[Interview] How I landed my first AI engineer job in Japan.


  • About job hunting

Hao-Chuan Kao, AI engineer from AIRUCA Inc (on the right of the photo)
Interviewer: Kana Ito from United World

United World supported Hao-Chuan Kao in job hunting in Japan and helped him find a job at AIRUCA Inc.
Hao-Chuan Kao is originally from Taiwan. After working as a data analyst in Taiwan, he came to Japan to participate in the Tokyo Institute of Technology's exchange program.
Interviewer, Kana Ito had lunch with Kao and asked him various questions about his first job hunting in Japan and his work at AIRUCA.

Career in Taiwan

Q. Please tell us about your career history before you joined AIRUCA.

Kao: I worked in Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba as a data analyst for a year and handled text projects using Natural Language Processing AI processing skills, to develop advertisement push-up systems. I also used coding tools such as Python to analyze all of the data.

Job hunting in Japan

Q. How was your job search?

Kao: It took total 3-4 months, starting around December of 2022 after I finished the exam of JLPT N2. I was focused on my job search since this January and found the process to be challenging. I think it is especially difficult to find a job in Japan as a foreigner. Typically, if you want to find a job in Japan, you need to start to look for jobs 1-2 years ahead of graduation as a university student. But in my case, I did not have a lot of time which made me feel, both, nervous and anxious knowing that I was theoretically more than a year behind my peers in finding a job. However, I met Kana-san from United World and she introduced me to many potential job opportunities.

Q. What advice would you give to people who are searching for jobs/ thinking of changing jobs?

Kao: Understand that job searching in Japan is very hard for foreigners and you must dedicate quite a large portion, if not all, of your available time. It takes a lot of time to pass the long interview process and the overall time it will take to gain employment can be substantial, but you have to try no matter what. For example, you can try as many companies as possible, where they are acceptable for you. Since you don’t know whether you will be chosen. So you need to prepare for all of the opportunities which you are given. I think I applied a total of 40~60 companies. I tried to prepare as much as I can, not wasting any spare time.

Impression of United World

Q. I had my first interview with Kao on 2023/01/12. What is your impression of United World?

Kao: When I posted on Linkedin to find job opportunities, many recruiters contacted me. Most of the recruiters were not willing to help me and seemed as though they wanted to contact as many candidates as possible just to achieve their target score. But, Kana-san was kind of special. She provided me with many suitable opportunities and truly understood what type of company I was looking for. For example, she introduced me AI engineer positions that aligned with my interests and skillset while other agencies shared very different positions such as network engineer or software engineer which I don’t have previous experience with. I think United World’s forward-thinking mindset and professional attitude set their agency apart from others. They listen to their clients and understand their needs.

Work at AIRUCA

Q. Please tell us about your job at AIRUCA.

Kao: I use Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), or Deep Learning (DL) technology, to tackle image recognition tasks such as POSE detection, glass batch detection, and various other detection for the company. I manage an AI system that can filter inappropriate photos on the internet to protect children under 18 years old. The name of the system I used for that project is Maria AI system. Now I am doing fall-down detection or walking detection and that project is called AI behavia. Another glass batch detection is called KK project.

Q. What made you decide to work for your current company?

Kao: My current company specializes in AI which deals with projects I am most interested in. It also provides me the opportunity to use my experience from previous work and put into practice the principles I learned in college. Additionally, the work-site location was a key factor for me as I wanted to stay in Tokyo to more easily enjoy all of the aspects of Japan that drew me here in the first place.

Q. After 3 months of working, how is your work and work environment?

Kao: My work environment is very nice, somewhat relaxed, and allows for a positive work-life balance. I feel fortunate that I am working at my current company. It does not feel tense so we are able to accomplish our tasks and go home. There is no overtime, I do not feel overworked, and my colleagues are very nice people. A recently hired colleague from the Netherlands joined our team and I enjoy being able to communicate in English. My team is small with only two people, including me, and I have the responsibility of handling the AI system “MarIA.” It can be difficult sometimes to work in a Japanese company because all of the documents and communications are in Japanese and it is not my native language. Therefore, it is definitely challenging, but I do my best to keep up. “頑張ります”.

Q. What kind of things do you like working as AI Engineer & working at AIRUCA?

Kao: AIRUCA is a very free-thinking company. If you have your own project, you are given the latitude to explore things yourself and use any particular model or method that you woud like to try out. I think AIRUCA is a great company that lets you develop your professional abilities and try things out for yourself. Creativity is embraced and appreciated in this environment. Also, working as an AI engineer is very fun because I can use coding and AI methods to tackle real-world problems. If you want to recognize your coffee mug or bottle of something, you can initiate and let the picture learn from the machine. Machine will know the object pattern that tags this similar item in the future system, will respond based on memories, and then tell you this is a bottle or this is coffee. So it’s a very fun job to solve many problems in life.

Q. Are there any problems at your current job or anything you would like to share with us?

Kao: Language is still very challenging, but there is a colleague that can communicate in English. Periodically, I cannot understand exactly or clearly what is being asked of me. In these instances, I have to ensure I double-check and confirm the signs or tasks that my boss actually wants me to do. That said, I want to be in this challenging environment for personal and professional growth. I can continually improve my Japanese ability and I think it is important to keep it up in doing my best at work.

Q. What do you do on the weekend?

Kao: When I feel tired, I don’t plan anything and let myself relax over the weekend by staying at home. Sometimes I explore and travel around Tokyo, going to museums, parks, tourist places, and good restaurants with my friends. I would like to travel to Fukuoka and Hokkaido in the near future where I’ve heard that there is a lot of great food and beautiful scenery.

Q. Please tell us your goals and vision.

Kao: My current goal is to continually improve my skills and get up-to-speed at my current company. Although my previous employment dealt with AI technology, my current work is more focused on Image Recognition Technology, specifically, not NLP(Natural Language Processing) which was the main focus at that job. The continued learning aspect of my profession is endless and there are so many topics to study. Aside from my AI-specific technical abilities, I think it is important to improve my Japanese language abilities as well.

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