Tokyo Dev

Developer jobs in Japan Developer Life in Japan

Which offer should I take? Advice and reasoning will be helpful


#1

tl;dr - If I want to do software engineering/programming for my career/job in Japan, is it easier to first move to Japan and then try to land a programming/developer job, or is it better to gain work experience/improve skills first at a Big 4 (Amazon), and then try to go to Japan?

There are many specifics, if you wish to know, read below.

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I am in a dilemma between two choices and I am having an extremely difficult time making a decision. I am writing here to see if I can gain some insight and opinions from the general community that may have more experience than I do. Please be patient as a wall-of-text is incoming. Sound opinions and reasonable feedback is appreciated.

I am currently working at a medium-sized business that sells a software tool (B2B) that does Data Integration (ETL). I am a Technical Support Engineer. I pretty much handle customer interaction and try to solve customer issues from ETL job design, to environment configuration, etc. It is essentially glorified tech support for a data integration tool. All our customers are other businesses.

I recently was contacted by recruiters, and through a pretty quick interview process, I received an offer to work as a “contract” Software Engineer in Test (Level 1) at a Big 4 game subsidiary. I would be on the automation team developing tools for test automation. I believe Python would be the main language used.
My interview included whiteboarding, questions about algorithm design and my portfolio work.

My dilemma is that my current company (ETL) REALLY wants to keep me and they have presented a lucrative counter-offer. They know I really don’t like or want to stay in support and they know I have a programming background. I have a degree in CS, I have internship experience in development, and I have work experience working for a big game company doing Technical QA in the US.

In order to convince me to stay, my current company has offered to promote me to the next level up in support, which is escalations (less customer interaction but more responsibility), have me start on a career development path towards DevOps, AND relocate me to the Tokyo, Japan branch-office. Their Japan office is growing (projected 3x in size in the next 2 years) and they do need more skilled engineers to help their branch.

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I don’t know what to choose because I don’t know what would be the best path for what I want.

I want BOTH.

I WANT to start a career path towards being a developer AND I want to live in Japan. Both are personal life goals that I want to achieve.

I don’t know what I should pick first that would help me achieve BOTH goals easier.

  • I have lived in Asia before for over 8 years, so the culture difference is a non-issue.

  • Both offers will come with a slight pay-increase, I am single with no responsiblities to others, so as long as I get paid enough to live comfortably alone, I am perfectly fine.

  • Big 4 position is an “18-month contract” position, so it seems they are looking to keep me on-board to full-time as long as I don’t totally screw up or fail.

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So what should I do?

  • I find the Big 4 contract offer lucrative because it is a start on a development path where I can learn A LOT, even though it is software engineering in test, but I also get a nice Big 4 name on my resume.

  • What I don’t like about this job is that it is an 18-month contract. They have no obligation to keep me at all. I could be SOL and I am jobless by the end of 18-months. Zero subsidized benefits because it is contract work. Software Engineer in Test is still considered QA department and I am not building a product or customer facing features. I have to stay in the United States for the forseeable future if I take this contract job.
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  • I find the counter-offer lucrative because they are relocating me to Tokyo, Japan for at LEAST 2 years (I’ve already gotten cleared for requirements by the immigration lawyers for work visa and sponsorship in Japan). The relocation will probably be indefinate for as long as I am working at the company. They are kinda moving me away from support and more into hybrid DevOps/escalation role for now. I still get to keep all my benefits. I get to work in Japan based on US-work-culture. It is a branch office in Japan, but our company is extremely international, more than 50% of the workforce is remote. I would NOT have to do long hours working at this position at all. Standard 9-5 is no-problem. Good work life-balance for an engineering job in Japan.

  • What I don’t like about this counter-offer is that I have to continue to work in support for the next 7-8 months. They really need me state-side at the moment, until they can train a replacement for me, as I am a specialist on the team and the work visa application process takes around 8-weeks from start. And even when I move over there, I still have to do ‘some’ support escalation work. I dont like customer interaction and dealing with customers is exhausting and uninteresting.

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  • I don’t want to stay with this company forever or keep doing support. How easily is it to get a developer job in Japan, once I am already there?

  • Are meet-ups a good place to network and potentially find other companies to hire me as a dev?

  • Is it easy to get a dev job in Japan that has US-based work culture? Maybe working for a US-based company?

  • For the countract offer at Big 4, being a large company, is there the possibility if I work hard, I could eventually ask them to relocate me to Japan as well?

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I’ve already googled and searched for others answers and opinions from other forums and discussions.



Any advice, thoughts and knowledge would be helpful and much appreciated.


#2

There’s so much here to absorb, so it’s hard to give a complete response, but let me say this:

How much do you know about “Big 4 Game subsidiary”?
An 18 month contract is suspicious. Every Japanese company I’ve worked with had short (3-6) month trial contracts, but after which 正社員 position was promised in writing. 18 month contracts sounds suspicious because I’ve heard stories of companies in other industries (mostly as english teaching jobs tbh) hang the contracts over their employees heads, warning them that not attending outside office hour functions or doing special favors, that it would “look bad” when their contracts came for review months later. Sometimes such 18th month contracts also do not end up in 正社員 positions, but further rotating contracts thereafter. I’d ask a lawyer who knows more about Japanese law to read your contract and clarify your concerns.

Also, while Japan is a great country, and software jobs are in massive demand, there is also a disproportionate amount of “black” companies in the IT spectrum, and maybe particularly, unfortunately, in the game industry. My advice is to simply /not/ rush into a bad situation. Gather more information on this company in Japan you’re considering, figure out what actual employees do and have to say about working there. Look into this contract with a lawyer. It’s definitely not the norm in my experience, except in foreign hires where there is low confidence.

Consider… just looking at other jobs. Have you peeked around wantedly.com? Maybe come here for a short vacation and schedule a bunch of in person interviews, then come back to each of them with the offers your received and make them give you great contract or you walk away. The demand for software engineers is ABSURD, you don’t even need a fancy resume, but you have to make sure to give it interviewing at multiple places to find the right fit.


#3

Hello corps,

Thanks for your valuable insight and comment.
Though I think maybe you might have mis-read the situation.

The 18-month contract is a position HERE in the United States, not Japan.

My job counter offer to work in Japan, is from my current employer. They wanted to keep me, and I asked if relocation to Tokyo was possible. They said yes, and had me go through a quick approval for visa sponsorship with the immigration lawyers just to make sure I had the qualifications to get a visa.

I didn’t want to say exactly what the “Big 4 game subsidiary” was, simply due to not wanting to give away too much information of who exactly my employer is. This is just for privacy reasons. (Big 4 is Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc)

My problem is that I hate what I am doing now at my current job. Not only do I not like it, but it is not helping me grow professionally at all in any way that I want. The training isn’t very good and I have to deal with customers a lot. If I go to Japan, I would just be doing more of what I don’t like, but I would be in Japan.

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edit: Unfortunately, I ran out of time, and I’ve had to made a choice, or I would’ve lost both opportunities. I’ve already made the choice to go with the 18-month contract gig at the Big 4. I figured growing my resume and career and my experience as a developer would help me greatly down the line and I could shoot for a job in Tokyo down the line.

I guess i’ll need to look for advice on how to do that later.

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The demand for software engineers is ABSURD, you don’t even need a fancy resume, but you have to make sure to give it interviewing at multiple places to find the right fit.

This is reassuring.

Have you peeked around wantedly.com? Maybe come here for a short vacation and schedule a bunch of in person interviews, then come back to each of them with the offers your received and make them give you great contract or you walk away.

I have not, I will do this for this coming winter. As I am coming for vacation again.