Cammille Cruz wasn’t interested in opening just another Japanese language school—the Philippines is already flooded with those. So when she founded SHiN Japanese Language and Training Center two years ago in Marikina City, she looked beyond linguistic training. She wanted to make her students ready physically, aware culturally, equipped mentally, and inspired spiritually.
This commitment comes from her own snaking path to establishing SHiN. Though she started teaching over a decade ago, she didn’t open her own school right away. First, she launched an IT career on a whim, completed a GLOBIS MBA, and gained a wealth of skills. Along the way, she was guided by her philosophical pillars: God, faith, truth, heart, and mind. In other words, shin (神).
What kept you from starting SHiN right away?
I first became a Japanese language teacher in 2007. I didn’t have the experience, resources, or connections to make a Japanese school happen, but I was young, adventurous, and fickle. I quit teaching to try other things but promised myself that I would teach again before forty. When I did, I would do it at my own Japanese language school.
The first opportunity that knocked on my door was an IT service desk here in the Philippines. I ended up being one of the team leads of the global service desk team with that company. Eventually, I became an IT engineer working in Tokyo.
If I had been in another field, would I have been able to meet the colleagues who made a huge impact in my life? If I were not in IT, would I have experienced and loved Japanese work culture and language the same way as I do now? I am not sure. Maybe my IT experiences worked out because Japanese-speaking people in IT are given more opportunities in Japan.
After ten years in IT and five in Japan, my vision for my school became significantly clearer. My love of Japan would be futile if I didn’t allow other people to experience that same kind of love, even in the littlest way. This guided the way I founded SHiN.
How have your IT skills helped you establish SHiN?
In the IT world, I do a lot of project, people, and team management. Being entrusted to lead and manage teams, being in customer service for almost a decade, was essential for establishing SHiN.
When we started, a client’s timeline gave us only two and a half months to get SHiN off the ground—an almost impossible deadline. Thankfully, I was used to deadlines, working in a foreign language, and strict quality requirements. I’d also been exploring different aspects of establishing a Japanese language school with a team as soon as I came back to the Philippines. These incremental preparations helped a lot. Most important of all, lots and lots of prayers really made everything possible.
Then corona hit. At first, I saw only the limitations of being a small, five-month-old school. But I soon realized I already had everything I needed. For the last ten years of my life in the IT field, I was in front of a computer or talking to people in different parts of the world. I had both within reach—my PC and many people reachable through technology. I did not need a complex, expensive project management tool. I could work with what I had.
I again became the Cammille working remotely with colleagues, business partners, counterparts and clients, but in a different context. I was no longer providing IT customer service or help. I was, through SHiN, sharing the fruits of my life’s work in the simplest and most accessible way I could.
What’s been the biggest obstacle to establishing SHiN?
The COVID-19 pandemic happened five months after the inception of SHiN. I remembered what we were always told at GLOBIS: adversity is opportunity. Survival was the main priority—everything on top of that was just a bonus. I was responsible for the students who had dreams of going to Japan and the school staff who had families to feed. Closing SHiN was never an option, despite zero-to-negative income.
We didn’t have the financial capability to do outreach, so I offered online short/trial classes to give people a diversion from the negative effects of the pandemic. Then I realized we were also capable of offering formal classes online, so I used my IT experience to quickly make that shift. A few months later, not only did our online class offerings dramatically increase, but our students and teachers did too.
How has running a school differed from your expectations?
I initially envisioned SHiN having students who became care workers, but that’s not how it’s turned out. SHiN’s impact has been far greater than I imagined. Our students and staff are starting to reach their goals, create their own shin and helping each other grow.
Having the privilege to be part of the transformation in people’s lives is incredible. Seeing and celebrating milestones achieved by mentees and coworkers has been the greatest success of my career so far.
I used to think job promotions, huge amounts of savings, material things, and fame were the measures of success. But when I was given the privilege to impact people through SHiN, I realized that success is beyond tangible things.
How did your GLOBIS MBA influence your journey to SHiN?
I always dreamt of teaching Japanese in my own school someday. I knew this goal would entail huge amounts of capital, skill, and experience, so GLOBIS made sense. I also wanted to have formal education in business. Having an MBA degree makes one credible in many ways.
My one-year journey with GLOBIS as a full time student was challenging, but it changed my heart and character. Having my GLOBIS classmates, friends, teachers, mentors, and staff to share both struggles and successes allowed me to discover new things about myself. Being a student for one year in GLOBIS taught me humility—that it’s okay to ask for help because there are people happy to lend a hand.
Would you do anything differently?
There were times I yearned to be in someone else’s shoes. There were also times I made decisions that hurt myself or other people, which I am not proud of.
So I’m still learning. Even I’m enrolled in SHiN! I undergo training and look forward to the evaluation and assessment of everyone around me: students, trainees, business partners, partner clients, and suppliers. I also look to my family, friends, loved ones, community, and most of all, the big boss: God.
So if given a chance to rewind and change anything, I would still want to live my life exactly as it is. Everyone is unique. Our timelines and callings are different. Nonetheless, we all have a purpose for existing and a reason for being in a particular place at a particular time.