I'm Annie Hoang
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
I'm Annie Hoang
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
About Annie Hoang
Hi everyone. My name is Annie Hoang and I'm from Vietnam. Currently, I'm working as a UX/UI Designer at Rakuten Group, Inc. in Tokyo, building digital products for foreign users in Japan. I graduated from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in 2022, with a Bachelor's degree in Marketing.
I have been in love with Japan for as long as I can remember. However, it was only when I worked on a research project with Keio students during my high school days, that motivated me to study abroad in Japan. I was fascinated by how the students looked at the world around them and was inspired by their bravery to step out of their comfort zones and explore new lands. I wanted to give myself a chance to be brave and curious like them too, so I decided to apply to come to Japan to study.
What did you do during college?
What I put the most effort into • my most memorable experience in university
I started my own circle in my 4th year that focused on mental health called MeWe (https://www.instagram.com/apu.mewe/). We support students on campus with mental health literacy, provide peer consultations and encourage students to talk about their feelings as they deal with stress, and emotions surrounding studying abroad and balancing university.
I have done all sorts of internships since 1st year, from Advertising, Video-editing, to Digital marketing or Product management, but let me share about the internship that changed my life: mymizu (https://www.mymizu.co/)
mymizu is a social organization that combines community and technology to reduce plastic use and promote ocean conservation. We do educational workshops with companies, partners, and local governments to promote sustainable living habits. I mainly worked on the product and tech side through the water refill application. This crowd-sourced app helps you find spots to fill up your water bottles for free. You can also upload pictures and add new refill spots to our refill map. We hope more people can quit the habit of buying plastic water bottles, and together create a community for sustainable living, starting from refilling habits. I'm working on the product side, helping with designing the app and some of the features
I was the first UX Designer on the team, even though I did not have any Design experience, nor did I come from an Engineering background. mymizu saw my potential when nobody (including myself) did, and they gave me the confidence to pursue my passion and talent for UX/UI Design.
Things that I regret not doing during my university/college life
I did think about quitting school in my 1st year because I felt Business was not for me. But to be honest, I don't regret it. I don't regret anything. I think that everything happens for a reason. Because I realized I did not want to pursue Business, it made me think about what I actually wanted to do, and what I am actually good at. I think I would have regretted it more had I quit school too early (lol)
Hmm... but I do wish I had more time to have fun. I was too focused on figuring out who I was, and so I was very strategic about how I spent my time. That made me feel like I missed out on hanging out with friends or investing time in my love life, which would’ve been helpful during job hunting because it is a stressful period and you do want to have people who you trust and care for by your side.
What career advice would you recommend for job hunters?
Pursue your talent
I am not from a Design background, but that did not stop me. I knew I had a gift for it. With my Marketing background, I can understand business needs. I love creating things with different mediums, so I love fiddling with design tools or pens and paper to visualize my ideas. And finally, I have a knack for understanding user thoughts and feelings. My superpower is storytelling: I can empathize with users, talk to them from their perspective, and communicate their thoughts. With User Experience Design, I can combine my business knowledge with my passion for design, and my talent for user empathy.
It took me a while, but once I realized I excel in this domain, I was determined to pursue it to the end.
It is not easy to find a UX/UI job in Japan, especially if you are not from a technical background. Many times I could have settled for a generalist job, or to be honest, any job at all. However, I knew the value of my work, and the passion and skills I can bring, so I was determined to pursue UX/UI Design, even if I have to take a reroute.
I was teaching myself Design foundations, flying back and forth to Tokyo to network, and even doing internships in my last semester when all my friends had gotten their job offers. But I kept pushing, and with high risks, there’s a high return, because I invested in what I wanted to do and did not look back.
Although a little tip —— I would recommend preparing yourself earlier, spend 1st and 2nd years to figure out your talent, then investing the final 2 in finding the right opportunities.
What are the beneficial skills needed for working in Japan?
While this doesn’t apply in all scenarios in Japan, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. Have the charisma and build your own personal brand and have your own characteristics. Check out Annie’s TEDx Talk on personal branding here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4JbBuykHnw
Typically, you will be starting your job around the same time as other batchmates along with numerous other people in the company at the same time. Thus, it's going to be difficult to stand out if you don’t show your uniqueness. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be smarter or more talented than others, but it is about creating a strong-and-lasting impression of your charms and values. So when people need something, they will turn to you first. This builds your trust and work visibility, which are incredibly important. For example, I’m passionate about UX Design and have been doing projects and teaching it on the side. So when I shared with my manager that I want to do more UX work, he approved and encouraged me to kick-start some research. Currently, not only am I focusing on what excites me, but my team also trusts me to lead some of the projects as well.
Work Environment Rakuten
I chose Rakuten for many reasons.
First, Japan is not well-reputed for their digital product experiences. So, I wanted to work here and change that.
Second, A lot of the UX/UI positions need 3-5 years of prior working experience, so I struggled to find a job for new grads. It was difficult, but working at mymizu helped fill in the experience gap. Working there also opened up many opportunities for networking, and I was able to connect with industry leaders, who later became my mentors, and even friends.
Finally, because it was serendipity. I was introduced to an internship at Rakuten, but as a Product Manager. It was not UX/UI design, but I was curious to learn more about it. Through that internship, I met my then Design Assistant Manager, showed him my portfolio, and shared with him how passionate I am about Design, and how hard I have been practicing my Design skills. He was impressed with my dedication and eventually offered me to join the Design team. In the end, the reason I chose Rakuten was that they saw my potential and gave me an opportunity to grow. Rakuten was willing to take a risk to employ me, someone with no knowledge or experience, and so I wanted to take a risk with them as well.
Recommended Job-hunting Resource
Get yourself a mentor. It’s undeniable that students love free things. But I highly recommend investing in a mentor. The more you invest in yourself, the more you will get in return. Whether it be to pay for a consultation or to enter a networking event, those would be the best investments you can do for your future self. While there are free resources available, it is how you are leveraging those resources. Make sure you follow up with people or senpais you meet in events.
In fact, I am also offering consultation and mentorship services on request. Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/anniehoang-design/ or via her website https://www.annie-hoang.com.