Aiyana Mathews
Aiyana Mathews, president of Gardner-Mathews Global Management

Editor’s note: This sponsored article on behalf of the Center for Urban Language Teaching and Research at Georgia State University was conducted via an interview with Aiyana Mathews, with assistance from Mellissa Thomas and Leigh Villegas.

Mathews is set to deliver the keynote speech for CULTR’s 8th Annual Global Languages Leadership Meetinga sold-out event to be held Friday, May 19. 

During her speech, titled “Made in GA: Re-Made in Japan,” she will share her experience as an international scholar and business advisor to illustrate the importance of both learning languages as well as using them to drive business engagement. 

Mathews shared some of her background and aspirations with Global Atlanta in a recent interview ahead of the GSU event. To learn more about how Mathews’ experience and skills might serve your business, reach her via LinkedInThe interview follows below. 

Global Atlanta: Aiyana, you’re now CULTR’s keynote speaker for GLLM, but how did you first become involved with the center? 

Mathews: In August of 2022 I participated in World Language Week, joining a panel on Global Business. The feedback from the students and other panelists led CULTR to invite me to be the keynote speaker for this month’s event. Being a business professional who speaks Japanese was a chance to demonstrate to GSU students what opportunities exist in the business world with a foreign language skill.

I also aim to encourage other multilingual professionals to share their experiences and normalize the non-linear path for a career because that’s likely what will happen for students who learn Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs) – their career may take a non-linear path, and that’s okay.

Global Atlanta: What does language mean to you?

Mathews: Being able to connect with a person in their native language has always been a personal goal for me. Language connects you in a way that nothing else can. It has afforded me the opportunity to make connections and foster friendships with a myriad of people and different backgrounds. Language is very important to me, and I am very happy that I can use this skill in business.

Global Atlanta: Please share with us how you first became interested in international communities and relations.

Mathews: I have always been drawn to all things international, even as a kid. My father was my first influencer, exposing me to many cultures at a young age. Through his businesses, I was introduced to Spanish-speaking people, which was the impetus for me to learn Spanish in high school.

Since Atlanta is home to many nationalities, it was easy for my interest in languages and cultures to flourish and to make internationalism part of my everyday life. I spoke about this specifically in an NPR StoryCorps interview.

Global Atlanta: What role does your company play in the international business arena?

Mathews: As founder and president of Gardner-Mathews Global Management, I have more than a decade of experience in operations management, project management and international business development.

My advantage is that I’m not locked into a single industry sector; I have thus far worked with manufacturing, technology and aerospace industries. As a result, I have fostered relationships with Japan and other nations that have turned into successful partnerships, expansions into new markets and opportunities to increase clients’ visibility, such as the 2017 Florida-Japan Aerospace and Aviation Summit.

Global Atlanta: Did you study foreign languages in college?

Mathews: Although my studies at Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) were a blend of engineering, business and the arts, it was very important to me to add an international component, which is why Spanish and Latin American literature was my minor, and I took courses in international business.

In October 1999, at the end of my freshman year, I was accepted to Chiba University as an International Research Scholar where I conducted research on the comparison of soy-based ink versus traditional ink for the printing industry.

Global Atlanta: Was your time at Chiba University your only experience in Japan?

Mathews: Outside of traveling there for many years, I moved to Japan again as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET). I lived in the northern part of Japan in the Miyagi Prefecture from 2007-2010, where I became acclimated and proficient in Japanese language, culture and work society.

Working in Japan gave me a broader experience than when I was a student. I worked in various schools, not only connecting with the students but also with the Japanese educators. I also began to volunteer in my community and developed my own monthly cross-cultural events in order to bring people together, network, learn from each other and foster relationships – all the things I do now. The events ranged from a Sri Lankan dinner party to a Friday fish fry featuring hushpuppies – a true Southern staple.

My dinner parties drew other English-speaking people as well, so the participants met and practiced English with a wider network. I extended these monthly cultural parties for three years while working there. As a result of this, I was asked to be the director of the Miyagi Art and Culture Show, a prefecture-wide showcase hosted in Sendai City.

Global Atlanta: How has your experience in Japan helped you in your business?

Mathews: Having an understanding of Japan and the Japanese language has definitely made me an authority in international business. This has helped me earn clients’ trust and confidence that I’m dedicated to their projects and to helping them reach their goals.

Helping clients navigate business opportunities in Japan is definitely my strong suit, but I also help companies do business in other international markets. Many of the business practices I learned in Japan translate quite well to other countries, even if the cultures are seemingly different.

Global Atlanta: What services does Gardner-Mathews Global Management provide?

Mathews: We are a consulting firm focused on making companies’ operations more efficient, including sales and marketing, social media management and corporate events. We also help companies expand into new markets. I invite anyone who is interested to complete our query form or call (678) 995-3206.