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