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Wahl & Case Brings “Umami” to Work
“Umami” is the Japanese word coined by the food-lover chemist Kikunae Ikeda. This special “savoury taste” or “flavor” has been accepted as the fifth taste in both the culinary and science arena. But, “umami” doesn’t always have to be about food.
At Wahl & Case, we bring “umami” to work. Our consultancy puts people in career roles that keep them hungry for more.
Kumiko Haraguchi, a (female) engineer in Japan wanted to learn more and be more, knowing that career advancement was in reach. In this series, we’ll talk about the career resources that helped Kumiko land a position as a front-end engineer at Paidy, a fast-growing online payment startup based in Tokyo. This is the third installment of the series–featuring the voice of Nonoka Kaneko, Consultant at Wahl & Case who worked closely with Kumiko in helping her achieve this career milestone at Paidy–the first being Kumiko’s inspiring success story shared through the perspective of Yan Fan, Co-founder & CTO of Code Chrysalis and the second perspective shared by Ken Izumi, VP of Engineering at Paidy Inc. Last but not least, the final installment of this series will feature Kumiko herself as she shares with us about her journey as an engineer.
–Kumiko was placed at Paidy at the beginning of March this year. How is she finding her new role?
Kumiko feels really positive about Paidy. The working environment is a huge change for her–so different from more traditional, domestic Japanese companies that she’s used to. Paidy is really flexible about working hours and they also have an optional day to work remotely. No overtime is encouraged and everyone leaves work by 6 or 7 pm. She is really happy about this change.
— She also received offers from large e-commerce companies. What was it about Paidy that really caught Kumiko’s interest?
I knew her desire was to work with really talented people. That was her priority. She wanted to work at a company where there were more learning opportunities and wanted great people to work with. Money wasn’t really important to her. Of course, it’s always better to have a higher salary, but that wasn’t her priority. Just those two conditions—talented people and learning opportunities.
However, I informed her from the start that the role was going to be challenging. Paidy was initially looking for a senior-level engineer who could work independently without much supervision from the team leaders. Kumiko only had about two years of experience and that’s still a little junior for the type of candidate Paidy was looking for. But, Kumiko didn’t hesitate and wanted to give it a try. So, I decided to help her out and she ended up getting an offer.
I think it was really amazing because Paidy is a company that maintains a very high level in terms of technical skills. They wouldn’t be interested in hiring junior-level candidates. All the engineers there are really high-level who can work independently. (Read more about how Kumiko stood out in part 2 of this series)
I showed Kumiko the profile of the team leader at Paidy, describing his experience and what she would gain if she joined the team. I explained to her the advantages of working in a small team–that it would be a rare opportunity to be mentored by the team leader directly as well as work with other talented teammates.
I really thought it was the perfect match.
At the same time, I didn’t want to give her biased advice and wanted her to consider all of the other options that were lined up as well. Together, we went through the pros and cons of joining Paidy. I think it was really big that Paidy really wanted her too. She really liked Paidy and Paidy really liked her. So, why not?
— What was it about Kumiko that really blew Paidy away, despite being a junior-level candidate? Was it her assertive confidence that most Japanese (especially women) are not used to expressing?
Absolutely. She is amazing. Kumiko is the type of person that really chases after what she wants.
— It’s also important to remember those soft skills—if you are an engineer that knows a lot but is weak in communicating your thoughts or working in a team, then you are going to be stuck. I am sure you are aware that she graduated from advanced coding bootcamp, Code Chrysalis, before her placement at Paidy. Four skills that Code Chrysalis emphasizes in their teaching curriculum is their mnemonic “CATE” (Communication, Autonomy, Technical and Empathy). They say that successful software engineers embody these 4 skills. Did you have a sense that Kumiko had mastered these skills?
Engineers and designers usually need to work together. For example, a UX designer will come up with a new feature for a website and he or she will go to the engineer and ask, “How can we make this happen?” Of course, engineers need to communicate with the design team and see what they can do to realize this idea. But, a lot of the time, engineers have a tendency to react by saying, “this is too difficult” or “we can’t do this”.
The way Kumiko communicates is really excellent. She would say, “I know this is very difficult, but this way is the best way for the experience of the user. So, let’s see what we can do to make this happen.”
She values what’s most important, not just limiting herself to what she can do or what she cannot do in terms of the engineering role.
–So, her ability to be flexible and mindful of other teammates is really impactful?
–Why was she so eager to work in an international environment?
One of the reasons is that she had spent some time abroad and being immersed in English language became really important to her. Also, being able to speak English and working in an English-speaking environment allowed her to work with people from different kinds of backgrounds.
–What specific skill set was Paidy looking for in their candidates?
They were looking to fill their position with someone who was assertive and updated with the latest knowledge. React JS are really hot skills in the market. It is rare to see people in Japan who have React JS skills, and it’s even more rare to see a female Japanese engineer with these skills. Japanese engineers want to catch up with newer technologies but can’t read English articles or books, nor are their companies willing to use newer tech. One of the main technical requirements for the position Kumiko applied for was React. React was first developed by Facebook and has been a ‘hot’ skill in the tech industry; but it hasn’t quite reached Japan. Paidy was eager to hire candidates with React experience, which is a rare kind of profile in Japan. It’s really great that Code Chrysalis teaches React. (learn more about Code Chrysalis’ advanced full-time immersive program in part 1 of this series)
So, Kumiko had a combination of both having strong technical skills and being able to communicate really well.
–What were some of the challenges you and Kumiko faced during the whole process, before Kumiko accepted her final job offer from Paidy?
There weren’t many difficult hurdles during the interview process, but it was a bit tough when it came time to choose–and it’s because she had a lot of offers! Some companies offered a higher salary compared to Paidy. Like I said, she isn’t money-driven, but salary is always an important factor when considering different job offers. We had to regroup and answer questions like why she was looking for a new job and what she specifically wanted. So, we looked at those answers together and had to figure out which role was a better fit.
Paidy gave her really detailed feedback after each interview. After the final interview, they believed that Kumiko had the potential to become a senior-level engineer in a year or so.
Kumiko really appreciated their feedback and from my perspective, it’s simply great to see companies that value her so much. Kumiko loves the service and product Paidy is working on, as well as the entire team. She accepted their offer saying to me, “Forget about the other offers, I want to join Paidy!”
That was her final decision.