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Career transition while moving to Japan


Hi Paul,

Firstly, thank you very much for sharing your experience in Japan. I really enjoy reading your blog and find it very informative and helpful.

I am 29 year old and based in Sydney, and have a few years of Linux admin experience. Like yourself, I have always wanted to work in Japan and brush up my Japanese language skill. I have been taking Japanese course for a couple years now and planning to take JLPT N3 in July.

The dilemma is I am trying to change my career from a sysadmin to a Ruby developer (which I only have less than one year experience through doing DevOps) and I am not sure if looking for an entry position in Japan right now is the best move for this transition.

Would you recommend me to stay in Sydney for a little longer to gain more experience and get at least N2 done first, or should I just start looking for a job in Japan and see where it takes me?

In addition, I am bilingual in English and Mandarin. Not sure if it would help working in Japan.

Your inputs will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much in advance!



Assuming you’re an Australian citizen, you have until you’re thirty to get a working holiday visa. If your goal is to get a job here, the best way is to use that visa to come here first and then start looking for a job. One of the advantages of the working holiday approach is that you can work remotely for your current company on it (not 100% of the legality of that, but I don’t think there is any risk). See this article on convincing your company to allow you to work remotely (the author is also living in Japan).

I’d also avoid getting a “junior” position. In your case, I’d look for a position where your DevOps experience is an asset to the company, but you’d also get to spend time writing code. For instance, many early-stage startups (under ten developers) don’t have anyone doing full time DevOps, but would be delighted by someone experienced with system admin experience, as it allows them to take some burden off the CTO / lead developer, who normally is doing that sort of stuff.