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Questions for JET Participants Turned Developers


#1

I’d appreciate it if anyone who first participated in the JET program (or similar jobs) and then got jobs as developers could share their experience. Here’s my questions:

  1. How much spare time did you have as an ALT to do any sort of programming? Was it enough to keep up your technical skills and boost your resume?
  2. If placed in a rural town, how hard was it to network and find the connection for your dev job after teaching?
  3. If you could go back in time, would you have chosen a different route? E.g. staying at your job before JET and boosting Japanese and technical skills.

Thanks!


#2

Hey mndev,

I’m a former JET myself who has turned into a developer! To answer your questions:

  1. I think this depends on your school. My school hardly ever used me for lessons, so I was often assigned the duty of professional desk warmer. So basically, I had many hours to kill. I was also fortunate to have my own laptop at my school too. This allowed me to study a lot while on the job. However, I was not smart enough to do this right away. I did JET for two years and only started studying programming for the last 6 months of it. This is something I really regret and wish I had started doing sooner to help boost my resume more!

  2. I was placed in Tokyo, so unfortunately I can’t answer this.

  3. Yes (refer to answer 1). In general, I wish I would have tried harder while I was in Tokyo. Or at least prepared more before returning to the US.


#3

This was like 20 years ago so probably a different world. However:

  1. How much spare time did you have as an ALT to do any sort of programming? Was it enough to keep up your technical skills and boost your resume?

Lots of time. I did 3 years, first year was mostly doing Japanese, but then started working on making websites - made one for the school, made one for teaching activities (which people still seem to use, although I haven’t updated it since like 1999 - https://www.edochan.com/teaching/ ) - and learned a lot making tools to do that. If you’ve got time and internet, there’s plenty of scope to learn and work on free software projects without needing to be anywhere in particular, so it doesn’t matter if you’re out in the boonies.

  1. If placed in a rural town, how hard was it to network and find the connection for your dev job after teaching?

My job right after teaching wasn’t exactly dev - I was working on an internet project for the British Council in Tokyo. That job was advertised to JETs somehow - can’t remember how, but I don’t think it was networking. I then switched to a temporary programming job in the same organization, and from there got another (advertised) developer job.

  1. If you could go back in time, would you have chosen a different route? E.g. staying at your job before JET and boosting Japanese and technical skills.

No, JET was a great opportunity - learned a lot, teaching was crazy fun and teaching skills are always useful; The higher up the people you’re dealing with, the shorter their attention spans and the more they resemble small children.

However, if I was purely ambitious about career development as a developer, I don’t think I’d go the Japan route; It’s an OK place to work as a developer, and I really like it as a place to live, but it’s not the dev capital of the world or the best paid or anything, and the language and culture are barriers. I mean, it’s all doable, but there are extra hurdles.