Smashing Spotlight: Yuka Lipsey, Senior Producer

Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Yuka Lipsey, Senior Producer, to talk shop,  about how she helps run one of Smashing’s largest international clients, her inside tips on effective cross-functional team management, as well as her summer plans to explore castles in Japan.


You help run one of Smashing’s largest international projects with Sony Pictures Television. What does a typical work week look like for you?

My workday generally begins on Sunday evening. With my focus being the work on Sony Pictures Television does in Japan, I monitor any incoming requests, along with application and website issues from Japan. With the time-change, sometimes work starts a little earlier than a traditional workweek if we need to address any critical issues.

Once Monday morning comes around, the usual workflow kicks in – prioritizing tasks/issues, synchronizing the work calendar, to-do lists, etc. We are quite the international team, so I always make sure be in touch with our project partner in the UK before their work day ends. Then almost every evening I have calls with the teams from Japan and Asia. The calls are bilingual and tend to be a mix of phone and video.

A critically important part of my job is to ensure each project’s progress in on track and that we will hit our targeted completion date. The week ends with a weekly status report out to the entire project team, along with action items, so the teams abroad can hit the ground running on Monday morning.


How do you coordinate cross-functional team management in different parts of the world, especially when you’re dealing with multiple languages and time-zones?

First, it is important to be very clear about each person’s role on the project and make sure all relevant contact information is known to all team members. This is a super time saver when you’re dealing with some many people in different time zones.

Second, it makes sure we’re all working towards the same project schedule, I need to be extremely diligent in identifying which time zone we’re talking about. My very favorite, and handy, time zone converter took is:

Third, make sure you have a central hub, like Confluence, where you can gather, store, and share project information such as technical info, procedures, tools, bug and task management, etc. This helps the entire team stay organized, as well as helps onboard any new team members at a much quicker pace.

Fourth, if we are managing projects in “English and a second language” regions or have non-English speaking stakeholders, we need to have a set of standards we all abide by: speak slower, only user short, simple sentences, etc. With that, I often act as interpretor and help fill in the gaps of communication amongst group where there was misunderstanding due to a language barrier.

Lastly, it is crucial that you are able to explain project information to both a technical and non-technical audience. Alignment across all stakeholders is so important and it’s my goal to create project teams where everyone from around the world feels comfortable, and that there is open and free lines of communication.


How did you end up working in Program and Project Management?

I was never planning to be a PM, but a big thanks goes to a former boss who thought I would make a great PM. I worked very closely with her, learned on the job, and dealt with many challenging projects together. We are now good friends and look back with fond memories on all the situations we thought were so challenging (and insane!) at the time, but were great learning experiences.

I learned a lot from managing a variety of complexly unique projects. These days I really enjoy what I do at work right now. Thank you to all our clients, Sony teams, our 3rd party project partner 3rd vendors, and the Smashing team!

I thrive on challenging projects. They keep me curious and make work interesting


Where is your favorite place to travel to in the world and why?

I love to travel both internationally and domestically. My most favorite place I have visited in the past is probably Indonesia (I visited Batam, Bali and Lombok islands). The beaches are so beautiful, the local people are very friendly and warm, and I felt very relaxed and peaceful.

I’ve been to many beaches around the world, but somehow Indonesia has stuck in my mind forever. I hope to visit there again someday.


What Smashing Value do you personally connect with the most?

Create with Heart. I believe if you truly enjoy and love what you do, your passion will be passed and delivered to your surroundings without a word.

I still remember my first day joining Smashing as a contractor back in August 2015. People were so warm and friendly. Also our CEO, Brian Burke, said “Nice to meet you, Yuka!” in person with a big smile on the first day. He knew who I was and knew how to pronounce my name correctly already! I could tell people at Smashing were very positive, good team players, and they have a passion for what they do immediately on the first day.

Without a word, I could feel that Smashing was “created with heart”! I am really lucky and happy to be a part of Smashing!


What is your favorite piece of technology?

It is definitely my Fitbit Charge2! I track my steps, sleep habits, and weight daily, and I also use to it communicate with friends, read community feeds about how others strive to stay fit every day, what motivates them, and how they eat well with positive attitude. It is very encouraging to see everyone’s effort, commitment, and inspirational pictures! Certainly to me, this is a positive device!


You’ve spent the majority of your professional life in Washington State. What drew you to the Pacific Northwest from Japan?

You may not believe this, but I used to be extremely shy as a child. I had no plans to live in a different country, nor any thought that I’d marry a foreigner, or work internationally at all! Then I met husband in Tokyo and I ended up moving to the Northwest his family is from. Also, I did not speak English….at all. Simply ordering a latte in English was extremely nerve-wracking and challenging for me… I practiced the same sentence many times, but if the cashier asked me a question, I was frozen as I did not understand what she/he said. I have no clue what my face must have looked like at the moment. J

I built up my professional life gradually after attending English as Second language classes for 3 months at a local university. Then I took some art classes where I was the only foreigner so I could practice English.


What are the top 5 principles needed for a successful client/agency relationship?
  1. Listen to others – It is important to listen to others rather than only speaking what you want to say all the time. It is not too late to say your opinion after listening to others.
  2. Understand the client’s goal and needs – Communication need to go both ways so we can understand a client’s unique needs and provide them with the necessary assistance. Let the clients shine!
  3. Transparency – This is very important, especially for communication across multiple teams within a project. Everyone needs to be on the same page in order to deliver a successful project.
  4. Be helpful to others – If your clients or partners have any questions or need any help to figure things out, be available.
  5. Be efficient and be productive – Focus on important priority tasks first. Do not waste other people’s time by talking too much during conference calls.


And last, what are you most looking forward to this summer?

I am looking forward to see my family, relatives, and friends in Japan. My son and I are also planning to go to the west side of Japan to see a castle in Himeji and a Buddha in Nara. I am especially excited to eat great food in Japan! And of course, I will track my steps while I am there using my Fitbit Charge2!

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