Moving from Europe to Japan as a Developer

Moving from Europe to Japan as a Developer
April 3rd, 2023

Eight Values interviews Julien Crevits, Software Engineer at RESTAR. We cover moving to Japan from Europe, becoming a developer, and working at a startup in Japan.


  • (00:00) - Intro
  • (02:03) - Getting a job at RESTAR
  • (04:26) - How to stand out in the interview
  • (07:01) - Culture at RESTAR
  • (11:35) - France vs Japan
  • (13:35) - Transition to Tech Industry
  • (15:42) - Advice to become a better developer
  • (18:02) - What makes a good engineering culture?
  • (21:45) - Working with Elixir Programming
  • (25:08) - Career Advice for software engineers


Ryohei Watanabe: So, what'd you get up to today?

Julien Crevits: I'm in the coworking space of RESTAR, that RESTAR uses for the third time, actually since I started. yeah. I, I want to come every week to this coworking space, which was pretty nice. I know I haven't, in my previous job, I, we didn't have an office office, so I got to see people every three months maybe. Most people were in Japan, but yeah, I kind of missed being in an office and before that in my previous job, yeah, there was a pandemic. And like I used to see people like every day, like 40 people, fun people. so I kind of missed that. So that's one of the reasons I joined RESTAR with like the bit more team spirit and seeing people again.

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah, it's nice that like, it's like partial remote and not full remote.

Julien Crevits: Yeah, that is a good one. For me, especially because I have a kid now. So yeah, he's one year old. He's pretty cute. But also it's a lot of work. It's very tiring. But he goes to daycare and I have to, we drop him off, I drop him off occasionally at like nine AM and we have to pick him up at five PM. So he doesn't spend like 10 hours at daycare. So working from home is like very, very convenient. That was a big reason as well of why I joined RESTAR is like they have a remote work policy.

Ryohei Watanabe: Is it like, advantageous or a good environment for parents to join RESTAR in terms of the work environment?

Julien Crevits: I mean so far so good. I want to say there are like other parents in the company as well and just people are like the company in general is aware that people have you know some people have kids and you know that may mean that you have to be a bit flexible with you know occasionally you know your kid is sick or you have to pick them up from somewhere like bring them to the doctor. so yeah, like. I feel like I discussed this a bit before joining RESTAR, and that was absolutely not a problem.

Ryohei Watanabe: what was the the process for you to join RESTAR?

Julien Crevits: so, I was referred to RESTAR by a friend who works, at, I mean, here at RESTAR. and there was a, if I remember correctly, there was first a technical test. but was not too bad. It was mostly theoretical. I didn't actually have to, some tests are like, like take home assignments, like you have to actually close a little project. I've had to do that for of a job interviews. It's a bit hit and miss because you can spend, there's no time limit on it. So if you're like a bit stressed or perfectionist, you can spend hours. On it and, ultimately for nothing potentially. but with this, the RESTAR technical test, it was, yeah, it was mostly a Word document with some questions and some little long, like coding challenges but nothing too bad. and then after that, actually I passed and I was interviewed by the developer. I mean, part of the development team, three people, I think two or three people, where they drilled me a bit on my tests. and then after that, there was the culture fit.

Julien Crevits: Yeah. around, which was just talking with some sales employees and maybe hr.

Ryohei Watanabe: Why do you think you did well?

Julien Crevits: oh. My favorite part is the culture fit the culture. It's, for me, it's very relaxing. So engineers hate it because you have to be, you have to be talking maybe small talk even. Yeah. Or like you are answering like very vague businessy questions, but I don't mind those. Or like, what's your career plan? where do you see yourself in at sea or like how do you solve problems or communication? Like, I don't mind those. so, because my, I've only been a developer for five years, but be before that I did like a variety of jobs in like social media and translation. and I used to work in like operations teams as well. So I was. I haven't always been a developer, so I, like, I was, I think of myself as a more social, engineer man. yeah. A lot of a profession maybe. Are you telling me that some engineers are shy? Yeah. Yeah. Obviously it's like, I think it comes with a job a bit, but yeah. Yeah. Oh, why

Ryohei Watanabe: why do you think the researchers chose you? As in, how did you shine in the interview? Like, what do you think you did well, during the interview,

Julien Crevits: like, Okay, so funnily enough, actually I applied at Restar two and a half years ago for the first time. So it was 2021. because I wanted to work with the Elixir language and I was looking for a new small company to work for, but, sorry, I was in yeah 2020 tea actually. Sorry. My bad. Yeah. so in the middle of a pandemic, And actually they almost made me enough, but I declined because, well, my wife was out of a job at the time, and there was a lot of uncertainty with, the pandemic. And I was working for a fairly big company. It's fairly stable. So that was more of a safe choice. but no, I, yeah, I applied again two months ago when I was here. so I think it chose me because I am a, I'm fairly easy to work with. I never get into arguments or anything. I'm, I'm happy to discuss. I never get angry at anyone. Yeah. I think that's always a big, like, in, in software development, there's always, or like, occasionally problems with egos. and I've, I've encountered this essentially for the first time last year. Someone with a very, like another developer with a very big ego who was an absolute. nightmare to work with. and I don't have any of that. So that's like, that's it. that's a, it's usually what, people who hire developers wanna see as well. It's like, apart from the technical skills, like, are you, can we work with this guy? And I think that's actually the, for me again, that's the easiest part of the interviews.

Ryohei Watanabe: Is there a specific way you get to, like, show your ability? Like, let's say you're a people person and you're good at teamwork. how did you get that across, during the interview?

Julien Crevits: I think it was, I don't remember, but some of the questions were about that, like, imagine there's a crisis, some emergency in the company and you have to deal with it. How do you gather information from the different parties? How do you, or like, you cannot, you're having a problem with working with someone. How do you deal with this? I don't remember what I said, but it must have been, it must impress. Yeah. Was like, yeah. You know?

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah. so I think you've been at RESTAR for about two and a half weeks now. Yes. Yeah. can you speak a little bit? About the culture here or your first impressions of the culture here? what is it like to work here?

Julien Crevits: I think the, the skill level in the engineering department is quite high actually. thanks to like senior developers and, just to wheel to make a good product. and write quality code and quality features, that's a step up for me. That's why I supposed to join RESTAR. I knew from, the friend who referred me that the level was quite high. And I feel like at my previous job I was plateauing a bit, I had reached a bit of a ceiling. But in this case, like I'm already like challenged and yeah. It's quite, it's much harder in a way. also the problem with domain we call that of a business is, completely new to me. I don't know anything about real estate. so that was also an interesting part for me, just like learning about that. Yeah. And working in Japanese because the last years I've mostly worked in English, all the time. And I've, yeah, because of the pandemic, I was feeling my Japanese like fading away as well. yeah.

Ryohei Watanabe: have you found it, difficult to work in Japanese? I, I don't know what your Japanese level

Julien Crevits: is though, so technically I passed into Okay, that's pretty good. But I mean four, maybe five years ago. Okay. and I would say I'm a very academic I speaker in a way I can read. Well, but I'm not very good at speaking and my wife is not Japanese. She's American. So I don't get as much practice as I would get. I see. Usually, so, yeah. And again, and I was working in English all the time in my previous company, so it was hard to, and I have to push myself a lot. I'm a perfectionist. I wanna wanna speak Japanese. I want to try to speak. Perfect Japanese. Which is a huge blocker for me. So, I wanna get a bit out of my comfort zone at Race Star as well. yeah. Like get more, use more Japanese, especially, in, in development because I didn't know any vocabulary, but I do, I know some more.

Ryohei Watanabe: can I talk a little bit, to you about before joining Restar and even before coming to Japan. what were you doing before coming to Japan?

Julien Crevits: some, I'm French and I grew up in France, but I've actually lived in a few countries, the uk, Germany, Ireland, the US a tiny bit as well, and I was, yeah, as a, I've been doing. I mean, I did some different jobs, again, social media, in the video games industry. translation or project management, in the translation company if I was in Japan. But before coming to Japan, I was, yeah, I was just, Enjoying life, I suppose. and I wanted to come to Japan for the language, the culture, and see if I could, if I would like to live here. that was nine years ago, so I think that's a yes.

Ryohei Watanabe: yeah. Had you been to Japan before?

Julien Crevits: Yeah, I did the, I'm Europe. I mean, in Europe it's easy to take time off. So I did a three week trip to Japan. A year or two before coming, and just to get a sense of the country. Like I had this image of, ooh, Japan sounds very nice. And, but first time to just confirm what it would be like to be there. Yeah. I did a whole tourist experience. Yeah.

Ryohei Watanabe: And so you, you went to Japan once for I think three weeks you said? And then, after going back home, you decided to come to Japan. You've been in Japan for nine years now? Yes. Wow. Do you remember what exactly was the initial draw about Japan for you?

Julien Crevits: I mean, it's very, mainstream or like, anime man, even just Japanese language. I, I started studying before coming to Japan. I had the info before coming actually. so yeah, it was about the whole thing. now it has changed that I, like, I barely watch any anime. I don't read any manga, but has kind of faded and it's just more of, I live here, this is my, my life. and my Japanese is more about, dayto day things, restaurant, hotels. yeah.

Ryohei Watanabe: How would you describe. Like living in Tokyo and living back home. Like what is the, the difference?

Julien Crevits: so home for me is interesting. I mean, it's been almost like, I think it's like 18 years since I left France. So home, I guess I can compare with Europe. there is one thing that I miss is just the, I mean the part see on nature is, Is missing in Tokyo? the nature. Yeah. Yes. Like I lived in Berlin for three years and every street was lined with trees. Yeah. Like big trees. And there's none of that in Tokyo or it's like very uncommon. I do miss that. yeah. But commuting, my previous jobs, the Commut was an interesting experience as well. squeezed on the train, is what I'm saying. In Berlin or in uk I used to bike to work. I tried that here, but biking is pretty dangerous. like, you're sharing the road with cars very often and Yeah. so I gave up on that too. So it's like, but on the other hand, Tokyo, I mean, Japan is always just. Safe and clean. Everything is on time. It's very comfortable. if I were to go back to Europe or go to the US I would lose a lot of that comfort. it's like, it's a different kind. I mean, it's not unsafe per se, but you have to be, in Paris you can't just have your wallet or your phone In your, like, pocket outside your coat. You can't, like, as long it gets stolen within couple of hours. whereas in Japan, everyone's like, Everyone has their handbag opens. Like all their belongings, like I've lost things on left, things on the train many times and I've always gotten them back. My wallet. Yeah, yeah. So it's like, it's just nice and it's, you don't have to worry about that, which I find really nice, especially with a kid as well. Yeah. Sorry.

Ryohei Watanabe: Like when you first came to, Japan to find, I think, or after you lived in Japan for a couple years, I think you, somehow transitioned from, translating and I think game, the game industry to software engineering. can you tell me how you did that?

Julien Crevits: so I actually have a bachelors in computer science, but I didn't get to use it much of a, my career or like I was doing, I was writing macros in Excel. Yeah. With a terrible code. eventually I transitioned to writing Python strips. It was awful. But it was helping the team. and then after that, like the, I got, I got really interested in, SQL and just querying data in my first job in Japan. And then eventually the engineering team took notice of that because I started helping them with debugging issues or, pointing out, problems with data. and I was lucky enough that they took me, the engineering team took me, there was an opening and they took me as a junior engineer, and trained me there. that was rough, because it was a, an old platform with a lot of different technologies. It was a lot to understand for me. yeah. and I was, my knowledge of computer science was like 10 years old or already by the time, but, I survived. And then I, it was a sort conscious move for me because I. Not being fluent in Japanese or like fluent enough in Japanese, closes a lot of doors in Japan when it comes to jobs. And I didn't have like, solid skills, I wanna say. Like I was doing project management, but not, in development. It was project management in translation projects, which is very narrow. And I don't speak Japanese, so, translation project manager in Japan without speaking Japanese well enough. Is, yeah, career wise, it was not the, the best move. So that's why I decided as when to Yeah. Embrace the development life.

Ryohei Watanabe: I guess at first you said, your knowledge was on technology that was pretty old. Now, how did you, I guess update your knowledge and like, how did you get good,

Julien Crevits: crying? No, no crying. well, luckily, to me it's, it was all thanks to some, mentors in the company. and just hanging on as long as you can until you, you're like, you're like basically drowning enough information and you don't think you can, Go back to the surface or like stay afloat. But if you hang on and you put in the effort Yeah. And you ask questions, ask asking questions, and, and being in an environment where it's safe to ask questions or. comfortable asking questions is like key, I think, and people helping you, answering your questions. But I think not being, scared of asking questions is like a huge skill to have as an engineer. Like, it doesn't matter if you make a fool of yourself, right? Like, I've made a fool of myself many times. I, you learn and That's just how it is. so yeah, and eventually, reading books, technical books, and reading a lot of articles. Yeah. That helped a lot. Yeah.

Ryohei Watanabe: were you always comfortable asking questions?

Julien Crevits: I think so, because I do not judge people for asking questions myself, like. Sometimes you don't know. You don't know. It's better to ask the questions when stay silent and not, maybe be stuck for weeks. Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah.

Ryohei Watanabe: Yeah. I mean, have you found that there are some teams that are, I think, conducive or create an environment where that is the case where I think it's welcomed to ask questions and get like, and like, not be stuck for too long. have you seen the, the opposite as well?

Julien Crevits: luckily not too much. yeah, so far no. Yeah, no, no. I think I was lucky to be part of good engineering teams where we have a good culture as well. I haven't experienced with taught sake. ones that I've heard about, from yeah,

Ryohei Watanabe: Like for you personally, like what makes a good engineering culture? You said you've been a part of good engineering cultures up until now.

Julien Crevits: yeah. trying not to, don't judge people. in general, I think everyone's trying to do their best unless they're not, but you can probably, see that or guess. But, strive to improve things at the time. always be, teaching others as well if you can, someone doesn't understand something, it's nice to either sit down with 'em and explain what's going on, or, share information, like where can they read more about this? yeah. Or even, just working with someone either coding at the same time on the same problem. That one is, is critical. And I think in general as a developer, it's. Very important to understand the, the business itself, not just like code features, like fixed birth, but also understand what the, what the domain is about. Like what is the company about? What are we trying to do? This helps you become a better engineer by, Yourself coming up with suggestions maybe, or like, oh, we, we could do this better. Or What if we did this? This would only take a couple of days, but it achieves 90% of what you want. This kind of stuff. You can achieve that by understanding what is going on in general. Not just coding.

Ryohei Watanabe: I think there may be some teams, that, I think emphasize, having the domain knowledge, like you said, and some teams that don't really emphasize this, like do, how do you, like gain this business domain knowledge, like when you join a new company? Like do you have, some stuff that you like to do when you join?

Julien Crevits: I mean, I'm gonna go back to don't be afraid to ask questions. yeah. Okay. Yeah. there's, and especially getting, if you can get sessions with people who understand and know the product or like, know what we are doing. If you can get time with them and ask them any questions, doesn't matter if it's like a maybe a stupid question or like, Very basic question. It doesn't matter. Even just getting a tiny bit of information will help you in, in the grand scheme of things, understand more about the product. So, and once you've reached a certain level of understanding, I think, or like once you understand the platform a bit more, maybe do some research yourself. Like start reading by yourself, so that you can maybe contribute. eventually contribute to like, discussions. Also maybe gain information that people don't have. but I think at first, yeah, just ask questions.

Ryohei Watanabe: and I think earlier, in your answer you said, like if you're able to get the time, with the people that have the domain knowledge at RESTAR, has it been, easy or hard or have you faced any problems with being able to get the time?

Julien Crevits: people, I think it's more than everyone's very busy and we hiring a lot. So I've had some time, especially with our CEO where he dedicated an hour to me and another employee where I was like, free to ask any questions about the product, like understand who the users are, why we have those features, who needs those features. that was very key and that was just an hour. With him. but then we have engineers now, especially when we, we are working in the same place, like In the coworking space. Especially just asking like, what is this feature? What does it do? Why do we have this? Like even those basic questions like help you. A lot. Especially because the product, he is very, very advanced. Like he has a. So much, so many more features than I thought it had. and then finding out new ones every day and it's not being three weeks. but yeah, a lot of data, it's a lot to understand, but it's also very, very interesting.

Ryohei Watanabe: I totally agree with everything that you said. I kinda wanted to ask you a little bit about Alexa. So you said that like you have been interested in Elixir for. Quite a long time. Do you remember what, made you first get into, elixir? Yeah,

Julien Crevits: so it's actually the, the friend who referred me, we were working at the same company. Three, almost three, yeah. Three years ago. and he. He wanted to learn a new language and he, he loves programming like he programs on the weekend. I used to a bit just for studying. I don't so much anymore, but, and he just wanted to learn a new language, something different and maybe a bit fun. And then he started that. I didn't have that much experience. I had like two years of experience at the time. I was like, okay, I mean, that sounds interesting. I wanna learn too. So, we bought one or two books about the language and he was really excited about it and I think that made me more curious about the language and yeah. And I learned a lot of new concepts, but I didn't know up until then. And yeah, that's how I kind of, that was my gateway. Into the world of Elixir, and it's, it's been, yeah, almost three years now. And it's, I'm still like very, very much willing to work with it. And I'm actually, that's why I joined RESTAR is when I want to work in Elixir because been weirdly a joy to work with and I'm not even the hardcore developer kind of guy. But yeah, it's like, I would recommend it.

Ryohei Watanabe: What were you working with before, elixir? Oh yeah.

Julien Crevits: So the, my first job, at the time was. there were a lot of different technologies, but we had the Python drill and, there was php, some old version of php. All was free. plus architecture wise, it was, had evolved into something very, very hard to understand. And maintain. so yeah, I had like free kind of classic languages, Python being my favorite at the time. and yeah. And. And in the front end there is things as well. I'm not sure. I was mostly in the back end, but there is technologies as well. I see.

Ryohei Watanabe: And how did you get good at Elixir?

Julien Crevits: This feels like a Dark Souls question. A lot of studying, reading. there are not that many books about it. But the ones that are out there are very, very good. just programming by myself. instead of doing things in Python, just start doing them in Elixir. even things that didn't feel natural at all. Just like challenging myself and doing things in Elixir. That helped a lot. And then staying and starting following like people on Twitter, or being more active on Reddit, for example, with a tiny subreddit that is almost, yeah. Yeah. Kind of active, but not so much. but just like being more connected, plugged into the Elixir community. That helped a lot. just like reading about, subscribing to newsletters, various tips and traces, in your inbox every week. Just like, yeah. Surround yourself with er knowledge.

Ryohei Watanabe: and lastly, before we go, can you tell me about. The most important piece of, career advice, you've experienced or received?

Julien Crevits: I think it was from, yeah, from one of the senior developers at my first job is that just starting to, instead of getting knowledge from work and people around me just actively look for knowledge, books, articles, following people on Twitter, other developers, better developers watch, Videos, like from conferences, like all that is a habit that I did not have. And as soon as I started doing it, it was very hard at first. just convincing myself to study, basically go back to school. as soon as I started spending time doing this, it. I became a better developer, I think. Like I, yeah, so just basically learning to study again was the biggest advice. and try to stay on top of, dev development technologies, because it tends to change fairly quickly in the el el world. Sorry, in the EL world, not so much. And that's a, that's a blessing. but yeah, just staying on top of fumes. never rest too much if you can. Thank

Ryohei Watanabe: you, Julien. this was Julien Crevits. Thank you. And he's an software engineer at RESTAR. thank you for joining, this interview, and thank your time. Congratulations on the baby. Thank you.


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