I'm Tran Ba Trong
System Engineer - Sun Asterisk / CTO -Tenanta
Bachelor of Information Technology
Japanese / English / Vietnamese
I'm Tran Ba Trong
System Engineer - Sun Asterisk / CTO -Tenanta
Bachelor of Information Technology
Japanese / English / Vietnamese
About Tran Ba Trong
Hi my name is Trong and I’m from Vietnam. I first studied for my undergraduate degree at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST). I joined the HEDSPI program, which is offered by HUST, right after passing my university exams which allowed me to study Japanese. In 2011 I came to Japan by chance because I received a scholarship from the HEDSPI program, and transferred to Ritsumeikan University in Shiga Prefecture. It was like a dream come true for me. I was able to study and got to enjoy life in Japan. I studied at Ritsumeikan for 2 years, and in 2013 I went back to Vietnam to work at Sun Asterisk, a Japanese IT company in Vietnam.
Personally I didn't have any job-hunting experience, because thanks to the HEDSPI program I joined, which was specialized for bridge system engineers (BrSEs), my final project became very popular, and about 10 offers came from various companies. 7 years ago, it was very rare to see a Vietnamese IT engineer fluent in Japanese, so it was the perfect timing for me. Rather than finding a job, the job actually found me. Going to a Japanese company that was also based in Vietnam was a good decision for me because since 3 years ago I was able to come back to Japan and work at Sun Asterisk.
What did you do during college?
Most Memorable Thing I Did During College
I think throughout my college life I was a pretty normal student, however, one of my proudest achievements was when I got the scholarship to go to Japan and study at Ritsumeikan University. Those 2 years that I had the opportunity to go to Japan really changed my life. Even though going to Japan was exciting and like a dream, it was very hard for me. At that time my Japanese skills were not very good, maybe I would say very bad. And it was really tough for me because all the lectures at the university were held in Japanese. During those years, I had to really catch up to the other students and try to pass all my classes.
Besides study, I also had many fond memories of time as a university student in Japan. I had part-time jobs and also traveled around Japan, going around the Kansai area and to Tokyo a few times. It was a happy time for me. I also joined some circles, which included badminton and soccer. The badminton club was actually part of the Vietnamese community I was in. Because there are a large number of Vietnamese people living in Japan, I got to join the local community and meet many friends. The soccer club I played in was with Japanese students, which helped me practice my Japanese language skills.
What I Wish I Had Done during College
Like I said previously, my student life could be considered very normal; I studied and went to school like everyone else. One thing I wish I could’ve done is to find part-time jobs/internships that were more related to what I studied or the job that I currently have. My university was located in Shiga, so I didn’t have much chance to do jobs relating to my field, so I decided to choose normal part-time jobs, like working in a convenience store. I was not able to gain any skills related to my field from those part-time jobs, but I did earn money. I had some friends who got part-time jobs/internships related to IT in Osaka or Tokyo, and all of them had a head-start against other students right after they graduated university.
What career advice would you recommend for job hunters?
In many job interviews, you will be asked about your own plus and minus points. Some people think these questions don’t make sense. But, in my opinion, I think it’s very important to know. Having the skill to self-analyze and being able to recognize where you’re lacking and what you’re good at will help you a lot when you make a career/future decision. This is especially helpful when deciding what kind of career you want to have in the future. When looking for a job you should identify your biggest advantage and then choose a job in which you can use those advantages.
Self-analysis all depends on each person. In Japanese, they would usually say “人によると,” which means every person will be different. In my case, this is how I did my self-analysis: I’m Vietnamese so I have native Vietnamese language skills. I graduated from a university in Japan and I could speak a bit of Japanese at the time when I was looking for a job. And lastly, because I’m an IT graduate, I have knowledge and skills in IT. Based on that self-analysis, I chose a job as a BrSE. The job required me to become a bridge between the Vietnamese development team and the Japanese client. So I can use my Vietnamese to communicate with the development team and use Japanese with the client, while at the same time improving my IT skills. After 5 years of doing this work, I now have better IT skills and can focus more on my IT skills than my Vietnamese language skills while working. Like I said before, I understood my biggest advantage, developed it, and then used it in my career. If you can do the same thing, you’ll be a “superman” in your career life.
Career Advice for Vietnamese students
Currently, Vietnamese students that are able to speak Japanese are very popular and are sought after by Japanese companies in Vietnam. My advice for Vietnamese students currently studying in Japan is to go back home first after you graduate, and when you become more experienced and have better skills, then go back to Japan. In my opinion, after graduating from university, if you immediately start working in a Japanese company it can be very hard. Because your Japanese skills may not be fluent, you might not work in the place you want. If you go back home you can develop your skills first, and then come back to Japan as a skilled worker.
What are the beneficial skills needed for working in Japan?
Have A Strong Japanese Language Proficiency
As a foreigner, I think communication skills, especially your Japanese language ability is a must. You really need Japanese. Even if you can speak English at a native level, it will not be as helpful if you can’t speak the local language. Working in a Japanese company or a company in Japan means you’re likely going to work with Japanese people. Furthermore, business operations are mostly related to Japanese clients so being able to speak Japanese at a fluent level will be of help for a fruitful career.
There are times when foreign IT engineers in Japan say that Japanese isn’t that important, because what’s most important is your skillset. It’s true that just being an IT engineer doesn’t require Japanese ability, however if you speak Japanese fluently, more opportunities will come to you. For example, if I didn’t speak Japanese I wouldn’t have the chance to become a chief technical officer (CTO) of Sun Asterisk’s portfolio company called Tenanta. As a CTO, Japanese is required to talk with other management heads and discuss how they want to develop their services, and also research various things about the business that they work in. If you can speak Japanese, you won’t just be following orders, you’ll also be communicating and working with people to make a bigger impact in the company than if you didn’t speak Japanese.
Be A Team Player!
Having the right skills is helpful for your career and of course the more skills you master the better, but the ability to work as a team is the most important quality to have. Right after you graduate university, it’s likely that you don’t have much experience yet compared to experienced workers. What you can try to do best is to become a team player. Especially working in a foreign country like Japan, understanding their customs and how people interact will definitely help make your first years of working smoother. In my opinion, a team is like a rainbow, and each member is an individual color. I'm the color green, and you may not like green, but as my role is important, together inside a beautiful rainbow of other colours you might like me and see my value.
What does a System Engineer - Sun Asterisk / CTO -Tenanta Do?
To put it simply, I am an IT system engineer for Sun Asterisk. However, because of the new business that Sun Asterisk keeps getting I am also the CTO for a startup company we invest in called Tenanta. Currently, Sun Asterisk’s newest service called “Startup Studio” provides services where we help different startups. Right now there are 20 other startup companies that we are supporting all over Japan and Vietnam. Usually, when companies invest or support startup companies, they would only give monetary support. However, at Sun Asterisk, we also give these companies human resources, aka provide people to help their business. Other things we support include: financial advising; marketing; service development support; a workplace office. We also provide these startups with connections to help them grow.
Being a CTO is a hard job. Despite my background as an IT engineer, I also have to pay attention to overall business and contribute to the company in every field. Being part of a startup really helps my understanding about how to start a business, which I really enjoy doing.
Work Environment Sun Asterisk
Being A Crucial Part Of Progress
8 years working for a company can be long. To be able to stay that long in a company, you can tell if it is a good company or not, and find out its many good or bad points. Sun Asterisk is a Japanese company that’s also in Vietnam. In Vietnam we have around 1300 workers. Currently, Sun Asterisk is one of the biggest Japanese IT companies in Vietnam. When I first joined the company it only had 30 people, and now I’m one of the people who witnessed how fast the company has grown in the last 7 years. Right now I’m not in a high position where I’m the CEO or CTO of Sun Asterisk, but I can say that more than half of the staff in Sun Asterisk know my name. I believe the reason why I can keep my career at this business for a long time is because colleagues recognize the values I bring to this company. Being recognized and remembered by colleagues is one of the driving forces in my career.
This company has also impacted me as a professional. As the company has kept on changing, they don’t want to stay the same and want to keep evolving. With that company mindset, I also follow them with the same vision. As the company grows, the staff also grow as professionals. If the company only outsourced its work without changing anything, I would quit, because there would be nothing new for me. In the first 5 years, I worked with the medical team, so I had to research many things in the medical field. But after 5 years I shifted to working with coding. After that, the company gave me the chance to be the first Vietnamese engineer here at Sun Asterisk in Japan because I can speak Japanese fluently now.
Proactivity is Fundamental
Sun Asterisk’s atmosphere is still similar to a startup company, despite having more than 1000 employees. I stay in this company because working here is definitely not a normal boring job. During my 1st year here I learned a lot from my colleagues, and in the 2 years after that I learned how to work as a BrSE with Japanese clients. After coming back to Japan I then started work with the Startup Studios team.
I would say that our company is a bit strange because you cannot expect anything normal on a daily basis. At Sun Asterisk, if you wait for someone to tell you what to do, then this company is not for you. Proactivity is fundamental in our working culture. Each person has to think about what they should do and give their ideas as a team member, because at Sun Asterisk, people will not tell you what to do.
Global Vision, Global Team
We have 3 offices in Vietnam, an office in Singapore and also in Tokyo, so we’re a very international company. Some people say that when you’re a foreigner working in Japan you will not be seen as an outsider and not Japanese, so people don’t recruit you, and vice versa. However, this situation doesn’t happen at Sun Asterisk. You can be Japanese, Vietnamese, Russian, or any other nationality, but we see everyone as the same and equal.
When a company is located in different places, sometimes it’s completely different from each other. However, Sun Asterisk in Vietnam and Sun Asterisk in Japan is the same. Of course, there are some cultural aspects that are different, but the way we work together as a team is the same. If you move to a job at Sun Asterisk in Singapore or any other country, it’ll be exactly the same. Our CEO, Kobayashi (insert last name) goes back and forth from Vietnam and Japan to make sure things are going well in both locations. Based on my experience, people feel very comfortable when talking to our CEO, and can often talk directly to him.