From where Mercari is completely unknown, to Japan: What do global new graduates aim for?

During this series of featured articles, our recruiters at Mercari will take us through some of our new graduate members’ experiences since they first joined the company. What do these new graduates, who chose Mercari as their new career, think right now, and what kind of career are they building for themselves?

In our first number we meet Huang Ji-Cheng (@Tony) and Su Wei-Long (@Sting), two engineers who came from Taiwan. What made them decide to join Mercari, even though the app wasn’t released in their country? And how did they pick up all the info and learn all the skills they needed, when at the time, Mercari didn’t have a structure that supported new graduates like it does now? Asking the questions is Liz, the HRBP (HR Business Partner) that was in charge of their recruitment during that time.

”Mercari? What’s that?”

So, both of you come from a country where Mercari hasn’t released its services yet. @Tony was a new graduate, and @Sting, even though you went back home and worked at a startup after your graduation, you joined Mercari after you came to our global new graduate selection event. What made you both decide to join Mercari?

@Tony: I was interested in working in Japan from the beginning. I love Japanese festivals and always thought “what a great culture”, but I didn’t know anything about Mercari back then. I first heard about it at a job fair they were having at my university, but to be honest, I didn’t think about applying then, either.

@Tony (backend engineer)

– So how did you come to choose Mercari?

@Tony: I had two conditions for working in Japan: the first one was that the company had to have a startup culture, and the second one was that it had to be a development environment focused on engineering. I already had my eye on a couple of Japanese companies, but I decided to see if there were other companies like that. After hearing about Mercari at the global selection event, I decided to look into it and I was fascinated. When I was an intern, I did some development for e-commerce and I had been wanting to work on a marketplace platform like Mercari. Then, I went through the selection process and joined in 2017.

– @Sting, you have some experience working at a startup in Taiwan, right after you graduated from university, right? What made you go to the global new graduate selection event, and join Mercari?

@Sting: I just wanted to work in a stimulating environment. But then, I started feeling that I wouldn’t be able to build an exceptional career in my country… So, I felt truly sorry, but I quit my company right away. After that, I considered working abroad so I started searching, but wasn’t really thinking of working in Japan yet. Rumor says that commuting on Japan’s crowded trains can be really tough (laughs).

@Sting(iOS Engineer)

All: (laughs)

@Sting: At the beginning I thought I’d look to work in the US or Europe. However, they tend to look for people who can start working immediately, so they didn’t seem very open to the idea of having a new graduate from abroad. Japan, on the other hand, is very proactive about hiring new graduates, so I started focusing on Japanese companies.

– Oh, so that’s why you ended up coming to the global new graduate selection event.

@Sting: My interview with Mercari went the smoothest of all the ones I had with Japanese companies, and I got the offer right after the interview. I really liked that the app had a lot of downloads, and that it’s expanding to the US. There are a lot of chances for an even wider range of users to join in the future.

– Would you say that the speed in the selection process was your deciding factor?

@Sting: Yes. I thought that if they made their decision so fast, then I should also decide as honestly and as quickly as I could. I felt that they respected me as a candidate. But I still wasn’t sure because I didn’t know anything about the working environment. So on the night of the day I got the offer, I asked the agent that was running the selection event about it and he introduced me to @Tony, who had just joined Mercari (laughs).

@Tony: Yes, yes. The agent told me “there’s someone who wants to know about Mercari’s work environment, could you please talk to him?”. That person was @Sting. I remember we talked about working hours, the development system, company benefits; things that you can’t find out checking online.

@Sting: Right. Thanks to that, I could see that Mercari was different from what I first imagined Japanese companies would be, so I joined in 2018.

Overcoming information gaps in a Japanese-only environment

– So that’s how you both joined Mercari. I believe that at that time, there weren’t as many English speakers as there are now. Lately it’s becoming more and more natural for us to have all information in both languages, but especially @Tony that joined in 2017, wasn’t there a big language barrier?

@Tony: It was really tough (laughs). Even though they were starting to translate parts of the documents, the most important parts were all in Japanese. The amount of information in English was much less than now, and I used to worry whenever I needed to ask something. But in my case, there was another team member that could speak both English and Japanese, so he would always help me with that.

– And how did you get information about your tasks?


@Tony: I would ask someone who could speak both languages whenever I didn’t understand something. Also, the day before a meeting I would review and translate documents regarding projects discussed within the team, or request pages with improvement requests from other teams and such, trying my best to understand what was going on.

@Sting: It’s great to have someone who can speak both languages, but also to have a lot of engineers around that can answer your questions right away. When I joined the company, my mentor said “I’m traveling next week, so ask other members around if there’s something you don’t understand” and he just left…

– What?!

@Sting: I felt like I was thrown into a battlefield all of a sudden (laughs). But I enjoy that kind of survival situation, so I was actually lucky. I got the chance to talk more with other iOS engineers when asking questions, and to absorb a lot of their thoughts and knowledge. It also made me talk to other members like @Tony, that came from abroad before me.

– Mercari has an onboarding system with quick pitches for new members, including members coming from abroad. How was it when you two joined?

@Tony: When I joined the company, there wasn’t even the concept of onboarding. I was more seen as an immediate workforce, rather than a “foreign new graduate”. Of course that’s something I’m grateful for, but it was tough until I got used to it. Compared to now, there were fewer Japanese members that could speak English back then, so I guess that establishing an onboarding system itself would have been pretty difficult. Now we do have the onboarding process, and all the team members are conscious of that, so it’s really great.

@Sting: That’s right. Especially with new graduates, since it’s not determined where they’ll be assigned to. But now, lots of teams make presentations and explain what they do, and there’s a new process where you can talk to the engineering managers to decide what you want to do. Thanks to this, new graduates can now join the company without worrying so much.

From “foreign new graduate” to tech lead

– From a skills perspective, was there a moment when you felt like you grew after joining Mercari?

@Sting: When I first joined Mercari it took me a few months to understand the iOS framework and architecture. But doing pair programming with other engineers helped me understand its foundation and application. Thanks to that, I can now explain these things to other members.

@Tony: I got involved in microservices development for the first time after I joined Mercari. It helped me learn a lot, particularly because I could experience how it relates to backend engineers.

– I see. @Tony, now you have responsibility as tech lead, right? How did your work change with that?

@Tony: When I was working as an engineer, I wrote code however I wanted. But as a Mercari tech lead, I also need to prepare the development environment, and manage code from other members. So I need to review the code that other members write before releasing it, and to do that, I also have to understand the background of the code and what mindset was used to write it. And making decisions is the most difficult part.


– Making decisions?

@Tony: Tech leads decide what kind of technology is used to develop, plan, and maintain quality. However, there is no correct answer to which technology is best, so it’s always trial and error. Also, even though I usually speak in Japanese with other engineers, when I talk about technology, sometimes there are difficult expressions that I don’t know how to communicate. So lately I’m speaking in English when it’s a difficult topic, and if I still think that I’m struggling, I try to talk while drawing pictures. It seems to work well this way now.

Be the one to cause a “feeling of growth”

– Now in Mercari there are members from more than 30 different countries. What new challenges would both of you like to face in Mercari?

@Tony: Compared to when I was an engineer, as a tech lead I’m expected to develop other skills besides writing code. This is a great opportunity for me, so I want to be fully able to play my role as a tech lead. I also want to learn more about technology, and to be able to make better decisions. For that I also need to gain more experience.

@Sting: The projects that I’m involved with right now are really fun, but I believe that if I only commit to that, I won’t be able to understand Mercari’s service itself. I want to better understand Mercari as a whole, so in the future, I want to be part of projects outside my team as well. I want to understand the company itself, not only the service. And also…


– And also?

@Sting: When I joined the company, all the other members were thoughtful and would answer each of my questions. And the more I understood things, the more I felt like I was growing. So I want to answer the new members’ questions the best I can, and contribute to their personal growth as well. And be the one to cause in the new members that feeling of growth I had back then.

@Tony: Yes, that would be great!

– Hearing how you two overcame differences of language, culture, and experience in technology, and keep growing as engineers really inspired me. Thank you so much!

Huang Ji-Cheng

Born in Taiwan. Studied computer science at the National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan and took his master’s degree in network engineering. In 2016, he participated in an internship at Yahoo! Taiwan Holdings. He then joined Mercari as a backend engineer in August 2017. He currently works as a tech lead.

Su Wei-Long

Born in Taiwan. After graduating from university, he worked as an iOS engineer at an IoT startup in Taiwan. After deciding to work writing code for a startup abroad, he joined Mercari in 2018. He works as an iOS engineer involved in the growth of our services. He likes traveling, and studied Japanese with the novel “Your name”.

Cheng Tsz Kiu

Joined Toshiba Corporation after graduating from the Faculty of Psychology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She joined Toray Industries, Inc. in April 2016, where she was in charge of recruiting foreign students. She later joined Mercari in December 2017, and launched the Global Recruitment and Diversity & Inclusion projects. She has been in charge of HRBP since April 2019.

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