Aug 8 2019 What makes an AI Research Engineer stay in Japan?
Looking back on your career journey in Japan how did it go? Were you able to secure a job smoothly? How long did it take you? How many stages? Are you happy with your company now? Why is that? So many questions and so many things to factor in when working as a foreigner in another country.
Even if there are a number of job opportunities here it’s still a battlefield for foreigners when it comes to job hunting. So we checked up on one of the people we previously helped out find a job that fits his ideals and respective skill sets. We have invited Dr. Delowar Hossain to talk about his experience and professional journey in Japan.
Let’s take a look at how the interview session went!
WHY WORK IN JAPAN
1.) What were you doing before moving to Japan?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “Before moving to Japan I was working as a faculty member at the
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Dhaka International University of Bangladesh for 2 years.”
2.) What is the reason or motivation you had for moving to Japan?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “I was looking for a Ph.D. course for robotics or something in the field of Artificial Intelligence and we all know that Japan is the motherland for robotics and innovation. So I decided to study in Japan and pursue my passion in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics.”
3.) Did you research about working and living in Japan, before moving here?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “Yeah, I did some research when it comes to working and living in Japan. Since I made up my mind about studying here, I already knew there would be cultural differences and language barrier so I wanted to be prepared.”
4.) What were the struggles you faced during your move to Japan?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “When you come to Japan, you will experience culture shock especially when you come here and realize that only a few can speak English and almost everything is in Japanese. So if you don’t know how to speak Japanese, it will be extremely difficult to go about your daily routine and transactions. In my case it was the same. During the beginning when I was studying Japanese everything was a struggle. My scholarship came with 6 months Japanese lessons at the University of Toyama.”
JOB HUNTING PROCESS IN JAPAN
1.) How long did you look for a job?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “In my case it took around 3 months from the moment I started my job hunting to finally get a job offer.”
2.) What methods did you try to be able to look for a job? (Job fair, online searching, recruitment agencies)
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “I actually used a few recruitment agencies. In my experience I found working with recruiters in Japan easy and from my encounters they were all nice. While I was talking with Active Connector I was also dealing with other recruiters. The benefit is that some recruiters have certain access to job opportunities and talking to more than one gives me more access to jobs available that I might be interested in. I didn’t really try job hunting on my own because most of the companies their job posts and websites are in Japanese. It was difficult to find job opportunities for a foreigner like me and recruiters get to deal with foreigners as well so they know better in terms of matching candidates and companies willing to hire those candidates.”
3.) Tell us about your experience with attending interviews for a Japanese company?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “I was invited for an interview by a lot of Japanese companies so my experience is mixed. I usually enjoy interviews with high officials or head engineers because of the discussions we have. For me I never had any bad experiences with recruiters but I must say I really did enjoy working with Active Connector. “
4.) How is it different from your home country?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “Usually in Japan every company has different levels of interviews and it’s really tiring compared to my country wherein the norm is 1-2 interviews. But some company like the company I am working with now only had 1 interview. They evaluated me quickly and I found the process very efficient.”
5.) What was the most difficult part of your job hunting in Japan?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “As I said, the multiple rounds of interviews were really tiring. Of course we are not sure if the company will hire us so we also proceed to apply to different companies to utilize and maximize the free time and available opportunity. Especially for foreigners who if they do not get an offer have to go back to their countries. That’s the reality of job hunting in Japan.”
FACTORS IN CHOOSING WHAT COMPANY TO WORK FOR
1.) Describe your ideal company ?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “My ideal company is where I can show up to work everyday and make a contribution using my skills and expertise. I want to be a part of the company’s success. I want to work on projects of companies that offer solutions which I genuinely believe in. I was a bit worried in terms of the Japanese work culture but in my case when I started working at my current company they were very welcoming and understanding about my cultural background.”
2.) Please explain how easy/difficult it was to attain your ideal company?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “It was really difficult. In my case at the beginning I was hesitant to accept the job offer because the position that was offered was a little different to what I really wanted to pursue but when I talked to the company they gave me the freedom to acquire the role that I was more passionate with. In general it was difficult to find my ideal company but when I started working here, I realized this was exactly what I wanted.”
3.) In general describe Japanese companies?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “It’s difficult to generalize Japanese companies since I’ve also heard a lot of different things from other people. What I can say about my current company is that I really enjoyed working here and the people working here are really nice. They even consider my food restrictions when there are events within the company like having halal options.”
IS JAPAN READY FOR FOREIGNERS
1.) How much knowledge about Japanese business manner setting did you have prior to working for a Japanese company?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “I think I was familiar with Japanese business manners although I was a bit worried when I started working. But as time goes by I found that it wasn’t that different from my laboratory days when I was doing my doctoral studies. Maybe because the company I was working with did not really enforce very strict Japanese culture.”
2.) What was your Japanese Language skill level during that time? And was it a advantage/hindrance to your job?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “For 6 months I only learned the basics but I practice conversing with Japanese friends and colleagues. To be honest it still wasn’t enough for work. I can converse in Japanese but it was difficult for me to read documents and instructions in Japanese. I focused on finding jobs wherein I would be mainly using English. In our company whenever we have R&D meeting we mainly use English but whenever I communicate with people I try to speak in Japanese.”
3.) What were the most difficult/challenging practices enforced or expected out of you as an employee in a Japanese company you have encountered in your time here in Japan?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “For my case it’s not much different because as I mentioned my company is a little bit different from traditional Japanese companies. We have flex time, remote working, different leaves and all those good and motivating practices.”
4.) Name some of the initiatives your company has to accommodate foreign employees?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “My company is very considerate when it comes to their foreigner employees. Like in my experience, I am a Muslim and I need to pray 5 times a day and they acknowledge and accommodate this. In some parties as well they provide Halal food options for me. I know it is difficult for them but it is also difficult for me. From this point I can say that some Japanese companies are taking into consideration that there are cultural differences between their foreign team members and locals and it’s nice that they are adapting a flexible environment for this.
5.) What helped you with your transition in Japan?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “I think having the knowledge about the people, culture and living conditions here in Japan really helped me to transition in Japan because I am living here and if I am clueless about all these it’s really difficult and I can easily be mistaken as being rude. Japan has a unique culture and they are really strict with their laws and respecting this and understanding this really goes a long way.”
6.) What do you think are great ways Japanese companies can do to improve the work environment and continuously take steps in pursuing a global mindset and diversity?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “Most of the Japanese companies are very formal and strict so it’s difficult for foreigners who are used to a more casual environment. The traditional Japanese environment is very difficult to conform to, if they want to be more diverse, they have to be a little more flexible and adapt innovative changes with their corporate culture.”
DECIDING WHETHER TO STAY IN JAPAN
1.) How has your career experience in Japan contributed to your personal and professional growth?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “From living and working in Japan, I really learned and picked up a few things like the importance of punctuality, unique business manners, and how to explore my capabilities during problems and getting acknowledged from solving a problem so I learned a lot from living here.”
2.) At what point in your career do you decide to either stay in Japan or go either back home or to a different country? (What were the factors behind these?)
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “Even though I enjoy working here, I recently received permanent residency for Canada so I should be there for a couple of years I will be staying there but maybe I will come back to Japan because I really enjoy working for my company and living in Japan. But for other people, I think if they are able to adapt the culture here then they can continue living here and enjoy it. I really enjoy my life here and I enjoy the facilities, the work I’m doing. Maybe some people can find it difficult here because they are used to a different culture. So if they are able to adapt, they will enjoy.”
3.) Do you have any advice to people who are also planning to establish or continue their careers here in Japan?
Dr. Delowar Hossain : “Many Japanese companies are trying to be diverse and open to employing foreigners. Japan now is really having employee shortage across all sectors even in the IT sector. Many Japanese companies are changing their tradition, corporate culture and practices so that foreign employees can adapt easier. Some companies have started using English as their main language in the workplace.
Experiences vary from one person to another but hopefully Dr. Delowar’s insight encourage you to not give up in finding the right company you’d feel excited to show up everyday for and handle projects you are passionate about.
Whether you are graduating and started looking for a job or stuck in a traditional Japanese company whose work culture doesn’t really fit you, you should always keep in mind that opportunities are everywhere here in Japan. The IT industry is growing bigger and bigger and the startup scene are becoming more innovative and global.
Interested to hear the whole discussion? (plus we answered some of the questions listeners sent in!)
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