“Youth is a tool.” A Mercari new grad talks about the strengths that paved his career
Mercari is home to countless new grads who choose to start their careers here. Our New Grads Hiring Team is conducting a follow-up initiative to speak with these members to find out how they feel in their current positions and how things have changed since they joined.
The second round of this initiative features new grad Keita Nakamura, who joined the Research for Development (R4D) Team as an engineer and now works for Merpay as a product manager (PM).
Nakamura actually mentioned that in the beginning, he wasn’t very interested in joining Mercari despite having received a job offer. So what made him decide to join in the end? As someone who joined as an engineer and later became a PM, what does he see as his future career path? Covering these topics is our interviewer Ayano Okuda (New Grads Hiring Team), who knew him when he was a student and was also his primary HR attendant during the hiring process. Later in the interview, Nakamura mentions that he would like to see the company provide more clarity about the unique career paths available to new grads. Let’s find out why!
Why he wasn’t sure about joining Mercari. ”I got the offer, but…”
Okuda：It’s been a while since we talked to each other so I’m kind of nervous (laughs). Thanks for coming today! Can I start by asking about why you joined and what kind of process you went through?
Nakamura：It’s like I’m being interviewed again (laughs). I’ve always liked the Mercari app, and I’ve bought and sold a lot of clothes with it. I was a heavy user, and that’s why I applied for the internship.
Okuda：How did you become an intern?
Nakamura：I found out about it through Linkedin. Ishiguro-san (Organization and Talent Development Team Manager) was a recruiter at the time, and he contacted me asking if I was interested in the company. To be honest though, I wasn’t very interested in Mercari’s corporate side at the time.
Nakamura：I personally like building things from scratch. At the time, I felt that Mercari was in a major expansion phase and was already well-established as a business. That’s why I wasn’t too excited about joining (laughs). I also assumed there wouldn’t be any projects that would allow me to leave a huge impact on the company. However, I did find myself interested in the company’s expansion into the US market, so I decided to meet with the recruiters.
Keita Nakamura (Product manager)
Okuda：How did you feel after speaking with them?
Nakamura：I was surprised to find out that they checked my code and got a solid understanding of my technical skills, even before we met for the first time. We end up talking not just about technical subjects but also about the plans for expanding the business. Afterwards they told me, “if you’re up for it, want to have an interview with us?” so I decided to apply for the AI Engineer position that I was interested in.
Okuda：You had already received the offer by the time I joined the company. I think the first thing I said when I met you was “you’re an engineer, right?” (laughs).
Nakamura：That’s basically what happened. I got the offer, and at the exact same time was invited to the first Mercari BOLD Internship. This program sent 100 students to the US to gain all sorts of experiences. I thought this was really exciting so I decided to participate. I had the chance to get to know and try out a lot of the services used in the US, so I’m really glad I went.
Okuda：Mercari gave you the offer, but you didn’t decide to join until around a year later, right? (laughs)
Ayano Okuda (New Grads Hiring Manager)
Nakamura：Yeah. The Mercari BOLD Internship was really fun, but I still couldn’t picture myself joining the company and working full-time (laughs). I wanted to create my own business like Mercari. I ended up having the chance to talk to Hamada-san (Mercari CPO) for the first time, and I was super excited when he mentioned that they were thinking of using blockchain technology to make a new product. I was interested in blockchain and I knew there’d be some really exciting possibilities, so I decided to start by joining as an intern.
Okuda：After that, you decided in the span of a week to join full-time. When you were an intern, what was Mercari R4D doing at the time?
Nakamura：Mercari’s interns are told to place emphasis on product creadtion, and aren’t limited to specific business fields. Instead, we’re given the chance to work in a variety of positions. After joining the company in 2018, I began my career as an R4D engineer. At that time, we were in charge of incorporating blockchain technology into Merpay’s services, and developing Mercari’s next concept model, a project called “Mercari X.” After that I became a PM at Merpay, and here I am now.
Gaining management skills from executives and senior teammates
Okuda：So you joined as an engineer and now work as a PM. Was this the career path you had in mind before you joined Mercari?
Nakamura：I wanted to create a business or product, which meant I wanted to do more than just engineering. Whether I’m an engineer or PM, my goal is to create a finished product in the end. Because of that, it didn’t really matter to me which position I had, as long as I was working on the product. As a PM now, I’m working directly with product creation which is exactly what I wanted.
Okuda：You worked on Mercari X when you were in R4D before moving to Merpay, a different company in the Mercari Group. What kind of impact has Merpay’s establishment had on you?
Nakamura：Honestly, I was already expecting Mercari to enter the payment services field so it wasn’t a big surprise to me. It was great to see Mercari work with R4D’s Blockchain Team to explore new business possibilities – I thought that was very Mercari-like. Joining Merpay helped me increase my skills, and since the organization itself started from scratch, I remember being really excited to make new and amazing products.
Okuda：What kind of work do you do at Merpay?
Nakamura：I’m a PM for a project team exploring new ideas, and the team working on anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorirsm measures. Merpay is still in its early phases, so we’re focusing on AML to protect the product in the future. I’m also a manager for the AML team.
Okuda：So you’re taking on new challenges with your teams, and you’ve transitioned from being an engineer to being a PM, which I think is quite rare. Have there been any difficulties that came with your current situation?
Nakamura：During my student days, my friends and I worked on contract-based development, and I don’t think we ran into any major difficulties. I also got an idea of what management was like. Even so, it was my first time managing within an organization, so I was a bit unsure about what I should be careful of and what position I should approach certain issues from. I eventually found my own style by first observing the management methods used by executives and by my seniors. I’m still learning new things today, and I still regularly go through the process of trying out new discoveries and improving them.
Okuda：One perk of being a new grad at Mercari is that you aren’t treated like one, and that it doesn’t influence what positions or tasks you’re selected for. My understanding is that you were assigned to be a PM because they needed one at the time. And I think that’s a really good thing.
One of the strengths that Mercari’s new grads have is their youth, which they can use as a tool allowing them to say whatever they want!
Okuda：Has your opinion towards Mercari changed since joining the company?
Nakamura：Like I mentioned before, before I joined I felt that Mercari was already a well-established company that was trying to break into the global market, starting with the US. After joining, I realized that there’s a lot of technology and methods unique to this company, and that people here really do Go Bold, almost to the point where it contradicts the definition of a “well-established” company. That surprised me and changed the way I viewed the company, in a good way.
Okuda： Although we use the term “new grads” a lot, the definition certainly varies by company. How did you feel when you joined Mercari as a new grad?
Nakamura：I felt Mercari’s work environment made it easier to utilize my youth as a strength. If we want to try something new, we can be heard by the executives in a very short time. I’d also venture to say that one privilege younger members have is that if they want to try something. they can raise your voices and firmly declare, “I want to do this!” Even if it’s met with resistance, it’s important as a new grad to persist and say, “but I want to try it!” I always talk openly with Shintaro (Founder and CEO), Naoki (Merpay CEO), and Hamada about the things I want to try. I do think that the company could provide more clarity about the unique career paths available to new grads.
Okuda：What do you mean by that?
Nakamura：Mercari has a lot of highly-skilled members. We also don’t have positions that are set in stone, making it a flat organization in terms of level. We also don’t promote members based on age. Because of that, we don’t have any clear role models to demonstrate exactly how we can advance. Things like this can make it hard for new grads to understand their potential career paths.
Okuda：I think that’s something the whole company is trying to solve right now. Career paths are important not only for new grads but for all members, so the whole Mercari Group is taking measures to make them more clear. We’re also taking big steps with our onboarding for April new grads, helping them gain skills and knowledge that will be useful long after their initial team assignments.
Nakamura：I can definitely see that. The flat company structure means that people aren’t given special privileges just because they have certain titles. Some people feel a bit of pressure when they realize that they have the same rights and power as their seniors, and I think that the new onboarding process would be really useful for those people. Although I personally find it exciting to be in a work environment with a bit of pressure (laughs).
Ownership and honesty are essential when using youth as a “tool.”
Okuda：How did you feel about the other Mercari new grads when you joined?
Nakamura：I thought everyone was really smart and talented… and really weird! They had all sorts of different backgrounds and different ways of thinking. With such a diverse group, I felt like I could talk to them forever and never get bored.
Okuda：I’ve been working in Mercari’s new grad recruitment for over a year, but I’ve never been able to think of a consistent way to describe Mercari’s new grads. They’re the ones who embody Mercari’s values the most. In that sense, you could say that they act the most “Mercari-like” (laughs). We’ve got members with a huge range of personalities and traits, but what do you think are the core characteristics?
Nakamura：Regardless of position or job title, everyone likes the product and everyone thinks really fast. There are also many engineers who commit to using the designated technology and thoroughly think about ways to utilize it effectively when working on the product. I think that those are some of Mercari’s unique characteristics.
Okuda：What kind of work would you like to do at Mercari in the future?
Nakamura：I’d like to work on product creation more closely with those in the business management and administration. This February saw the release of Merpay, a product I’ve been working on since last year. Going forward, I want to commit to more projects that will let me take lead over the products, work towards the company goals in a Mercari-like way, and help each business deliver great value to the users.
Okuda：What do you think you’ll need in order to accomplish that?
Nakamura：I don’t have a field of specialty yet, meaning I don’t have one particular strength as a specialist. Because of that, I’m still using my youth as a tool to let the management know about my opinions and ideas, and having them give me all kinds of tasks. I want to be a specialist who has broadened my horizons as a generalist. To do that, I’ll need to continue learning about new technology and incorporating it into my business and project management. I need to expand my knowledge to a point where I can think about fields like UI, UX, and marketing, and be able to propose lots of new ideas.
Okuda：That’s a great mindset to have! But in order to turn your goals into reality, you’ll need those around you to put their trust in you. What things do you need to keep in mind for that to happen?
Nakamura：I’ll need to be as honest as possible. There’s no use in overthinking and losing your ability to be a strong influence. I try to be as honest as possible to ensure that my thoughts are properly communicated to others. I also need others to see my ownership. I’m working on taking responsibility over particular fields and creating things that are perfect. After all, nothing I say will have an impact if my foundations are shaky (laughs).
Okuda：One strength that many new grads have is the ability to speak openly without worrying too much about one’s surroundings. I can see that you’ve been utilizing this strength to advance to the next stage. I hope you’ll continue using your youth as a way to propose new ideas and increase your fields of specialty. Thank you!
Worked at CyberAgent, Inc. as a student intern, establishing a programming education service. Also worked on DeNA’s video services to introduce foundations for sentiment analysis. Joined Mercari’s R4D Team as an intern afterwards. Entered as a new grad in 2018, working on R4D’s “Mercari X” project as a blockchain engineer. Later moved to Merpay, becoming PM for the Distributed Ledger Development Team and AML System Team.
Joined CyberAgent, Inc. in 2009. Worked in the CEO Office as a social-network game producer, gaining experience with planning, operation, and progress management. Gained management experience as leader of a unit overseeing multiple games. Joined Mercari in March 2017 to work in new grad recruitment.