I was given notice that this Friday will be my last day at this company. The notice actually came at the end of January, so it is no surprise. My company is finally closing the Japanese office. I was given the chance to transfer back to the home office or to another office in nearby Taiwan. I chose to remain here in Japan for the sake of my family.
For years the Japanese office have been a drain on capital never having reached profitability, but also it has been a source of several very big name customers in the consumer electronic space. Unfortunately with the prolonged downturn in the economy, the home office has scrutinized the various divisions within the company and has decided to lop off those unprofitable parts. I don't blame them for the decision and I have been treated more than fairly, though my experience seems to have been out of the norm.
The company tried their best to place me elsewhere in the company because I am an expatriot specifically for them, so they felt that they had an extra responsibility to at the very least to bring me back to the U.S. I simply couldn't accept though. Aside from my suspicion that I would have been laid off after two months or so back in the U.S., I have actually just gotten settled here in Japan. I bought a car and renewed my apartment lease for another two years. I'm just not at a point where I can up and move again.
I mentioned earlier that the layoffs were actually announced at the end of January, but my last day will be this Friday. The Japanese employees, for the most part (there are still a couple people like country manager and office manager still around to help with the closing), had their last day back in January. I have had my employment extended in order to handle visa transfers and to handle other things that are required for living here that were handled by the company previously.
I've been doing that for a couple weeks now and I'm just taking a little break today. I've been running all over the place for my visa. I've been to a couple interviews which I'm still waiting on. And just last Friday I found out that I'm supposed to be working on wrapping up development for one of the customers for whom we had to cancel a project on. It gives me a chance to polish my programming a little more before being hurled into unemployment, so that's a plus. But I would have much rather had this week to finish what I need to finish in terms of things that are important to me, not for some ex-customer.
So I am going to be employment-free next week. I've talked to a few recruiters and have gone to a couple interviews through them. The companies seem cool, and I'm definitely qualified for the positions that I'm seeking (Lead QA engineer, Junior developer, or FAE). I'm not worried about finding a new job. There are plenty of jobs out there for developers, but there aren't as many for QA engineers. There is no premium nor respect for QA in Japan, it is seen as an expense only and it's engineers are no more than trained monkeys, so companies end up hiring part time workers to perform QA for less than 1000 yen an hour typically. It's a little disheartening to say the least. But I'm looking for something a little more involved than button pressing.
I've got 5 and a half years of experience at this latest company. 1 of that was as a developer, just before I moved to Japan 2 years ago to help with the Japanese QA team as a technical lead which they desperately needed. After the other members of the QA team finally left after the PM mismanaged them for the last time, I was left as the sole QA engineer. I named myself QA manager and hired on two interns (at 1000 yen per hour) and trained them to do QA while I handled the customer contacts and project scheduling. I tried my best to give them some grounding in C because they could then become much more useful to my QA team and also to any future engineering job they would get. It's funny, neither of them had any computer experience when they came in, but they left able to write simple tests in C. They were really great, for the most part. Having to fire them in November due to cost cutting was tough, though.
Now I'd like to find a position that I can grow in. QA in Japan was really a dead end because of the inability to move upwards. Becoming the QA manager is like becoming the top monkey, you're still a monkey. That's why I'm looking for stuff in development if possible. I've got development experience, but that was two years ago before I moved to Japan. I'm doing my best at interviews to emphasize that most of what I did in QA was development of test cases so I'm not rusty. That's my biggest challenge in the interviews now.
I did finally receive the results of my Japanese Language Proficiency Test last weekend and I am officially a Level 2 certificate holder. There is only one more level to go and that is Native Speaker status, so I'd like to think I've come a long way, but I know there's still quite a bit to go. I'll need to update my resume...
Heh. If you've know any positions for a Japanese-speaking American who's got several years of experience in Development, QA, and Management, please drop me a line at my email address. I'd really appreciate it.