Linnaさん Arminさん / Engineering

This interview was conducted in October 2020 and has been republished with some modifications.
Can you describe your experience as a student coming to Japan and applying to work at LINE ?
Linna: I came to Japan as a graduate student at Waseda University. I was studying manufacturing management algorithms to make production more efficient. After graduation I applied to a number of companies including LINE. I was familiar with LINE as I started using it after I came to Japan, much like I would use WeChat in China. I knew LINE was popular here. I also felt that the atmosphere was more energetic and positive compared to other companies I interviewed with.

Armin: I was studying software engineering at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. I wanted to come to Japan just because I wanted a change. I was looking for jobs on Stack Overflow and LINE was the first company willing to accept me even though I didn’t speak Japanese. I took the opportunity and joined LINE in October 2018.
Can you tell us about the application process?
Linna: I applied through LINE’s “new graduate” page. I sent in my application and after the first online coding test I received an invitation to the first round of interviews, which was mostly about technology in general and my other projects. Shortly after I was invited to a second interview and there I was interviewed by Ikebe-san, one of the executives at LINE. Soon after I received my offer. The interviews were mostly in Japanese for the technical parts but I used some English in talking with Ikebe-san. For me the process took two or three weeks.

Armin: The process was quite similar for me except that there was an offline coding test before the one online. The interview process was a bit different from Linna’s: I first had a general, less technical interview that was followed by a discussion with two LINE engineers. The final interview was about my placement in Japan and in LINE after which I received my offer. The interviews were mainly in English with some parts in Japanese, which were interpreted.

Linna had already lived in Japan but in my case the overseas support team helped me with my move to the country. They worked with me during my visa application process and once I came here, the team arranged accommodations for me, where I stayed for two months before moving to my own apartment.
Can you tell us what you do at LINE?
Linna: I joined the LINE Shop Team in 2017 and have worked on “Custom Stickers”, “Message Stickers” some other new stickers. My team also launched campaigns such as the New Year Campaign and most recently the “Birthday Gift” campaign.

Besides daily work, last year I had an opportunity to join a conference in Europe with my colleagues. There is a team at LINE that helped me with buying plane and conference tickets as well as making the necessary visa arrangements. The company covered most of the costs. Everyone on the development side can join an international conference once a year for learning work related technologies. There are also a lot of interesting company events such as LINE DEVELOPER DAY and the New Year Party. Other than that, we also have opportunities to visit our offices in Korea, Taiwan, Fukuoka, and Kyoto.

Armin: I did a lot of work on internal batch jobs such as recommendations and updates of our internal data structures. I recently joined the Shop Team's SRE Effort that mainly takes care of internal issues such as service renewal, proving the reliability of our servers among other things.

LINE has a few hundred million users worldwide. Creating services that can withstand the sheer amount of load that these users put on the systems and the server-side effort needed to handle things of this magnitude is interesting work.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Armin: On New Year’s Eve, approximately 80 to 100 million people send their wishes on LINE pretty much the same time. We also need to be prepared for people transferring money, points and gifts on LINE’s platforms. There were some delays because some internal services could not take that many requests at the same time. Clearing the initial requests took over an hour until we were up to speed.

Linna: Yes, the New Year Campaign was a challenge. We needed to prepare a lot for potential outages, for example, set a rate limit for a lot of requests. We are also open to trying new technologies. Last year we also tried to use Kotlin and Kafka. This was another challenge because we had never used them before, but our seniors helped us overcome all the difficulties.
Can you tell us more about your team?
Linna: Our team is divided in two parts. One half of the team is located in Fukuoka and the other is in Tokyo. We have 14 people in Tokyo and only two of them are Japanese. The others are from China, Korea, Europe, the USA, Mexico, and Russia. English is the main language in my team.

Armin: We mostly use English within the team and have no communication issues but there were a couple of times when people from other departments couldn’t communicate in English with us. I rely on either professional interpreters or Japanese-speaking team members to help me understand when necessary. Most of the communication happens via Slack in English and the translation bot helps a lot.

Linna: Since the planning and QA teams don’t speak English, we use in-house interpreters to make communication smooth.
Do you get the support and guidance that you need in your day-to-day work?
Linna: My manager is very kind. We have one-to-one discussions twice a month. During those discussions he genuinely wants to hear if I enjoy what I’m doing and if there is anything that he can help me with. He also makes a point to ask about my workload as maintaining a good work-life balance is important. It makes me feel that I can talk to him about anything.

I still need help and guidance for large projects such as the New Year Campaign but in the future I want to be able to manage projects like it by myself. Also, there are some outage handling and troubleshooting where I need to analyze logs, which I want to learn more about.

Armin: Linna and I have different managers, but I feel the same about my manager as she does about hers. I also have one-on-one sessions every two weeks. Over the past few weeks we have talked about my career path at LINE which really helped me to understand what the next steps are for me to take.

In the future I would like to have more responsibility but the language barrier is still there. Managing projects all by myself or being the manager of a bigger project is challenging. Since I don’t speak Japanese I think that there is somewhat of a cap for taking more responsibility. However, internal projects and duties demanding less managerial interaction can be handled by people who don’t speak Japanese.
How do you find the work-life balance at LINE?
Linna: My manager doesn't want us to work overtime. If he sees me at the office late at night, he will ask me whether I need some support.

Armin: There’s no problem for us to leave work on time as the workload is usually not too large to handle during regular working hours. Of course there are exceptions like big projects that have a fixed timeline, such as the New Year Campaign. During the pandemic we’ve been working remotely and have very little social contact.

Also I enjoy life in Japan so far! It’s great, although I can't compare it to anywhere else as it’s my first job. I wouldn’t change it, though.

Linna: I agree with Armin. I enjoy life in Japan. Sometimes I ask my friends in China about their lives. They told me that the pressure was hard. They sometimes need to work very late. In addition to having a good work-life balance, I also appreciate the cleanliness of Japan and how kind and helpful the locals are.

LINE: LINE moved to a remote working arrangement quite quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic started. How do you feel that transition was handled?

Armin: I think it was handled quite well. We are encouraged to work from home but if there is a need for us to be at the office, we can go – we are not locked out or anything! Going forward I welcome the idea of working from home in general but working at the office every now and then would be optimal.

Linna: I think LINE reacted super quickly. In the beginning we occasionally went to the office but the managers assured us that if we wanted to work from home then we could do that, and it would be automatically approved. In the long run I would also prefer going to the office when the situation allows as I think discussing with colleagues in person is important.
Who would you recommend LINE to as a workplace?
Armin: I’d say that people who enjoy a good challenge will enjoy working here. Even though knowing the Japanese language is not required, it’s the day-to-day life that gets easier and more enjoyable if you know at least some of the language. Also, here you get to work with and manage lots of data!

Another thing is that the work you do here directly affects end users. LINE is a great place to work for engineers who get motivated when they see their work as a part of a service available to the public. LINE is not a typical Japanese company. Simply put, it’s a very nice place to work. I recommend it.

Linna: I would definitely recommend LINE for engineers who want to experience working in another country. From an engineering perspective it’s interesting as you get to work with a variety of technologies such as Kotlin, Kafka platform or Armeria microservice framework, to name a few. Our managers are very supportive if we want to try and learn something new. For example, we can buy books or attend online lessons to improve our skills. At LINE we are also open to new ideas and technologies. Here you’re working with teams of excellent people, so join us!