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How long should I stay at this deep learning company as a new grad?

Hi all, I’m Kevin and I’ve been lurking around TokyoDev here and there over the years.

A little on my background:
I am an American computer science undergraduate student and I have studied Japanese for about 9 years now. I would say I’m around N3 in JLPT if I were to try to test for it.

I’m planning on graduating in a month with a B.S. in Computer Science from a university in California, USA. Despite COVID-19 affecting the job market (especially abroad), I managed to get an internship and a full time offer that I accepted as a Machine Learning Engineer for a small company in Tokyo. Though they gave me such a small offer of 220,000 yen/month, I felt that the work seems exciting. To top that off it’s very close to the university I did an exchange semester, so I would be able to return to that area in Tokyo.

However, I took this job seeing it as a foot in the door to a visa and experience with ML. I was thinking that this was quite an opportunity considering that most ML engineers have an M.S. or PhD. Though my goal is to eventually live comfortably to own a home outside of Tokyo someday (seems more realistic than owning a home in California). This does seem to be quite a traditional company in terms of how one would progress in a company though. I accepted the offer intending to leave within 2 years, is that a reasonable timeframe to progress in my career for higher opportunities at a bigger company like LINE or Google? I’m worried being at this company for that long might stunt my growth since the development seems a little different from the scrum methodology I’m used to. Also, would trying to achieve JLPT N2 in that first year in Japan be that much of an edge for jobs? I do intend on trying for N2, but I’m just curious.

Somewhat of a lengthy post, but I appreciate any input!

Assuming this is the only compensation, and there isn’t something like a fixed bonus biannual bonus, this is incredibly low.

Normally I wouldn’t advocate quickly jumping ship after a company brings you over to Japan, but in this case, given at how poor the compensation is, I think it would be worth immediately applying for other jobs and engaging recruiters once you get here. There’s a lot more opportunities available to people living in Japan, and finding a company that’s willing to pay you 50% should be fairly easy.

Now, if it does turn out that this company is an awesome place to learn, and you enjoy working there, perhaps it is worth staying for a while. But given that they’re paying so low, it seems likely that they don’t value developers so much, or they’re working in a really inefficient way that prevents developers from contributing much value.

Certification itself doesn’t matter as much as actual ability with the language. While obviously having more Japanese abilities opens up more opportunities, think about if they’re the kind of opportunities you want to go after.

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Thanks for the reply!

Considering this is my first job, I think I should stay for at least a year for the sake of my resume. Also, would you say most companies gauge your Japanese in the initial interviews? If that’s the case, maybe I should study JLPT for the sake of learning. I noticed there were so many technical terms I would never have learned in Japanese without actually working in tech in Japan.

For a resume, you get to decide what story you tell. If you were concerned that joining the current company, and then a couple months later joining another one would look bad on your resume, you could just not list your first company on your resume. No one’s going to bat an eye at a couple months gap between when you graduate and your “first” job.

Job hopping can potentially be an issue if you make a career of it. If you’re ten years in, and have never worked for more than six months for a given company, it will certainly make a prospective employer question why.

So from a strategic perspective, I think it makes sense to hop only if there’s a significantly better opportunity. The people who get in trouble with it is because they’re chasing only slightly better ones.

If you join the company, and you really enjoy working there, and are learning a lot, by all means stay. But if it turns out to be a crappy place to work, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by toughing it out.

At most, having a JLPT certificate can help get you an initial interview. It shows you’ve had the dedication to pass it, but due to the nature of the exam, doesn’t reflect your actual ability to communicate. So companies will want to judge your Japanese ability themselves. From my perspective, the exam is most useful as a motivational tool rather than being a practical certification.

How and when a company will test your Japanese ability will depend on the position. If they’re expecting you to speak Japanese as the main language you’ll use on the job, the interview itself will probably be in Japanese. If it is just a “nice to have”, they might just ask you some simple question in Japanese, not even necessarily a technical one.

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