming years, too. Honestly, I have my passport in hand and can’t wait to get there in-person. In the meantime, I’m exploring all the virtual connectivity and engagement options imaginable as I dive into the role from afar and dreaming of a cup of sake and a meal at my favorite sushi place in Ebisu.

Inside Edelman is an ongoing series that spotlights our colleagues who are doing extraordinary work across our network.