How To Stand Out As A Developer in Japan

How To Stand Out As A Developer in Japan
August 24th, 2023

Terrance Reynolds is a UX Developer At Indeed. We talk about standing out as a developer in the hiring process and job-hunting advice in Japan.

Ryohei Watanabe: Okay. Hey Terrance. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

Terrance Reynolds: Thank you for having me, Ryohei, man. I'm so happy to be here right now. So

Ryohei Watanabe: So audience, today we'll be talking with Terrance Reynolds. He is a UX developer at Indeed. He came to Japan to be an English teacher. And then after five years and getting some experience, he 5x'd his income. When I was doing research for this podcast episode, I saw that your Black Experience Japan podcast got you an interview at Indeed.

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, man, that was a real surprise when I was reached out by one of the hiring managers there.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think this is the first instance I know of, of someone getting a developer job through podcasting and YouTube content. Can you give us some background on this story of how that podcast came about?

Terrance Reynolds: OK, so like I guess the long slash medium story is that I began creating content during the pandemic. This is about October 2020, and I began doing this book club podcasting where every single month we would do a review of a book, usually in business, technology, psychology, sociology, and me and my co-hosts would just talk about it. Now, these videos didn't get a lot of views. We was doing it for the passion and we were figuring things out as we go along and stuff. And one of one of my main goals of creating content, because I always knew from the very beginning that it doesn't matter how many people watch it. It just matters that the right people watch it and you try to get that content to the right audience. So this book club was probably getting like, what, a couple of dozen views here and there. The clips on social media was getting hundreds of views. But anyways, I ended up linking with the host of the Black Experience Japan podcast or show. And I met him at the barbershop of all places. And because I had experience creating content, he wanted to talk about it. So we did this car ride interview and I just began talking about my life. I had no expectation where this where this content would like take me and who will reach out to me. But after we did the episode, like I believe they got like thousands and thousands of views within the first couple of days, 10,000 within the first week. And next thing you know, I am getting messages from people all over the world, whether it's on LinkedIn, Instagram. Some people even found me on Facebook. Some people found my email and I begin just starting my own YouTube channel. And in the midst of doing that, yeah, I guess the manager, one of the managers, one of the many managers that indeed he saw the interview. And I guess he saw something in me and he offered me a chance to interview at Indeed and like go through the hiring process because I was looking to expand their team. And, yeah, that's kind of like how it happened. Super serendipitous. And I feel so lucky that someone was able to see it, but it also validated the entire plan from the start.

Ryohei Watanabe: Sure. Do you know what the hiring manager saw in that episode that made him or her want to interview you?

Terrance Reynolds: I would say I think I can't speak for him. But based on what I understand, it's probably personality and character. You know, throughout the interview, I just talked about what I believe in and what my life story was and the themes and values that I gathered from that story. And also the fact that I had such a unique background. You see, Indeed, they get so many applicants, like probably hundreds. Yeah, I imagine. I imagine I've never interviewed someone for Indeed before. I've been interviewed to work for Indeed. But so many of these people, they come from computer science backgrounds. They don't really have that. I say that that that X factor that they were looking for and that X factor was for a UX developer role. We need someone who is more than just more than just a JavaScript writer. We need someone who understands design, who can collaborate more effectively than a typical software engineer could with UX designers and UX researchers. So UX developer, Indeed, is kind of a mixture of both, someone who has an appreciation for the design and also know how to code. And given my background, I started off designing websites. I've been designing websites since I was a kid. So I had that strong design fundamental understanding. And I also went to school for marketing. And I just so happened to be a professional developer for the past three or four years at the time that I was hired there. So I had I had this just this interesting profile of picture. I mean, interesting profile of skills that he thought it was worth investing in if I had to guess.

Ryohei Watanabe: Sure. Yeah. So it's not as if you recorded one podcast and then you automatically got a job, right? There's a bunch of work that happened before then to get you in that position.

Terrance Reynolds: I say we was doing the podcast for about a year at the time. And even before that, I experimented writing blogs like I was trying to create content. I mean, if you look at where the world is going, creating content just creates a brand for you. It separates you from everybody else. And this is some of the things that I'm trying to communicate, even though my platform, as I focus more short form content and give advice to other software engineers, is that when you're applying to a job and you're just one of many resumes, you can just get filtered out or someone cannot see your stuff. But when you create content, you kind of create a brand for yourself. You separate yourself. It's it's always use the analogy. It's Coca-Cola and then there's other Coke products. We all know Coca-Cola because of awareness. And when people are making decisions, they choose the thing that they're more comfortable with, the thing that they're aware of, they have knowledge of and they fundamentally trust. When you're just a piece of paper on a resume, you're just one of many papers in the stacks. But when you create content, people actually get to know you and see what you're about. And that just helps you stand out in general and have certain job or career opportunities.

Ryohei Watanabe: Sure. So I guess you started out with the book club podcast. What were those like the early attempts? So other than the book podcast, were there like other like attempts to create a personal brand and to create content for yourself that we don't talk about so much anymore?

Terrance Reynolds: Well, I've been trying to make videos since I would say 2016, and none of those videos have ever seen the light of day. They sit on my hard drive on an old MacBook in my closet somewhere because they were embarrassing. But I was trying like when I first moved to Japan, I thought about being one like one of those Japan vloggers and stuff, like taking my camera around and then just talking about it. But then I realized that's that's not me. Like, that's never been my like whole like you know, my my goal in life. And shout out to those people who are able to do it. But yeah, those initial attempts were like Japan vlogging, never see the light of day. I also tried blogging. I wrote a couple of blogs on Medium and my personal website, trying to just experiment. Like, which sort of medium do I want to use to reach my audience? And then eventually we just settled on books because me and my co-hosts, we love reading books and we had so many like books that we read that were in common that it just made sense.

Ryohei Watanabe: Sure. So I think you have the you had the book club podcast, where they're like how have you used like social media and other online platforms to like showcase your work and what platforms have been the most effective for you?

Terrance Reynolds: The most effective has definitely been Instagram, Instagram, because for one, people know Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, probably in that order, specifically Instagram, for one, that's the social media platform that I use the most as a platform that I'm sure you know, where you can engage with your friends as well as people who are interested in following the content that I created. And because I had such a built in audience, just because of my social life, it was easy to start creating content from content and posted on there. YouTube was before I get to YouTube, LinkedIn was probably the second best because Instagram. Yeah, my reach is larger, but a lot of people who watch my content, they're not necessarily the demographic that I'm always targeting for Pacific things, especially professionally. And LinkedIn, on the other hand, that that is like you're targeting professionals. One thing that I want to do for my content is reach professionals because it helps me expand my professional network and just gives me various opportunities. So LinkedIn is probably the second most effective and then YouTube for just, I guess, longer form content and just engaging with my more core audience members who want to consume the longer form version to be that last more than 90 seconds. So it's probably in that order.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think like a lot of these are examples of like, I know, show your work or like building in public. And why do you think that works as a tactic?

Terrance Reynolds: I think people, they like to see someone grow and develop over time. And also, again, like one of the most fundamental things when if you're if we're talking, trying to create content with the purpose of looking for a job, when you go through these hiring process and these interview process, people, they just want to know they can trust that you can do the job. And trust is a factor, like many different things. It's a factor of integrity. It's also a factor of your skill set. And when you're creating content and you're showing your work over a course of over a course of time, it communicates things indirectly. Let's say, for example, you're picking up a skill as a web developer and you just got started. It does not matter if you're an expert at this or not. If you write your content from an honest and vulnerable perspective hey, this is my blog and I'm going on this journey to learn web development. And someone can watch you progress in real time or even look back at your progress retroactively and be like, wow, in six months, this person went from knowing no JavaScript to writing a medium sized application like this person clearly has a work ethic. They have direction and I can see their skill grow over time. People want to invest in that. And that's one of the main reasons why showing your work like we have to get out of that mindset that I'm not good enough to show it or I'm too scared to do it. When you show your work, it is such a built in advantage because when you're going through the hiring process, you have an hour tops during the interview to convince that person of the same thing. But someone opens up your resume or finds you on LinkedIn and they snoop around all of your online platforms. They can get so many questions answered and then you go into that same interview and it's way easier. They already got an impression of you. They already like your work. Your works spoke for itself. So it's incredibly important that all of us do it. Now all of us have to be YouTubers, Instagram influencers or TikTok influencers, but find a platform that you're most comfortable with and a medium where it's writing audio or video and then just like double down on it.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think one of the things that I find interesting is that when you like build in public, right? Yeah, I think sometimes it's because you don't have a specific amount of work experience, right? But now I think in your case, you have both the content and you have brand name companies on your resume, right? Do you think it's more important for early developers to kind of like build in public versus like mid career who have experience? And so like they might get interviews from their resumes.

Terrance Reynolds: Oh, that's a good question. Is it more important for early developers versus mid level developers? I say it no matter at what stage it's important because well, let's let's actually examine the question itself. If my goal is to simply get to a brand name company, then yeah, what the question implies is right. It is more important for early developers to do what I did so they can get that brand name company. But for me, I'm a mid level developer and I still see that there is much more things I can do in terms of creating content. If I want ever one day want to create a business, for example, growing my audience would be an asset for me. If I want to move on from Indeed and work for another company, especially in a different country where maybe indeed doesn't have that that brand recognition that has in Japan, I still need to create content so I can reach that next audience or that next hypothetical hiring manager. So there's still so much value value for me being five years into this game to like keep on investing. But to answer the side of the question that talks about younger, younger people or people who are entering into the industry for the first time. Yeah, it's absolutely important for the for the reasons I mentioned earlier, because I don't want to like be too redundant in long window with these answers. I think it's important from both both sides, both sides of the question if you're young or if you're like much more experienced in this software engineering world, create content if you can.

Ryohei Watanabe: So you talked about early career developers and what they should be doing with building in public. Is there like another tactic that you recommend for early career developers to stand out during this like the resume screen and the interview?

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah. So the thing that I tell people, because I get this question on DMs a lot and I should probably make a video on this, but let's do it right now live. One of the main things that I tell people is that have a some of this is going to sound obvious, but we're going to break it down anyways. Have a GitHub, have an active GitHub where you are actively contributing to it and people can actually see and track the the the status of your repose and your activity of those repose rather that. That's one thing that people can legitimately see your code and see how you write it, because that is so much that's such a large crux of the job. The next thing you want to do is create your own, have a personal website and have this personal website stand out a bit. Like I know a lot of people when I see developers, especially earlier on, they just they download the material UI components or some sort of mainstream component. And the website just looks like everything else. But if you have a little bit of cash to hire a designer on Fiverr or just get some feedback from other people to like just make a design that's interesting, unique to you. You don't have to do something amazing. Just make it unique because your website is the canvas where you have unlimited ways to express yourself. You have complete control of the nuance of your message, how you choose to present projects, this talk about those projects. If you have a description next to that said project link or photo and your contact information that that is your premium platform to show who you are. And then if you have something else, whether it's a blog or YouTube channel or a tick tock, that that would give you reach. So the video content or audio or the rating content would give you reach. Your your website is that funnel where people can actually learn who you are specifically. And then your GitHub is how people evaluate you professionally. Like tackling all of those things like simultaneously, I think is incredibly important. And just one more tip for the website. I think this this is highly underrated. Hire someone to design your proper logo, go on Fiverr, pay $50, $100, have a proper logo, sell a basic brand. When it comes out in the professional bio, hire someone to write that for you, too. You don't have to write it yourself. Give a personal fiber or upward description of who you are. Work with them. Pay them 100 to 200 dollars to write your professional bio that you can display on LinkedIn, that you can take a little snippet, a tagline, put it on your Instagram. And also you can display it on your website. Put your best foot forward. Yes, this will require a little bit more money and time. But how you present yourself up front will determine whether or not people want to follow up with you.

Ryohei Watanabe: I think something that I see quite often is like people build some stuff and then they like don't pin it on their GitHub profile or they don't put it on their LinkedIn profile. I feel like an underrated thing is to just publicize the work that you've already done, right? Because you've already done all of the hard work, right? Yeah. The second step is just to publicize it. Talk about it.

Terrance Reynolds: You know, the second thing about and this is the pragmatic reason why, because I know some people are listening to this like, man, it sounds like a lot of work. And yeah, you will have to do a little bit more. But the reason why is this half of the job is actually building things. And in some companies, it could be even less than that. The other half is communication. When you're when you're trying to be a software developer, especially professional in this industry, your level of communication skills and talking about technical things to people who are not technical like stakeholders is incredibly important. That that is the skill that separates a lot of juniors from mid levels to seniors to managers. Managers especially are very good at being able to communicate the complexities of software engineers to people who may not have that understanding or that or that level of experience in that industry. And when you are taking the time out to build something and then you use a platform, let's say, for example, LinkedIn to talk about it, it shows that, hey, you're able to take this and then then then communicate this. Take this thing that you built rather and then communicate why you did the things like why you did the things that you did and how you did it to a broad audience. And if you do that effectively, people will know this.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think you talked a little bit about soft skills. Yeah, right now. And is there like a way apart from doing the work ahead and like writing the document here, like writing the read me and stuff like this? Is there a way to like, I know, emphasize this during like an interview setting or like some other setting, like after the resume screen?

Terrance Reynolds: Demonstrating soft skills after the resume screen and during the interview setting. Well, the interview itself is important. That's when you get to show who you are, your personality. So that's very important. And if you do enough interviews, you tend to break out that that that stiffness that we all get when we get nervous, you tend to like just be yourself and open up. So showing who you are during the interview is important. But then going back to the content, I feel like this is going to be a theme throughout this podcast. That is probably the second best place, if not the best place, depending on your perspective, to show who you are and your personality. And that and they may actually take a look at your content after the resume screening. So, yeah, those are the two places where I would show my personality and a follow up email if you want to do so, like thanking them for their time.

Ryohei Watanabe: Sure. So I think maybe like, do you think developers that do the interviews or like the people that actually do the interviews, they will see like your blog and they will actually go through things. Do you think the hiring managers do that as well?

Terrance Reynolds: I guess it really does depend on the hiring manager, for sure. Do the hiring manager look at your blog? Some may not. Some just aren't that thorough. Like we I can't sit here and be disingenuous to say that every hiring manager is just going to be that meticulous and that thorough. Because some people are like I'm just trying to hire someone as quickly as possible. I got dozens of resumes to get to. This guy checks off all the keywords. Let's get going. So some may not be that thorough. But I think the ones that really care, the ones that are looking for the right people, I think they will. I think they will, especially for a company that's large and they get a lot of applicants or even, hell, a company that's small and nimble that are that not only just looking for a developer, but they're looking for a particular cultural fit. Yes, small companies and startups would probably do it, too. So not every developer, I mean, not every hiring manager will. But I believe like a significant amount will look at your stuff.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think another tactic I see often is like 100 days of code. I know you have experience in doing 100 days of code. How is your experience with it? Did it work?

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, yeah. So much of just learning how to code. So much of anything really in life is an emotional problem. And one of the things that 100 days of code, I think, do do in a very subtle psychological level is that you ever get that feeling that, hey today I have to study and you're trying to decide whether or not you should study or you should postpone it. When you do something as like as brute force to 100 days of code, I think it removes that decision making evaluation process that stop us from like not pushing ourselves. We say I am going to code every single day for an hour a day. No questions asked. And you make that commitment to yourself. Yeah, man, it's it's it is one of the most effective ways to getting you to do something. It may not be the most efficient way to study, to be quite honest, but if you're trying to just just brute force it and you need to like just push yourself, it is such a simple and easy way to get the job done.

Ryohei Watanabe: So when you were learning how to code, apart from 100 days of code, how did you keep up your discipline and your motivation during what is a difficult time for everybody?

Terrance Reynolds: I think I say having certain key habits, one of the things that I know it seems pretty like like left field when I say this. But going to the gym was one was probably the next best habit I can have or supporting habit that I can have while learning how to code, because it kind of motivated me when I went to the gym and I and I completed the workout. I felt accomplished. I had that that that that energy to like want to do something else. And right after I like leave the gym, I would code and like just seeing how I was just tackling both of these things, it kind of just like ping ponged off each other. If that makes any sense. And it just pushed me. That was one of the key things that just kept me committed and also just having friends who are incredibly supportive during the time. I didn't talk about it publicly that I was learning how to code because I didn't have necessarily a public platform. But I made a commitment to myself and I made a commitment to my closest friends and they checked up on me and I consistently did it. And I just updated the progress report. And also, if you're going to do this, it also helps to have like an app where you can actually just just click a button or just add an entry to an Excel sheet like, hey, I completed today's task. There is something about checking something off of a to do list or pressing a let's say a habit tracking, but habit tracking app button that just make you feel great. And then when you see that number slowly increasing, it just makes it much harder to break. Like the first seven days, you're like, look, if I break today on day six, what was the big deal if I start over? But once you get to day 30, 40 and 50, you're like, you look back and like, yo, I did so much of this already that I am going to continue to do this. So I hit day 100. So long story short, having the supporting habit for me was a gem and also having something that just felt like a reward system, like just adding the entry into my Excel sheet or into my tracking app that, hey, I completed today's task.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think apart from the habits that you just mentioned, was there anything else that you did right to get your very first developer job?

Terrance Reynolds: Man, my very first developer job. Let me let me think back at that. That was back in 2018. I was in Kochi. I was I was an English teacher looking for a job. I didn't give up. I know. I know these some of the most some of the most important answers are so the most cliche. So fundamental, right? Yeah. But I remember applying for tons of developer jobs and I got told no so many times. And it really hurt. And I remember back then, like wanting to give up. And then I I was like, you know what? I'm going to apply to one more job. And then that one more job actually you know, set me on a trajectory that that that that that that that I went on throughout that time period. And what's what when I look back because I remember making a video on this and I look back at my rejections. I was really going for it, man. I wasn't just placing applications in the beginning. I bought LinkedIn premium. I found the hiring manager. I messaged the hiring managers or person who post the job directly. I asked them what exactly are you looking for? And did a brief introduction of myself like I I look back at my messages in 2018. And I wrote someone like maybe just two short paragraphs introducing who I am, asking questions about the job, expressing my interests eight sentences. And I did a lot of it, man. I did a lot. And did I get rejected most of the time? Yes. But was it worth it? That mindset when you're especially when you don't have the backing of a boot camp or the backing of a university degree and yourself taught that extra mile matters. It may feel ineffective because you get told no so many times, but you always have to remember that you just need one. Yes.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think you said that, A, you didn't give up and B, that you were going for it. Like you, of course, sent a lot of applications, but it seems like you were talking to hiring managers and like actually putting in the work to like research the companies and stuff like this. I do recommend like new entry level like candidates till I just blast like a thousand, two thousand applications or should they go for more quality?

Terrance Reynolds: I say, well, that's a good question. I say do what you can, do what you can. But quality is important in the beginning. But also understand the company as well. When you're interviewing for a company that has a relatively small team and a small quantity of applicants, that tactic of messaging the hiring manager or messaging the job posters of people who work there is much more effective than if you're applying for Google or you're applying for Indeed, or somewhere else. They have a much more formalized process. If you go to a large company that has a well established formula formulaic process, it be that tactic may may become less effective because they're not going to like shift the rules for you because it's they have a they have a defined way of doing things. But when you go for a company that's like mid size or small size, it's just one person making a very subjective decision. So it could be much more effective in like in a small to medium sized setting.

Ryohei Watanabe: That's like fantastic advice. I think the at your first job, I think during my research, I saw that you said you experienced imposter syndrome during that first job. I mean, I think everybody does. Do you have any idea of like what people should do when they experience or deal with imposter syndrome? Is there a good way to overcome it? Or like, how should people think about it in terms of that?

Terrance Reynolds: That's good. That's a good question. I think I think a little bit of imposter syndrome is always healthy, just a little bit. And not to motivate you to keep pushing you when you have too much of it. It can really affect your work and it can really affect your confidence. And you do not want that to happen if it if you have so much imposter syndrome that you feel like you don't deserve to be there. That's just not a good mental headspace to be in. But one of the things that help you come to terms with imposter syndrome is just experience. When you work around other developers and you realize that even the people who know more than you do not know everything. And there's some things even you as a junior probably know more than that senior because you decide to study that bit of technology. I think it gives you confidence and it helps you accept yourself that in this in this world, our job necessarily isn't to know how to do everything. But our job is to develop the discipline, the habits of an effective software engineer that knows how to research and then acquire those skills whenever it's necessary for whatever feature that you're building. And when you shift to that mindset that, hey, yeah, I don't need to know everything. I just need to develop the disciplines and the traits of an effective software engineer. I think the imposter syndrome quietly goes away because all of us are still learning.

Ryohei Watanabe: Sure. I think some of the best senior engineers I've seen also have like a set of like some imposter syndrome. Like they're still doing projects like they're still learning on the weekends. Do you think it ever ends like this imposter syndrome?

Terrance Reynolds: I wonder. I'm six years into it, man. I wonder, I wonder if it does, if it does get that way. Someone who has like 20 years of experience, 10 years of experience. We have we both had to maybe ask them that question because I'm a middle level developer and I still feel it occasionally. But the voice is not nearly as loud as it was my first my first year or even my first two years, because I know the fundamentals.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think at your first job, did you like make any mistakes or do anything that you look back on like, damn, I can't believe I did that. And like how should like junior developers deal with failure or just like mistakes in the workplace?

Terrance Reynolds: I think a lot. I think I made a lot of mistakes. I think I made so if I had to categorize my mistakes, some of it was just what that that's. So just give me a moment to gather my thoughts, because that was a bit about five years ago. But I say most of my mistakes centered around communication, especially when it came to asking for help. From my perspective, I guess in my first company, I was because of imposter syndrome. I was so afraid of making mistakes that will constantly ping the more senior developer that was that was on the team for advice and help when really I should have developed the courage, like solve problems more on my own. And that one of the biggest challenges I had was going through like debugging processes and not being used to like reading the error log message and just trying to figure things out by myself. That, yeah, just kept on messaging the other person and other person like the feedback that I got was like, hey spend some time trying to figure this out yourself and then ask for help. And when you do ask for help, let them know what you've already done. So when you do ask for help, the next time around doesn't feel like, hey, this person just ran into a problem and it just immediately asked me for help. So I think independence is probably something that I probably could have did better in figuring things out myself. One of the biggest things we are working in this industry as well is that sometimes when you join a company, you get hit with so much information that it's kind of really hard to remember things. So the advice I'd give to more junior engineers and a younger version of me is try to document as much as that early those early stages as you can. And lastly, keep in mind that even if you do all those things effectively, some people, some of your co-workers are more helpful than others. Some people in this industry, they just do not like helping people they and that's their own personal thing. And try to take that personally, because, yeah, now that I'm more of a mid-level developer approaching that senior tier, when someone younger than me asks for help or someone who has less experience asks for help, because I still remember what that feel like. I tend to guide them gently and you may not always have that same experience for someone who is a little bit higher than you. They might not actually be that invested into the job or they might be indifferent towards it. So don't try to take that personally, if you experience some rejection there.

Ryohei Watanabe: So apart from doing work before asking a question, like showing them what you've done, is there any other way that junior developers should ask questions to, let's say, mid-level or senior engineers to ask for help in a good way?

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, I say one of the main things that I think junior developers, so asking for help in a good way. Let me frame that question in my head. Let's address certain things up front when it comes to asking for help. The best time to ask for help is when you get the assignment. Ask as many questions as possible. Sometimes as junior engineers, we get an assignment and we say yes, and we know that there's certain parts of that thing that we just don't understand. Do not weigh into like day number two or three when you're working on it to ask those questions that you should have asked up front. Have a understanding of the problem scope that is very important, because another mistake that I see as common with junior developers is that they built something and they actually completed it by themselves, but then they built the wrong thing because they didn't fully understand the question. So I think if I had to frame that question that you asked me, I think the win factor, the time is probably one of the most important things when you decide to ask those questions. If you're given that task and you ask them a million and one questions in the beginning, assuming that you're not being redundant with their time, I think I think most people wouldn't mind.

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah, I think some stuff that I've seen is like the requirements are never like that you know, like clear sometimes like maybe like like there needs to be further questions. So, yeah, I totally agree with everything that you just said. Um, I think like we've been talking a lot of like early career, like advice, right? And just tactics. Um, I think I like to talk about mid career tactics, like stuff that you should do. Like once you have a little bit of experience, um, I think when I was researching you, it said that, um, at your second programming job, you had, you interviewed at 30 companies, like as a way to keep your skills sharp and to understand your worth in the marketplace. Um, like you weren't exactly like, you loved that job, but you were still like continuing to do interviews. Can I ask why that's important to do like in your, in your experience?

Terrance Reynolds: Because you get objective feedback. You have to think that when you work at a company, how many times you get feedback twice a year, three times, maybe. But from my experience, you have, you have, you have, um, two evaluation periods, like one in the first half of the year, one towards the end of the year. And that, because it determined whether or not you get a raise and that's really the only time you get like feedback. And from my experience too, sometimes that feedback isn't very clear. The clarity of that feedback sometimes is it can be very minimum because it's more focused on your performance and whether or not you get a raise. But when you interview at companies and then you follow up with them or they tell you what specifically you got wrong, you start to get a lot more details. Let's say, for example, you go into the interview process and you fill the algorithms, um, portion of the interview. Well you need to work on algorithms, but if you're, if you're doing your day job over a six months period, like what's the likelihood of like your feedback, addressing algorithms, if you only, let's say, for example, had the right of feature that dealt with algorithm once it's not going to be, that's probably not going to get included because they're talking about your overall performance. So when you're doing those interviews, and that's one of the reasons why I did so many of them, because I, I felt, I felt interviews where I didn't get the algorithm question right. So I knew what to practice next. I felt interviews where I, or hiring processes where I had to build a project and then I built the project incorrectly or according to their standards incorrectly. And that helped me in a very specific way, target, Hey, I need to work on this. I need to improve this. And there's been certain times where I did both of those things right. And then I probably made a mistake in communicating and how I sold myself. And then also keep in mind when you're doing these interviews as well, like you could do everything perfectly and then someone can do it just much better than you. And they just shows them. So always keep that in mind. Like this is may not be something that you necessarily did. They just found a better candidate for the price. So it, I love doing those interviews, especially back, I love doing those interviews back then because it, it just gave me so much detailed feedback. Because whatever step that I felt on was a reflection period and that, and that, and that first off, it's tough when you're getting told no, so many times like I did. And let's, let me also give some context. I did get offered some jobs too, during that time period. But when you got told no, it, it builds up grit and it also builds up communication skills. Because when you, because all these companies, they basically ask the same questions, especially during the technical interview or let's say the personality fit interview, the HR interview. And then you just become used to it. And confidence, one of the key metrics of building confidence in the area is exposure. If you expose yourself to something over time, you tend to do better at it because you're familiar with it and you have that awareness. So yeah, like it was, that was probably one of the most important phases of my career was just doing interviews for the sake of doing interviews. Because a little bit of a long-winded answer, but when I got the job, I began interviewing for the companies probably six months in, but mentally I knew that I wouldn't leave that company for at least two years. So by the time I actually began to look for another position, man, it was like all of those nos were like the best thing that happened to me. Cause by 2022, when I was interviewing for other companies, I was actually getting told yes, at a pretty healthy rate. And that was because I was already prepared.

Ryohei Watanabe: I guess apart from doing a lot of interviews, is there a good way to prepare for job interviews, especially like technical ones?

Terrance Reynolds: Knowing the basics, I say knowing the basics of your craft, knowing the fundamentals of your craft, looking at the company's JD job description and seeing what like technology that they use. Hell, if you know the product that you may be working on, open up developer tools and like trying to like, just like, like investigate their tech stack can go a long way. But one thing I do want to stress is that ultimately you never know what they may ask. So knowing, knowing your fundamentals is probably the most important thing. And then the second is knowing what the company does and how they do it as the second most important thing. And then when you get those questions in which you don't know, just be honest hey, be honest. But this is a professional way to tell them that you don't know. Don't just say, hey, man, I don't know. Say like, no, this isn't something that I remember too well or this isn't something that I have much experience in. But I can follow up with you after the interview, after I do my own investigation and then give you the answer at a different time, because that is the nature of the job. You know, I expect to know everything immediately, but you need to demonstrate and communicate to that company. Your process and figuring that thing out if you don't know it, that goes a long way as well.

Ryohei Watanabe: I think just nothing connected back to what we were talking about earlier with content, right? So if you have a lot of content and like a cache with the interviewer, like they've already seen your work, you can actually say, hey this is not something I remember too well, but I know how to figure it out. And they'll believe you instead of like, you know.

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, man, that's that's actually the next stage of my content creation like journey is to start doing maybe some either live coding sessions or pre-recorded coding sessions. When I start building things, most of my content just centers around me talking about my overall experience as a software engineer. But yeah, I remember if we go back to the question earlier in this podcast of like when I mentioned like the next stage of content creation for me, it would be that to talk about, to like actually record videos of me working on this technology and figuring it out in real time. I see other creators that do it on Twitch and YouTube Live or even a pre-recorded YouTube video. And I'm like, this is so valuable. Like if I if I do that and my advice to other developers, if you do that, man, are you really going to stick out? Because if someone can see you figure something out in real time and go through that process of not knowing and figuring it out, they're going to love you.

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah, I think it sounds like recording an interview, right? It's like it's as if you just did an interview, but like you're like demonstrating skills. Yeah. So I guess at your second job, you're doing a lot of interviews and you had your full time role, right? Was there something like, do you have any advice for avoiding burnout when you're doing something like this? Because I assume it's a lot of work.

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, it is. Unfortunately, I'm not the best person to ask when it comes to addressing burnout to be quite honest. It's something that that that I try to I'm trying to figure out myself, so I'm not perfect. But from what I understand is that luckily, if you're doing it, if you're if you're if you're doing what I'm doing, which is like just applying for jobs just for the sake of applying for jobs, you can really go at the pace that you feel comfortable with. It's a different scenario when you need to look for a job and you have to like just, I guess, bite the frog metaphorically speaking and then just like apply to as many jobs as possible. That that probably will burn you out. And many of us went through that process after we finished our self-taught journey or boot camp or university journey when we're desperately looking for a job. But when you're doing a full time role and you're still applying for different companies, just go out a healthy clip, take your time. You don't need to do it at the rate that someone else is doing it because they're actually looking for a job and they want to get hired as soon as possible. If you have like a two year time frame like I did, you can apply to 30 jobs over the course of two years, whereas someone who's fresh at a boot camp will probably apply for 30 jobs over the course of two weeks.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I guess like you talked a little bit about interviewing now, can we talk a little bit about networking? Like how important is has networking been for your career? And can you share some tips on how to network effectively in Japan?

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, this is something I'm working on right now. Well, networking is incredibly important. It's been important for me even before I became a software engineer, when I was a freelancer doing design work, that's how I found my clients. And that's how I built that skill set networking back when I lived in the U.S. And in Japan, because I don't speak Japanese, part of the reason why I started creating content is that it was able to solve the problem that my lack of networking created for me, which is that I am able to reach an audience of people by just casting a wide net from a distance and they effectively come to me. So I kind of if you understand the concepts of marketing, you have push and pull marketing, create content, pull people into you, whereas networking, you're pushing yourself out there. Right now, I'm at the stage where it's like, OK, I have the content, but I still want to be a part of the city. And my first job back in 2018, 2019, I was a part of the React community that was here in Tokyo. There was a meetup group that had a meetup, I believe every two weeks or maybe once a month. It's hard to remember. And there was a lot of people that worked. There was people who worked at Coca-Cola. Chris Ellis was there. I remember talking to a senior engineer at American Express Japan that worked there, maybe even some people that worked at Indeed and some other or some many different startups that exist in the industry. And being able to talk to them, get advice from them, especially developers who have years of experience, was incredibly amazing. So to point out one theme in that small part of the answer is that you services like meetup look for professional groups on LinkedIn and then just put yourself out there. The other part of networking that that I think is important is don't don't just join developer networking sessions. Like I've been spending time going to like product manager networking sessions, UX. Recently, I went to a Women Who Code event. I'm trying to get out of my bubble and then just meet people for the sake of meeting people and just expanding my overall understanding of what the tech community here in Japan is like without necessarily requesting anything from them. You know, so much of networking can feel disingenuous when you're when you're doing it with such a specific intent. Like you're I mean, you're effectively using people. I mean, we're all being used. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But you don't want to misuse people and you don't want your intentions to be just so obvious that you're just looking to gain without giving back. Another part that I think is important when networking, speaking of like use and misusing people, is that whenever I meet someone who I believe can be an incredible value for me in terms of just like what they can do for me and whether it's career mentoring or whatever, I try to do something for them before I request to eat off their metaphorical table. I try to bring something to the table and building a relationship from that angle where you're doing something for them, whether it's small or whatever, just doing them a favor that can really solidify a sincere relationship with anybody.

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah, I totally agree. I think like I don't know what the difference is between networking and making friends.

Terrance Reynolds: Honestly, it could be the same. It can truly be the same. So, yeah, I go into it often, which is with an open intent these days because I have a good job already. Like everything is everything is checked off my boxes. But even if you didn't just just go into it with an open intent and then just just be a good person. Don't don't be that guy that's just looking that's clearly looking to gain and just use other people because people spot that out pretty quickly. And yeah, yeah, they don't rock with that.

Ryohei Watanabe: And so I guess further or just a little bit before you said you meet experience or you met experienced people like this react meet up. Have you ever had like a mentor or like receive mentorship from other people? How has it played a role in your life or in your career?

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, I received. Well, I've received mentor mentorships and people throughout my entire life since I was just a kid in school early in my career. I had a mentor who we start our own business together. We had our own business in Cleveland where we were like we were a web design agency. And he had 10 years, I believe, 10 or plus more years of experience with me. And we founded a company together and I learned so much working under him. When I moved to Japan and then I transitioned to software engineering, people played the role of mentors for me at my job. The person who was like direct because I'm a junior engineer means I work I work under a senior like just seeing their process and how they work was also very insightful. Because again, watching how they solve problems helped me to develop that mindset of like I should approach problem solving the exact same way. One of the guys who I work with in my first job had like 20 plus years of experience. My second job, he had like seven, eight years of experience. We did a lot of pair programming sessions together and that was very helpful. I learned a lot working under him. And even now I have people at my current position that that helped guide me and teach me how to be a better developer. And I'm incredibly grateful for that. But also keep in mind that mentors, if you can't find one in real life, the Internet is a beautiful place. Find a YouTube developer channel that you like and then just watch their videos, especially live coding sessions. People can also act as distance mentors for you if you can't have one. And even if you do have one in real life, that's just an added bonus, you know?

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah, that's a wonderful answer. I want to switch gears a little bit like how should one developer like quit their job, right? Because like, of course, you're not going to be somewhere forever, right? That is not the expectation from the company side either. But like, when do you know that it's time to quit a job and then move on to your next role?

Terrance Reynolds: We are no longer being challenged is one of the most important times when you feel like, hey, like it's not the same home. If I had to be very detailed, my answer is not to say that you you won't learn anything new at your company. It's just at the rate that you're learning something new has significantly slowed down or you're just not your heart. Isn't it anymore? That's that's a that's a great time. And knowing when your heart isn't in it or you feel like you're being called to do something else. Look, it is important. I think it's important for junior developers, especially to like work at many different companies. Like, in my opinion, what's a healthy time for any quit your job every in the beginning, every 18 months to a year. I know a lot of people don't think that you should do that in Japan. But I say in the beginning, if you have valid reasons for quitting, especially on your your resume effectively tells your story. So how you quit and where you choose to move on to matters, because when you eventually interview at a company, you're going to ask, why did you go from this to that? And you have a logical reason why at that that that that time frame of quitting, like in around two years is perfectly fine. Because different companies use different technology stacks. You learn how to work with different people. You you just you become a your skills start to become more rounded because sometimes you get really good at solving a particular company's problem. But that doesn't necessarily strengthen you as a developer. It's kind of like working out at the gym to carry that, to carry that habit. And sometimes when you do the same workouts over and over again, you start to see little progress. So in a lot of personal trainers, they recommend that if you're doing, let's say a chest workout, that's no longer give you the results that you want. Do a different chest workout for a little while and then return to your your main one. And that's when you start seeing that breakthrough results. So I think quitting your job at a healthy cadence in the beginning is very important. And also, I think you briefly asked how you quit it. Do it respectfully. Don't just leave. I know people who burn bridges. And if you have another time to quit your job, too, is if you feel like you're not a good cultural fit and you feel like you're not really getting along with your coworkers, no company, especially when you have options, is worth your mental health. So find something that's much more of a suit for you. And they can they can you can be at peace knowing that they can find someone else that it's maybe a better suit for them. So I say quit respectfully, never burn bridges. First impressions matter. But the second best impression that you leave is how you exit. People remember how you leave a situation more just as just as much as they remember your time spent there. Like that last 30 days, those last two weeks, depending on how you decide to leave matters. Don't just stop doing your work. Don't just don't be that guy who don't want to train a replacement. Leave with grace when I tell you that you can spend two years building up all of this equity of trust and respect with your coworkers and the company as a whole. And you can literally get rid of it just by being like an a-hole. The last two weeks, people are going to remember that just as much, if not more than that, whatever time you spent at that company like you can like, what would they say? Trust takes a while to build, but you can easily burn it down. Don't do that.

Ryohei Watanabe: I think I totally agree with everything that you say. Also, don't do it. You shouldn't do it because it's wrong, of course. But also, even just for your self-interest, those people will find other jobs and give you referrals. If you want to be known as that guy, you can, but that's your choice. I'm so glad you say it because at the end of the day, if you're working in a particular city, it's a small world. You can even see it when you go on LinkedIn, man. People quit companies and then they work for different companies. And if that person you left in a very bad way, whether or not they're in charge of the hiring process or they have a large influence on who get hired there, they're going to communicate to whoever makes that final decision or that committee because oftentimes there's a committee of people that vote whether or not they want you to be a part of the company. They're going to mention, hey, I worked with this guy before or this woman before. And this is what they did when they left. And that is not going to look good on you. I think, what do you think about, so in the US, it's a big economy, lots of jobs. It might be different in Japan. Do you have an idea of the difference between the US and Japan and how people should navigate their careers in tech in this small community that we're a part of? Apart from making sure that the cache is established and really protected, is there anything else that you recommend for people coming from the US, let's say, to Japan?

Terrance Reynolds: Man, that's a good question. I can only speak from the US. I can't give much to this question to be quite honest, because I never worked as a developer in the US, but I am an American citizen. I do talk to a lot of American developers. I'm still part of that community from a distance, especially virtually. And the differences between navigating the community in Japan, navigating the community in the US, one thing I will say, I will say that in Japan, I think I briefly mentioned it earlier, how there's such a Japanese way of doing things that allow developers when they move to Japan, they develop that Japanese way of applying for jobs and interacting with the community as a whole. And people have these mindsets of like, hey, in Japan, you have to work for a company for five years or 10 years, because historically speaking, they had the system where it was lifetime employment and you should become a part of that system as well and kind of like drop your US values. I would say, and this might be my hot take, I would say that a lot of our ways of doing things in America is just much more effective. And when you take that American mindset and you bring it over to a place here in Japan, I think you can go further than most people expect. And I mean, perfect example, when I was when I was going through my early stages of my career, I left my company every two years. That is something that is super common in the US. But if you open up Reddit, if you open up so many people who are very conservative and how they interact with the Japanese market, they do not believe that is a good idea to do. But I have the results to show that it was a pretty effective solution personally.

Ryohei Watanabe: Sure. Are there other like American mindsets that people should adopt for their tech career here other than moving every two years, which I know is pretty common in the US, but not in Japan? Is there other other things that they should be doing?

Terrance Reynolds: Top of my head when it comes to salaries in Japan, they also tell you that you have to disclose your salary to a company where you're interviewing. You don't have to do that. That is I don't know where that myth came from. No one can force you to tell them your salary. And that's not to say you lie. Do not lie. I remember so many people when it comes to salary negotiations here in Japan, they believe that it is required by law to disclose your salary to a company. Let's address that. For one, the company eventually will know your last salary. That is a fact because here in Japan, they do your taxes for you. So you have to give them your pay stuff. But when you choose to give them, give it to them is your choice. You do not have to disclose that information. I've done this many times in interviews, no matter how they frame it, because they will try to like get you to reveal your hand. I always tell them I'll be more than happy to give you that information after the hiring process is completed, after the deal is done, after I sign the paper. But I do not need to disclose that information to you right now. And I haven't had anyone challenge me on that. I just I just I just state my boundary. So that's another thing.

Ryohei Watanabe: So like as you've gone through your career, you've increased your salary fivefold in five years. Do you like have any like other kinds of like negotiation tactics that you can share with us other than, of course, I don't disclose your salary. But is there like a way to like talk to people about salary that is like professional? Or do you have any advice in this area?

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah. So first and foremost, I am not a world class negotiator. That's something I need to work on myself. I am not like the salary guru here. But let me just talk about my own personal experience. Information is key. Part of the reason why I even talk about salaries and I made a video about salaries on my YouTube channel. If you guys want to watch that later on is that knowing what the market rate is for software engineer, specifically for your skills, the more comfortable and the more understanding you have in that, the stronger you feel on standing and requesting with what you want. Now, one of the key concepts is one of the key concepts I want to convey is that if you make it to the final interview, chances are you are the best candidate. So do not be afraid to ask for a pretty high number. Now, pragmatically speaking, you might not get the max if you don't have like a certain level of experience like and you should understand that. So you want to also do it from a very humble perspective. Like if the range because some companies do this, which I don't like, they hire an engineer or they're looking for an engineer and they put like a range like five million to 12 million. And I guess I guess what they're trying to communicate that they're looking for anywhere from a junior to a senior to apply. So if somehow you are a mid-level developer and you manage to make it to the final interview, I wouldn't ask for a senior engineer's salary because you're probably going to get told no. But I would probably comfortably ask for the highest that a middle level developer should get paid and and often understand that in these negotiations is never personal. These people are they're trying to get the best value from you. And you want to get your you want to get your you want to get the best package from them. So you can decline offers. You can you can continue the conversation. If someone says, hey, this is how much you will be paid. You can just start asking questions in regards to that. I wish I could be more specific in that answer. But just know that a salary negotiation is a conversation. It is even if the company tried to posture that this this is what you're going to make. You can explore that option with them and continue it because keep in mind this. If you made it to the final interview, if you are the best person that they like, they want to hire you. They already spent the money and the best of the time interviewing all these other candidates. Know that if you decide to challenge that offer, they're not going to be like, well, we're just going to rescind your offer because they have to go through that entire process again. And oftentimes when you get to the hiring, the final process during the hiring stage, they end up pulling the job post off the job board and they have to do all of that work again. So long story short, know your value and you know your value by just looking at the market in general of how many years of experience that developer has and how much money they make in correlation to that. And then understand that a salary negotiation is a conversation that you can continually have. And if you don't feel comfortable having that conversation in person, you can always just simply tell them, hey, this is something that I much prefer to do over email. Could we possibly continue this stage of the conversation via email? And this gives you time to think about your answer, get advice from your mentors and do more research. You don't always have to give that answer immediately because so many of us, we get asked that question during the interview and we just cave in and we just go for that low comfortable number, you don't have to answer that question like right then and there. Just say you don't feel comfortable.

Ryohei Watanabe: So I think you have the unique experience, I think in Japan of working at both like a very large tech company and startups as well. Do you have like advice for developers who like think about the cache of a brand name company versus like the learning that happens at a startup? Like, is that even true in terms of like more learning happens at a startup or how do you think about like how they should decide what kinds of companies they go to?

Terrance Reynolds: I think earlier on, so startups. So the thing about startups is that some startups are just really bad. So I just want to address the startup thing that you have great startups with healthy engineering culture, healthy team practices. Those are companies that you really want to work for because that's best for your career. Do you have startups where the founder and the executive team have no idea what they're doing? They're just looking for a developer and I get it when you're first getting started, you just have to find the best job for you. But I just want to say that the quality of startups is a wider spectrum than the quality of like large scale companies. They tend to large scale companies tend to follow fall into like just a handful of baskets, traditional Japanese companies, which I never worked at, or like more like hybrid you know, American minded or modern companies or just straight up American companies. One thing that I will say that when you're choosing to work for which, well, larger companies give you stability. It's a personal choice. So larger companies give you stability. Oftentimes they tend to give you a higher salary. They give you more vacation time to give you more perks. And if you if your life is calling you to do that, then maybe go for a larger company. Because so many of us developers, we have different things that we do on the side. Some of us are trying to build their own business. Some of us have hobbies like making music or you love traveling and stuff. So when you're choosing to work for a larger company versus startup, just know that startup, you're not going to have a lot of time to do a lot of personal work. You are a lot of weight is on your shoulders even as a junior. So you may have to spend time studying, working late just to get the job done because that is what expected. That is what is expected of you as a startup. So as other side things, if you value that, know that you may not be able to invest as much time into doing those things anymore. But the benefits of a startup is that you get to wear many different hats. I love my experience working at a startup because to me that to me, I was I learned so much in that two years. And to be quite honest, I learned a lot more in one year working at a startup than I did working at any big or medium sized company that I work for so far because I was just required to do so many different things. And when you are in the trenches with your teammates, you actually kind of feel like a team trying to tackle a problem. Like whereas in a company that's much larger, things are a lot more siloed. The personal investment and the work isn't quite there with some team members. And I think you see that reflected in the culture. And also you tend to work on smaller scopes of things when you're at a larger company because they have the benefit of optimizing. So you hire specific developers to focus on particular areas of the product. You might not learn as much as someone who works at a startup the first couple of years. So keep that in mind. A big company looks good on the resume. Yes. And you do want that validation. Just getting the stamp at Google, Microsoft, Apple, or any fame company. And then Japan also indeed that carries weight. But working at a startup will also give you a lot of experience. Long story short, if I was someone right now, I recommend you work at a startup, you get that experience, and then you get the validation. Move on from the startup and get that validation from a big company. Have both. It makes you more dynamic as a person.

Ryohei Watanabe: Nice. So before we wrap up, I want to talk a little bit about, I don't know, like kind of your goals and like what you're trying to do here. You've had quite a lot of success. How are you hoping to use your success to impact others, especially people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah. So I try to be, I'm making content and I want to give back. That's one of my main focus right now. So I make these short form videos in case I make long form videos where I try to be open and transparent about my experience here in Japan as a software engineer. And one of the things that it's important to me whenever I create content is that I don't want to waste anybody's time. Every time I make a video, I think that is this information valuable. I have so many videos that scrape because it ultimately did not deliver what I wanted it to deliver. And I try to make clear and many of my more transparent videos and my journey as a software engineer in Japan or how I became a software engineer in Japan. If you look at my YouTube channel that I cannot guarantee you my results. I can't five, five X income in Japan is that is pretty unheard of. And to be quite frank, there's only so many seats that are available for you to even do that. This is not like America where the average salary is 150,000, 175,000 in certain areas. And there's tons of different big corporations or like A-class startups that are just looking to give you stock options, bonuses in the high salary compensation compensation that doesn't exist in Japan. You have what I had to guess. I mean, I mean, how many people that work at how many people work at indeed like the software engineers, like a couple of dozen, like maybe. Now, imagine Google Japan probably has the same thing like Google Microsoft Apple probably have the same the same amount of seats available. There's probably only a couple of hundreds of those seats available for the thousands of people that may watch this or want to walk down this path. So I can't guarantee you that. But one thing I can one thing I can do and one thing I strive to do is I try to help people focus on the process because I believe the process will ultimately yield you the best results long term. And you will eventually get to those roles, whether it takes you three years, five years, ten years, I always want to have people focus on the discipline of being a software engineer yourself and developing the habits that make for make for a good long term, a healthy career. That's the one thing that I try to help people do. And that is one of my main goals over the next couple of years is that I just want to just break the information barrier. When I first got started here in Japan, especially as a software engineer, not many people wanted to help me. People aren't transparent about salaries. People aren't transparent about their processes or they come across as being a superhero or using the writing term, a Gary Stu, where it's like their process was infallible, like they never made a mistake. I want to talk about the mistakes I made. I want to bring a more human side of it and give people a genuine understanding of what it feels like going through this world on a day to day basis.

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah, I totally respect that. I will be rooting for you, Terrance. Thank you for your time today, Terrance Reynolds.

Terrance Reynolds: Yeah, thank you for having me. And I hope we can do this again.

Ryohei Watanabe: Me too, yeah.

  • Terrance Reynolds

    UX Developer @ Indeed

    UX Developer and Content Creator.


In this show, Ryohei Watanabe talks with founders and engineers in Japan's startup ecosystem. We talk about their journey, their products, and their learnings.

Ryohei Watanabe