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Looking for info for moving to Japan

Hi, I’m a software developer from Italy. I’ve been studying Japanese for about 3 years, and I’ve been entertaining the idea of moving to Japan (maybe next year). My English is ok, I have no problem understanding it at close to native level, but my speaking lags a bit since I never get the chance to use it. My Japanese is work in progress: I can understand basic TV dramas and movies, but I will probably need 5 more years before it’s even close to my English.

I’m fluent in Ruby, TypeScript, React and can do a bit of C (although I have never written any C in a professional setting). I have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, and 10 years of work experience. I have quite a bit of code on Github (https://github.com/pigoz).

I was wondering how hard would be it for me to move, and what kind of salary ranges I should expect in companies that also sponsor visas. I’m also very scared about the overtime – is there anything I should look out for? I started my career in consulting doing 12 hours days (+3hours commute), so hearing about Japanese overtime really triggers my PTSD.

AFAIK even some major companies like Cookpad use Ruby, but most of them probably don’t want foreigners. Is there anything I should do (aside from increasing my Japanese and English ability) to make myself more attractive to prospective employers? For the visa, should I contact my university to get some form of certificate?

If anyone wants to share their experience, I’d really appreciate it!

First off, I think GitHub does you a disservice in highlighting your open source contributions. You’ve pinned some repositories, but unless someone dives in, it’s unclear what your contribution is. For instance, it looks like you’re the most prolific contributor to mpv. Great job! In your resume though, I’d be sure to call out specific projects and your contributions to it. Also, I’d consider having a personal website where you can list them. It should be a great asset in helping get you a job, and so it would be a shame for someone to overlook them.

For salary ranges, you might have already seen these survey results. For someone with your experience, I’d expect to be able to get an annual compensation package in the ¥8 to 12 million range.

If you’re concerned about overtime, just ask what hours developers usually work as part of the interview. Companies that do regular overtime don’t normally cover it up. But my experience is that many (most?) internationally minded tech companies do little to no overtime.

While a lack of fluent Japanese may hinder you in your search, there are enough Japanese companies that make use of English to mean I think you should already have a decent shot at securing a job.

Cookpad actually does recruit English speaking developers, however I think they’ve focused their international recruitment efforts on their Bristol office. Still, applying couldn’t hurt, and even if in the general case they’d want you to work in Bristol, it doesn’t mean working from Japan is out of the question.

I’m listing jobs for Ruby developers in Japan, and so you might try applying to those. In particular, I know Degica is active in the Ruby community, is specifically looking for people who have open source contributions like yours, and are experienced at relocation international developers. Another one could be DMM Eikaiwa. They aren’t listing a Ruby position on my site, but do use it internally, and as they video is central to their product, I’d think they’d be interested to hear more about your mpv contributions.

I wouldn’t worry about preparing anything for the visa. That comes after you’ve accepted an offer, and companies will guide you through the process.

Thanks a lot for your detailed reply, I really appreciate it! I missed your salary post, it is really good. You are doing a great service to the developer community.

Unfortunately I am only the second most prolific developer of mpv. The main one pulled some e-mail tricks to not appear in the Github stats. Anyhow I’m proud of my contributions even though they are probably not that great or important in the grand scheme of things. I agree about Github. Fortunately, a fix is coming (https://twitter.com/pifafu/status/1265773172520914944). When I apply for jobs I do list my main contributions!

Thank you for all the suggestions about companies! They all look so good that I feel a bit of impostor syndrome.

I’ve read your article about getting a student visa to get 1 year of intensive Japanese. I’ve been thinking (for a long time actually) of taking a sabbatical if I get bored with my job. Is it something that you recommend for people with experience as well or would that look weird? At some point it’s something I’d really like to do regardless of employment :slight_smile:

Having any open source contributions that are accepted to a major project separates you from at least 95% of other developers. Regardless of how big or small they are in the grand scheme of things, they are something that does make you stand out from other candidates.

I’ve also noticed that many great developers struggle with imposter syndrome. My advise is that it’s up to the company to decide whether or not you’re qualified for the position, so there’s no reason to avoid applying to a company that matches your interests. Also be aware that just because a company lists something as a “requirement”, that doesn’t mean it is actually a hard one, so it can be worth applying even if you don’t meet all the listed ones. For someone with demonstrable experience like yourself (e.g. OS contributions), if you make a customized application to any given company, particularly startups, I think it’s quite likely you’ll at least get an interview.

Regarding a sabbatical, I think it is unlikely to affect your career prospects from the long term. You’ve already built up enough professional experience that I think it’s likely that you’ll be able to find something else after. Of course, there’s always a risk that the timing doesn’t quite work out, and it ends up taking an extra three to six months to get back into employment, so it depends on your personal finances and risk tolerance.

Studying Japanese intensively for a year could be a great way to make progress with the language. Unless you’re really motivated, it can be challenging to learn Japanese while you’re working full time, even if you’re living here. If you were to do this, it would also increase your chances of getting a job here, as you could get into the local developer community, and companies are more likely to hire someone who is currently based here (even if they are on a student visa).

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