Responsibility – Pro’s and Con’s of being in Charge
This time Juan talks about making your own experiences and what it means to take on a leadership role in a Japanese company.
Overseeing my own team at work came with some challenges I didn’t see coming. In this article, I share with you the pro’s and con’s of the holding a leadership role at a Japanese company.
The lead developer is the one in charge of the project. Aside from creating code like the other developers on the team, that person gets to attend a variety of other tasks, including:
- ■ Deciding which technology to use
- ■ Determining the development process and system design
- ■ Managing the schedule of the development team
- ■ Creating estimates for the project
The lead developer isn’t only making the decisions, he is the one taking responsibility when something goes wrong.
This was a heavier burden than I had imagined.
Risk and Responsibility
Risk management skills are essential to carry this responsibility. Imagine a system you developed gets attacked. People will wonder why you built a system vulnerable to attacks in the first place and didn’t take the necessary precautions to prevent possible threats.
Whenever there is a problem with the technology, an incident, or an deadline that isn’t met, everything falls back on the person in charge of the project, me in this case.
As project leader one needs to do a lot of risk management to anticipate and handle issues efficiently. On top of the technical skills, you will need the ability to identify problems early and quickly, find solutions, and communicate effectively, for reliable decision-making. You are really more of a project manager, using a variety of skills just to keep everything going.
Without these extra skills-sets, even if you have the technical skills, as long as you cannot lead your team, it will be difficult to get to the bottom of what’s going on and you won’t be able to make the right call when the time comes. On the other hand, someone who can recognize problems early, but doesn’t have the technical skills to solve them, is similarly unqualified.
A good project leader will think about risks in advance and develop strategies to deal with problems before they arise. This allows quick decision-making when issues do occur and will do wonders to keep the project on schedule.
The IT industry is notoriously fast-evolving, making lifelong learning a necessity. But don’t forget to brush up communication and other soft-skills from time-to-time. Especially when working abroad, being able to communicate clearly without creating misunderstandings is vital for your career.
While the responsibilities can be heavy at times, the benefits outweigh them easily.
The first, and biggest one is growth as an engineer. Being in a position of responsibility forces you to study until you can have confidence in your judgment.
Then, there is the endorphin rush when a project is finally completed. Successful projects always get me fired up to perform even better during the next one. After all, you didn’t just help out, you made this happen!
Last, your portfolio is growing. You can gain a lot of experience in different areas and projects, raising your reputation as a professional.
Make your own experiences
People can tell you a lot of things about Japan, but don’t take everything at face value. Make your own experiences.
When I first considered working in Japan, I was told that many Japanese companies are using the waterfall framework for development. I also heard about slow work processes due to a lot of paperwork, and the much-talked-about seniority system. But when I came to Japan, what I experienced was completely different from the stories I had heard.
What I found was a company that used efficiency, not one’s time at the company, as the prime criteria for assigning tasks. Even for newcomers, there are plenty of opportunities to take responsibility and lead projects. Bosses who are open to my thoughts and ideas, and give me the freedom to explore and test them out. And ultimately, a workplace that was keeping up with the newest development standards, implementing agile and TDD into their workflows.
If you want to work in Japan, don’t get held back by what other people tell you. I can only encourage you to make your own experiences.
There is one thing you can do to avoid bad experiences, disappointment, or simply giving up on your dream: risk management.
Do your due diligence and don’t only look at the company name or the salary but dig into whether the company’s culture and their working style really match you and what you want for your future. It might take some digging, but it will be worth it.