Getting out of your comfort zone can make your life much better in Japan

Nomin from Career Fly (N): Hello! Thank you for your time today and this opportunity.

To begin, could you please introduce yourself to us?

Mr. Leo Uramoto from TRYETING(L): My name is Leo Uramoto. I’m from a tiny  town in Southern Finland that has a population of 2000 people.

I have my background in Mathematics, specifically Applied Mathematics. After graduation, I came to Japan in 2015 where I joined my previous company as Software Engineer in Computer graphics. Currently I’m working as Machine Learning Engineer at TRYETING Co Ltd.

N : I see, why did you choose to come to Japan? I’m pretty sure you are asked about this a lot!

L: My answer would be quite short *laughs*. I was in a long-distance relationship with my partner and I had decided to move to Japan and start my career here. Moving to Japan was easier than having my partner move to Finland, so we came into this conclusion together.

My first exposure to Japanese culture was when I started playing Igo (Japanese board game similar to Shogi) at the age of 16. I wanted to know more about the culture and ended up being fascinated by it. I still play Igo, it’s a hobby I share with my father-in-law and back when my Japanese wasn’t that great it was a great way to bond with him without any language issues. Igo is sadly not very popular among the youth now, but NHK still has Igo programs on every Sunday.

N: That’s very unique. Please share your previous work and responsibilities. 

L: I was working in graphics programming and my responsibilities consisted of everything from contributing to our own packages to doing custom solutions for our clients. I really enjoyed how every day was different.

N: That sounds a little scary to me!

L: It does to some. When I was studying Mathematics, a lot of my peers wanted to become math teachers. I always thought that role was not ideal for me because you repeat the same curriculum for your working life and there wouldn’t be much of a change during your teaching career.

That was scary for me, I wanted a role where I would be constantly faced with new problems and challenges. That was one of the reasons why I chose to pursue my career in Machine Learning. It evolves quite fast and you never know what’s going to happen next. Many of the problems and challenges are unique and I found that really attractive.  

N:  How did you do your job hunting at the time?

L: Actually I didn’t do the usual job-hunting process. My partner happened to have a business connection with a Finnish guy who started his own company in Japan. She helped us get connected and after talking with him, I found out that he was looking for a new employee with a Mathematics and Programming background. I ended up joining his company shortly after my graduation.

I was very fortunate because I know job hunting in Japan can be quite difficult. It seemed even more difficult at the time because video interviews were not common and the typical Japanese recruitment process was very rigid.

Mr.Uramoto talks about his career fly during this interview

N: What made you consider changing companies especially during this pandemic?

L: Once you work at solving the same type of problems for for 4-5 years you become a bit stagnant. This goes back to always wanting new challenges and variation, I thought it would be the time to change companies and move to a new field. Since I had always found AI/ML fascinating I thought it would make for a great next challenge.

When I started the job hunting process the pandemic situation wasn’t yet that bad. I was still able to have my first interview in person at TRYETING. I got quite far in the process before things got bad. For my experience, it was safe timing for me to change and switch companies at the time and it resulted in a good outcome.

N: Please share about your experience at TRYETING!

L: I have really been enjoying my experience at TRYETING so far.

My role is quite flexible and the tasks I have vary a lot which is very exciting for me and it’s exactly what I wanted.

What I also really enjoy at my new role is that it requires flexibility to think outside the box if a problem arises that doesn’t directly fit into anyone’s role. I enjoy brainstorming and solving problems as a team! It is one of the reasons why I love working at smaller, start-up companies like TRYETING. My coworkers are great and the working environment is very fitting. Having several people who can speak English at the company is nice since we can work in English from time to time.

If there was one thing I had a little bit of trouble adjusting, it would be starting remotely from the very first day. Working remotely is very common in Finland, my dad is a software engineer who has been working remotely for 15 years. I worked remotely time to time in my previous role too. Working remotely works great when you know what you are doing, but doing everything from the beginning remotely felt odd at first.

N: Since you have been in Japan for more than 5 years, what do you like and don’t like the most here?

L: I have so many things I love about Japan it’s difficult to choose! *laughs*

I really like how safe it is in Japan. Even though we have all kinds of natural disasters the buildings are built with that in mind. Coming from a tiny town everything being accessible easily is something that I appreciate a lot.

Food is delicious, the environment is very clean which I really appreciate. Japanese people take other people’s feelings into consideration and behave politely. I really like the dedication and commitment that Japanese people have, you can see this in how people approach hobbies or even things as simple as making noodles.

Listing things I don’t like is harder, but natto and garbage days come to mind.

N: Really? Why those? L: After being in Japan for more than 5 years I’m still unable to eat natto, I think it might have to do something with the texture. The day after garbage day the streets are a bit messy. Putting your garbage under a net outside of your apartments on a specific day is very different how we do it in Finland. *laughs*

Mr.Uramoto Has MTG with colleague

N: Please share your biggest advice to those who are considering to come to Japan.

L : When I first came here I decided I had to learn the language.
I would say that that learning the language is the biggest thing you can do to improve your life in Japan.

A lot of international people tend to spend time and hang out with English speaking people, this makes learning the language a lot harder because they get to use English all the time.

At my previous company even though the CEO was Finnish most of my coworkers were Japanese and I spoke speak with them in Japanese. In my free time, I also tried to hang out with Japanese people more and force myself into situations where I had to use Japanese, even if it was uncomfortable at first.
“Learning the language and getting out of your comfort zone can make your life much better in Japan”.

My advice to those considering coming to Japan would be use your free time and hobbies to your advantage here and to really learn the language. If you are using only English for your work/life it might work in Tokyo but it will will be very difficult in other places and your experience of Japan will be limited.

Another important thing is understanding the social structure and the indirect ways of communicating with people in Japan, being open minded and accepting goes a long way.

N: How did you adjust to the Japanese way of communication?

L: During my first year working here in Japan I really noticed that there was an indirect way of communicating and I had to pick up that skill because communication is the most important skill when working in a team.

Finnish people are very direct in general and I have learned to be less direct and softer in general since coming to Japan.

One year I went back to Finland for Christmas and me and my dad got to talking about ways people communicate. I forget the details of the conversation, but I said there was something I disliked about people being too direct. When he replied that I had clearly been in Japan for too long I knew that I had acquired that skill for myself *laughs*

N: Thank you for sharing! What’s your Career Fly in the future?

L: I’m aiming to become a specialist in my current domain and see where the future takes me! I am excited to see how the AI/ML field develops in the future and to see how Japan handles the incoming challenges developments in this field will bring.

N: Thank you very much for your time and sharing with us your valuable experience. Good luck with your future endeavours. We wish you all the best!

Meet Leo! Leo came to Japan in 2015 as a Software Engineer and currently is a Machine Learning Engineer at TRYETING Co Ltd.