- Hi TJ! Thanks for making time for this interview. Could you give us a short self-introduction?
Hi, my name is Jifa Jiang, but everyone here calls me TJ. It’s short for Thaddeus Jiang, which was my ID in GitHub. I’m from Jilin province in China, which is located close to North Korea and Russia. I studied software development in China and started working as a full-stack engineer in Japan after graduating from university. I’ve just started working at Zenport a couple of months ago.
- I totally thought TJ was your real name! So what brought you to Japan?
In 2015, there was a popular saying in China. It went something like this: “世界那么大，我想出去看看”, which means “The world is so big, and I want to see it.”
I’d lived in China for 20 years and wanted to learn more about the world outside of China. What made that happen was a career fair at my university. Japanese companies had come to my university to recruit students, and my professor recommended a medium to large scale systems solutions company which he had also worked for previously. I got a job at that company and worked there for 3 years, where I had the chance to live in both Hiroshima and Tokyo.
- So your first job out of university was at a Japanese company! That must have been challenging, especially with the language and difference in culture. What led you to join Zenport?
I wanted to do something new and I’d originally planned to return to China after 3 years. But I ended up deciding to stay in Japan. I thought in order to create something that can be used worldwide, I myself would have to experience the world.
To be completely honest, Zenport wouldn’t have been my first choice. It was a startup, it didn’t have a lot of name value compared to larger and more established companies so I wasn’t sure if it would be a stable career choice. Despite all those doubts, I chose Zenport in the end because I loved the team culture and the growth potential it offered.
- I think a lot of people can relate to why you would be hesitant to join a startup. Can you tell me more about the team culture and the potential you saw, that led you to choose Zenport?
Sure. Before joining the team officially, I was asked to work as a trial at the office. After work, the whole team went to Odaiba and had a party. We went to the supermarket to buy food and ate by the beach. It was my first day meeting the team, and though I hadn’t even joined yet, they felt more like friends than strict or intimidating colleagues. I loved that atmosphere. Second, I was so impressed by the skill level of the engineers. I knew that if I worked with those engineers, I would be able to grow exponentially. Third, I wanted to use more English.
- Is there any gap between your perception of our company before joining the team and after?
Nope. It’s exactly how I imagined it to be. I’m glad I chose Zenport, because I can already feel myself growing. As a budding startup, Zenport has the ability to adopt and try out new technologies. We’re willing to take the risk to deliver the best product to our clients. Also, as it is a startup, we’re fast at dealing with any problems that do arise. There are fewer meetings because the engineers can always talk to each other throughout the day, whereas engineers working on projects in companies on a larger scale have difficulty in reaching the right people to talk to for a certain issue. I’m now front-end engineer working on the application development, and the engineers here impress me every day. They’re a constant source of motivation for me to learn and grow my skill set as well.
- It’s so interesting to hear both the pros and cons of different sized companies and projects, especially since you are talking from personal experience. What are your future dreams or ambitions?
I want to start a startup building robots someday.
- Oh wow. Where did this idea come from?
Last year, actually. (laughter)
I want to create a world where robots and humans can be friends. For example, I love cats. I consider my cat to be my friend. I believe that robots can be such companions to us humans as well. I used to like robots from when I was young, probably from watching Japanese anime. I know that the technology for robotics and awareness or demand for robots is not that advanced or high right now, so I will continue learning and building my technical skills to achieve this one day in the future.
・I love how you’re dreaming big! Lastly, what kind of person would you like to work with?
I’d like to work with someone who has higher skills than me. Working with people who know more than me is both motivating and stimulating. I’d love to work with those who can better each other, by continuously teaching and learning from each other. I’m always excited to grow together with new team members!