MerCafé Vol. 3—What’s It Like Working as an Engineer at Mercari?
The café space at Mercari’s Tokyo office is a place where members can relax. You can often find people sitting comfortably and chatting, wrapped in the delicious aroma of coffee. The MerCafé series is all about bringing that environment of casual, relaxed conversation to our readers.
In this edition, we ask Director of Product Engineering, Snehal Shinde (@Sneha), Android engineer, Yui Karasawa (@u-pon), and software engineer, Miao Cao (@miao) for their honest opinions on what they feel it’s like to work as an engineer at Mercari.
Featured in this article
Snehal ShindeAfter completing her bachelor’s in Computer Science at the University of Pune, Snehal started working as an iOS engineer in 2009. Over the course of her career as an engineer, she has been involved in building mobile applications and business software for a variety of industries, including the automobile industry, healthcare industry, and gaming industry. Snehal joined Mercari in December 2019, and she currently serves as Director in Product Engineering.
Yui KarasawaYui joined Mercari in July of 2021. While she did not major in computer science in university, Yui’s interest in working as an engineer led her to start her career at a tech company in Tokyo. She then participated in programs such as 42 Tokyo and Build@Mercari and was exposed to computer science as she built her experience in Android development. After joining Mercari and working on the listing team, she is now involved in the development of Android features in a variety of domains.
Miao CaoMiao was a Software Engineering major in college and gained internship experience at Microsoft (Shanghai), Meituan (Shanghai), CyberAgent, and Mercari. She joined Mercari as a new graduate in 2022 after completing her master’s degree in Information Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo. Currently, she is working on the search team as a backend and machine learning engineer, and focusing on improving search results within the Mercari app.
Team Diversity Creates Psychological Safety
@u-pon: I’m so glad we have the opportunity to chat like this! I was an intern before becoming a full-time member at Mercari, and actually @Sneha was my very first manager when I joined full-time.
@Sneha: It’s hard to believe it’s already been three years since then! Was your mentor a woman during your internship and after you started working full-time?
@u-pon: Yes! I’ve been blessed with wonderful teammates, both men and women, but I feel especially lucky to have the opportunity to work with other women in a field with relatively few.
@miao: When I joined the Search Team, there was only one other woman on the team besides me. I remember her telling me how happy she was that another woman was joining the team!
@Sneha: In 2020, when I was head of engineering at Personalization Camp*, there were around 60 members, but only three of them were women. Although the number of women in STEM is increasing, teams still need more diversity.
*A camp is a secondary team formed by dissecting a product into various domains and grouping members of the same domain together. Each camp has multiple scrum teams. (The camp system has ended as of December 2023.)
During the pandemic, we organized online lunches for women engineers and product managers to create a sense of community and provide a platform for informal communication. During these sessions, members could network, chat, and discuss various topics while enjoying lunch. It was a lot of fun.
These lunches also served as a safe space where attendees felt comfortable asking for personal advice on sensitive topics, such as how to communicate with coworkers, or concerns about how having children might affect their career growth. It is crucial to promote psychological safety in the workplace and encourage open dialogue where everyone’s opinions are valued, regardless of their gender or background.
@u-pon: This is just my personal impression, but I feel like especially in Japanese workplaces, it’s uncommon to share that you’re considering having a child with your coworkers. I think it’s because many people worry about the possibility of losing career opportunities as a result. At Mercari, though, we’re able to talk about these things openly. I really love this environment.
@miao: Yeah, having women coworkers and managers provides women with good role models when considering their own careers. I feel that it’s easier to get advice on career path decisions from fellow women engineers. But, especially in the engineering field, there are fewer women than men, so I do feel we need to increase the ratio.
The other day, Mercari published the results of its investigation into the gender pay gap and the measures it plans to take; I think it’s great that these sorts of discussions are being shared openly and publicly.
@u-pon: I agree! The act itself of making this kind of information open really empowers women and is a great initiative. Fortunately, I feel that I receive fair treatment during evaluations and would like to say that, in my experience, Mercari is a company that values its members’ contributions and skills.
@Sneha: One way I actively work towards promoting diversity within the organization is by proactively communicating with women engineers.
As a leader, I believe in empowering my team members to pursue their passions and achieve their career goals. I have encountered several instances where we discussed the options of continuing a career as an engineer and becoming a specialist or pursuing a management role. I strongly believe that all leaders should take the time to offer this kind of support to their team members. It not only helps them achieve their goals but also fosters a culture of growth and development within the organization.
@miao: I agree; communication is so important. When I was still an intern, I was actually worried about whether I was qualified to work at this company full time. My mentor at the time assured me that I was doing a great job and encouraged me to have more confidence in myself and share my ideas more, saying my ideas would surely help the team. After that, I started sharing my ideas proactively during meetings.
I felt excited to Go Bold and take on challenges more in my work at Mercari, and was able to gain confidence in myself. That was really the moment I learned firsthand what “Go Bold” means.
@Sneha: Amazing! At Mercari, it’s important that everyone feels confident in expressing their ideas and sharing their thoughts with one another. Sometimes, people may feel a bit hesitant to speak up—especially women. They may also have bold ideas, but not the right setup. That’s why I believe in using one-on-one meetings as a safe space for open communication.
@u-pon: Especially in STEM fields, it’s a fact that men are oftentimes the majority, so to express my thoughts and have them heard, I feel I need to act louder and stronger than warranted. But, here at Mercari, communication is so easy. You share your thoughts, and people listen. It’s that simple. It really is such a comfortable environment.
Thoughts as Students in STEM
@miao: I’d love to talk about our thoughts and experiences back when we were students aspiring to pursue careers in STEM! @u-pon, I heard that you participated in Mercari’s online training program, Build@Mercari. What led you to enroll in it?
@u-pon: When I found out about Build@Mercari, I had already graduated from university and was working, but I was thinking of switching careers. In university, I majored in something completely unrelated to computer science, but I had always been interested in the field. I wanted to buckle down, study, and build up experience, which is what led me to sign up. Ultimately, I had an amazing experience at Build@Mercari, and its slogan “Tech Needs You” really empowered me.
I also felt a lot of passion from the members who organize Build@Mercari. The material for the program evolves every year, too, and I’m really proud that our company provides such an opportunity! I’m always recommending the program to others.
Yui Karasawa (@u-pon)
@Sneha: The next Build@Mercari is scheduled to start in February, and we are also planning to proactively select students from high school and vocational school who aspire to become the tech talent of the future. I am excited about this initiative as I believe that cultivating passion at an early stage is essential.
I grew up in India, where girls are often expected to become doctors while boys are expected to become engineers. My father initially had the same expectation for me when I was young, but I had my heart set on becoming an engineer. It took some time to persuade him, but I was successful in the end.
If young women choose their courses based solely on traditional gender roles, it may be challenging for them to switch careers from being doctors to engineers later in life. These outdated beliefs and values are deeply ingrained by the time we graduate from high school. Therefore, it is crucial to educate high school students about the opportunities available to them in the tech field and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.
@u-pon: That’s true. The Japanese education system in particular requires high school students—at a stage when many are still unsure of what they want to do—to choose a department and major before taking the entrance exam for university. I agree that it’s extremely valuable for students to have opportunities like Build@Mercari to experience what working in the tech industry is like early on.
@miao: I’m from China, and I came to Japan for graduate school. I would have loved to participate in Build@Mercari when I was in high school. When I chose to major in computer science, it came as quite a surprise to my parents… I wish they could have seen me learning about the fields I was interested in since high school. (laughs)
I was a computer science major in university and had experience in the field, so I chose to participate in the internship program at Mercari. During my internship, I had the chance to interact with the participants of Build@Mercari, and I felt that they were all so technically skilled and passionate about technology. I think Build@Mercari is not only an excellent program for students who are a minority group in the engineering field to discover their potential, but is also a great opportunity for our company to discover even more talent with hidden potential!
@u-pon: We all have such varied backgrounds! I want to say to all the students who are deciding on their career paths: follow your passion and intuition. Making your decision based on pay is one way to do it, but I think it’s important to stay true to the passion you feel toward what it is you truly want to do.
@miao: I agree. I think it’s also a good idea to try taking on internships in different industries and jobs while you’re in school. I personally did several internships in different countries and industries to figure out what field and job I wanted to pursue. It really helped give me a better understanding of what I truly wanted to do, so I think the experience was worth it!
@Sneha: I think so, too. When I was in high school, I attended many conferences and talks and spoke with many people before deciding to pursue computer science. It was good that I was able to gather information before choosing my course.
The Freedom to Live Your Desired Lifestyle While Working
@u-pon: At Mercari, we’re able to work flexibly to match our lifestyles!
As humans, we aren’t full of energy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some days we feel down, and sometimes we get sick. I’m really grateful that we’re able to choose how we work to accommodate our situation. I think it helps us work more productively and makes so much sense.
@miao: Yeah, Mercari’s Your Choice policy that lets us choose when and where we work is really great! I come in to the office quite frequently to communicate with team members, but when I want to concentrate on my own tasks I work either from the Focus Zone in the office or from home.
Also, several members of my team took childbirth and childcare leave last year. It’s really reassuring when you see so many members around you being able to work and take care of their private lives at the same time; it allows you to work with peace of mind, too.
@Sneha: Absolutely. During the COVID-19 pandemic, my son’s daycare closed down, and I had to balance working from home and taking care of him. This often led to background noise—I mean, music—during my meetings, such as the sounds of crying, playing with toys, or baby talk. (laughs) However, the kindness and support of my colleagues made all the difference. I felt fortunate to work in an environment where I could communicate with my manager and adjust my workload to suit my circumstances under flex hours.
I strongly believe that Mercari practices inclusion that encompasses not just its members but also their families. People’s situations change based on their stage of life, too, so this type of inclusion provides psychological safety.
Today’s conversation revolved mostly around topics related to women engineers, but Mercari’s goal is to “Unleash the potential in all people.” We should work together to empower everyone, regardless of their diverse attributes!
@u-pon: That’s a great way to wrap it up! I had so much fun chatting with you two today.
@miao: Same here! I’m looking forward to our next conversation!
When taking this photo, everyone took up Sneha’s suggestion for a finger heart pose!
Drink of the Day: The Barista’s Corner
At Mercari’s café space, professional baristas make you the drink of your choice! There are also seasonal drinks, which often blow up the company Slack whenever a new one is available.
This time, everyone asked for hot chai lattes. To find out more about these delicious drinks, as well as how seasonal drinks are decided, we spoke with @iga_chan, one of the baristas working at the café space.
Hot Chai Latte
Our chai uses an original blend of spices and is a popular choice. The tingle and mild sweetness from the spices give it a unique character that will have you hooked and coming back for more!
How do you decide on seasonal drinks?
When making seasonal drinks, we try to choose a flavor that not only gives you a feel of the season, but is niche enough that people don’t get to taste it regularly.
Some drinks were actually created based on members’ input, as well! When you visit the café, do let us know what drinks you crave when taking a break from work!