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Consulting/Contracting & DevOps in Japan


#1

Hi folks,

I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the IT contracting/consulting market (specifically for foreign contractors) in Japan, in particular where operations/devops positions are concerned.

For those unfamiliar with IT contracting, it typically works like this: contractors/consultants are self-employed (my case), and get hired by outsourcing/staffing companies to work for the latter’s (often Enterprise-y) clients, on typically short-or-middle term projects.

On to the questions themselves then; would anyone please know:

  • whether there are Japan-based outsourcers/staffing companies that are open to hiring foreign contractors with (currently) feeble Japanese skills? Neither NaCl nor ESM, for example, seem to, based on a look at their Websites.

  • whether there are Enterprise-y Japanese companies open to the same?

  • what’s the demand status for operations/devops-type work in Japan?

Any input much appreciated :smiley:


#2

Being a self-employed contractor in Japan

If you are wanting to continue being self-employed, the first challenge to overcome will be getting a visa. Unless you are eligible for a spouse visa, or maybe a working holiday visa, I think self-sponsoring a working visa is pretty challenging, and would probably involve setting up your own company here.

If you already have a working visa here though, changing to be self-employed isn’t such a big deal, so from a visa perspective, one thing to consider would be to get a full time position here, then sometime down the road switch to working for yourself.

Additionally, securing contract-based work here pretty much requires you to already be living in Japan with a valid visa. Both because these contracts tend not to be advertised, but go through word of mouth, and because the reason companies hire contractors in the first place is to minimize overhead, so having to bring someone to Japan wouldn’t make sense.

Finding a DevOps job in Japan

There is certainly demand for DevOps professionals in Japan. My background is coming from the development side of things, and the less I need to touch servers the better. Because of this, I haven’t been so involved with the community. I know the Japanese AWS community is very strong. Docker also has gotten a lot of buzz recently.

My impression is that the companies doing the most interesting DevOps stuff here are established web services companies like Rakuten, Gree, CyberAgent, and Cookpad. I think those companies are interested in using the latest DevOps technologies, so you would be at an advantage with them over the more traditional enterprisey companies here, which are probably still using some proprietary Hitachi solution developed ten years ago.

Another option would be to look for international enterprise companies operating within Japan. With any international company, you’ll have the advantage that you both better understand the international culture and speak English, both things that most Japanese DevOps can’t do. One thing to do would be to look at your own network to see if you have any connections to companies with subsidiaries in Japan.

Japanese outsourcing companies and hiring foreigners

Japanese outsourcing companies sell to Japanese clients. Because there is no international component to their business, I think these companies would not perceive a non-fluent Japanese speaker as much of an asset. It wouldn’t necessarily be impossible to get a job working for one of them, but it would be an uphill battle and would probably only be possible if you were willing to work in substandard conditions - think long overtime and low salary.

In addition to larger Japanese outsourcing companies, there are also several smaller international agencies here like Tacchi Studios and AQ. Companies like these are willing to work with non-Japanese on a contract basis. However I’m not sure that their projects often call for a DevOps professional, as I think the projects they focus on are building new solutions, and can get by with simple deployment strategies.


Self employment as a Developer in Japan
#3

Hi,

I know I am hiring :smile: (look up for Wizcorp on Google).

That aside, finding a job in Japan without being in Japan or coming for interview will be very challenging. Recruiters can help (more and more recruiters are contacting me with “devops candidates”), but in the end most companies will likely want to see you in person.

The enterprise environment seems to have opened up in the last few years to hiring foreigners with limited knowledge of the japanese language (I am thinking Rakuten, Gree, but there are plenty of other companies as well). That being said, you will certainly want to learn as much of it as possible. It will make your workdays easier, it will allow you to mingle with the different communities (as mentioned, docket and AWS are strong here, but so is Node.js, Ruby, etc), and of course it will help you have a more comfortable life.

So overall, I would say there is a need, and that this need is increasingly recognised by companies big and small. But you will still need to invest yourself personally if you wish to find a job here. FWIW, I think the investment is worth it :smile:

P.S. You will most likely need a university degree or at least 10 years of provable and relevant experience for your visa. If you do not have that, your options will be severely limited.


#4

Hi stelcheck, I’m a second year Software Engineering student from the University of Waterloo and I have a decent amount of experience in and out of the workplace, especially with games.

I was wondering if you hire any interns?

If you are, please take a look at my resume which is on my website here: http://peterli.io/resume.pdf

Thanks


#5

Thanks for your interest! Yes, we have spots open for internships, and are willing to hire interns if they show that they have the right mindset and a sufficient amount of skills.

If you are interested for a full-time job, I invite you to take a look at the website and apply through the proper channel. If you are interested to apply for an internship, please send the details of your programs, the requirements for your internship as well as any documents we will need to have a look at and fill at info [at] wizcorp [dot] jp.


#6

stelcheck, I’ve heard the “degree or ten years” rule a lot… Do you know if there’s much leeway in that? My degree is in an unrelated field (English literature, to my regret) and I’ve only been a web developer professionally for coming up on eight years so far… but I have a certification, I command a decent rate, and I can’t really see myself doing anything else in my life other than software development of one kind or another for the rest of my life. If I find a decent position over there, I’d be more than glad to prove that I’m a professional at what I do and will do the opposite of draining the dole, or whatever they’re worried about when requiring ten years of experience…


#7

Warning: I am not a lawyer, nor do I hold any valid legal training. The information here is based on my own personal research and experience with dealing with visa applications at work as part of management. Do your own research, and speak to a real lawyer before making any moves. You are warned.

Unfortunately, I would be surprised if you would meet with flexibility on the 10 years of experience. In fact, even with 10 years of experience, they could refuse you on the basis that your experience is not considered sufficiently relevant, or that the material you have provided is insufficient. Remember, 10 years is a minimum.

Certifications have no real value in Japan, so that wouldn’t count for much (see exceptions below).

I used to have a translated copy of the immigration law on my desk, which I cannot find right now. But let me give you what were the requirements at the time. You needed to meet one of the following:

  1. Undergraduate studies pertaining to your field (in a university recognised in your country)
  2. 10 years of experience relevant
  3. Get a certification relevant to your work with either the JITEC or any ITEE affiliated organisation (http://www.ipa.go.jp/english/humandev/mutualrecognition.html)

Now, if you are thinking the third one is the way to go, think again. You will either need to become REALLY good in Japanese (and I mean, highly specialised Japanese language even your teacher is not likely to be able to help you with) or need to go to another country that holds an ITEE exam with JITEC equivalency. Not a walk in the park.

Now there are other potential options, but at this point I would strongly suggest to find legal counsel in Japan. It will cost you (100,000 JPY+), but if there is any chances you could somehow fit, that will be your option.

But all of this will only make sense if you have a company interested in hiring you.

Companies won’t be interested into hiring you if they cannot likely expect your visa application to go through (the company will need to sponsor your application). That is why I strongly suggest you come in person and develop some contacts in Japan. Get people to know you, and get to know people. That will create opportunities, and who knows, you might get lucky and find a place which will be ready to sponsor you and help you with the immigration process overall. If you are under thirty and your country of origin has a bilateral agreement pertaining to working holiday visa, I would use that to get started.

If you are not ready to give that a shot, then I’d say wait two years - that would be the safest thing to do. In your situation, there will be no easy way, no magic bullet. It will be either investing and taking some chances (come here and see), or wait.

All the best of luck, hope you may find an agreeable outcome.

Warning: I am not a lawyer, nor do I hold any valid legal training. The information here is based on my own personal research and experience with dealing with visa applications at work as part of management. Do your own research, and speak to a real lawyer before making any moves. You are warned. Again.


#8

Thanks for the feedback, everyone, much appreciated :smiley:

There’s quite a bit to mull over & research further, but, at this juncture, it looks like setting up a local branch (or a subsidiary) in Japan, and moving there, would be the optimal solution for me. The working visas for ‘intra-company transferees’ or ‘investor/business manager’ look like they provide the requisite amounts of flexibility, based on the info given on the Website of the Japanese embassy in the UK. But, as always, that will need to be confirmed by a lawyer :smiley:

The advice to get there, get involved in the relevant local communities, and get better at Japanese makes a lot of sense. The tricky part really is to know when I know enough that, faced with a sink-or-swim situation once locally present, the latter, rather than the former, output is produced :smile:


#9

stelcheck: No worries, I generally assume people on the internet are not lawyers unless they can prove otherwise. :P Thanks for the feedback. Kind of frustrating that getting a visa for a decent-paying “real job” is so much harder than getting one for the eikaiwa racket (which I did for a year out of college, before I had completely given up on doing anything useful with my degree… I hated it), but maybe that’s politicians’ populism at work.

You said:

What do you mean by “material” here?

I hear that. I have a few loose connections from the last time I was over there, and my wife and I are tentatively planning to head back for a vacation in the summer or fall next year; I’ll definitely try to line up some meetings with folks to coincide. I also keep track with a few folks in the industry on Twitter, for whatever that’s worth (including Patrick, which is how I found this board/thread).


#10

If you go the intra-company transfer way, you will need at least a year before you can expect to move to Japan; you will need to work at least a year in the subsidy or parent company you create in your home country before being eligible for an intra-company transfer. I know one person who has done that as a “no more move” thing, and it is far from being a walk in the park as I understand it.

Investor/business manager is an option I have seen a few people take, but again you will need to show that you can sustain your business, and you will need quite a bit of capital; some of the people I know have been in Japan for years, and they are still re-paying the money they borrowed to get their company started. But who knows, it might just be the best way to “buy-in” your way into Japan; just don’t expect it to be an easy way in.


#11

I often hear this from people trying to immigrate in Japan. The reality is, the immigration law here are not so bad; ask to any people who immigrated in your country how they had it, and chances are it was much harder for them (with some exception, like US-Canada, within the euro-zone, etc). The laws are there for a reason, and unfortunately, hating them won’t change much :smile:

What do you mean by “material” here?

By material I mean recommendation letters or any document you can produce proving that you have indeed worked in such and such place. IIRC, they will generally try to call the person who produced the letter, and in some cases will request additional documents such as tax records and so on. However, in many of those cases, I don’t think they will refuse you outright; instead, they will request additional documents. This is why lawyering up is a really good investment; they will be able to speed up the process and avoid silly errors.


#12

I’m actually currently trying to get my wife a spousal visa to the US, so yes, I’m intimately aware of the pain in that regard (and no, she’s not Japanese, or else we wouldn’t be having this conversation).

Anyway, thanks for the heads-up regarding documents. In some cases, the companies I’ve worked for for a substantial amount of time no longer exist, and other times I’ve done one-off freelance stuff for which I probably couldn’t produce an exhaustive client list (I was young and undervalued disciplined record-keeping for that sort of stuff)… but yeah, should it come to that, I’ll definitely heed your advice about letting a lawyer and/or the hiring company take care of all that mess and smooth out the gaps. Thanks again for all your insight on this issue; it’s been enlightening.


#13

Thanks for the comments, stelcheck. I’ve been working for my company for more than a year already, so on this count things should be OK (pending lawyer review- I wish I could automate that bit with a Jenkins job :smile:).

Other factors being equal, the intra-company transfer route sounds good because it’d be cheaper than the investor/manager one (if I can put 5*10^6 yen more towards operational expenses, so much the better), plus, I’m not sure yet how flexible the latter is in terms of the activities you can carry out- the description is a bit vague in that regard, and seems to include managerial/exec activities only.

Thanks to your and Paul’s comments, I’m now keenly aware that the investment required, in both financial and personal terms, will be sizeable, and that painstaking planning, with lawyer & accountant both, as well as their Japanese counterparts, will be required to make things work. Breezing in, as it were, the way you can in the Eurozone, is not really an option :smile: