I'm Viacheslav Kapilevich
Masters in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Russian / English / Japanese
I'm Viacheslav Kapilevich
Masters in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Russian / English / Japanese
About Viacheslav Kapilevich
Hello! My name is Viacheslav Kapilevich and I am from Russia. Usually, people call me Slava. I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Computer Science from Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia. Then I worked for several years in Russia, gaining experience in the IT industry, before deciding to go abroad to study again. I enjoy studying and traveling abroad. That’s why I started looking for opportunities in Asia because I had never been to any Asian countries before.
Why did I come to Japan?
Honestly, I was not aiming to go to Japan in particular, but cutting edge technologies and the cultural aspects of life in Japan got me interested. Academically, I wanted to learn something different from my previous education, so I decided to study bioinformatics. I got the opportunity to enroll in the master’s program at Osaka University with the MEXT scholarship program. I was really interested to live here and see what Japan had to offer.
What did you do during college?
Most Memorable Thing I Did during College
While I was at Osaka University, I participated in activities organized by the international student community since it was the first and only place to meet new people during the early days. I was not fluent in Japanese at all when I first got here. One of those organizations was called the Osaka University International Students Association (OUISA). It was very helpful to connect with other people and I was grateful for their support. As I grew to learn more and became used to living in Japan, I began sharing knowledge and making presentations about basic life support for freshmen on how to get phone contracts, create bank accounts and other things students would need help with. It was a nice feeling to help out others who were in the same position as I was when I first arrived.
My main focus during college, however, was to study because I had to catch up on microbiology and bioinformatics which was very different to my previous field of study. Despite the fact that the program and all the materials were provided in English, most of the students were Japanese so some lectures were conducted in Japanese. This was an additional challenge on top of filling that academic gap. Also, my classmates had a previous understanding of the subject because they took their bachelor’s in the same field therefore I had the urge to catch up in order to compete.
What I Wish I Had Done during College
Exploring more practical skills and working on side projects would be something that I would focus on more if I could turn back time. During my master’s degree, I primarily focused on research and studying even though I knew I wanted to work in the corporate world. I did not concentrate too much on practical skills but thankfully I had prior work experience back in Russia before I came to Japan.
I think companies expect you to be interested in areas beyond your research topic. One thing that I noticed during job hunting was that university graduates would often be asked about the things that they were learning on their own. In the real world, when you are trying to appeal to companies it is quite difficult to answer this question if you have no practical experience. So, the bottom line is I recommend students to decide whether they want to stay in research or go to down the path towards corporate life as early as possible and grow in the chosen direction on their own.
What career advice would you recommend for job hunters?
Try Various Ways to Look for Opportunities in Japan!
As for 就活 (shuukatsu), Japanese job-hunting, I personally would not recommend foreigners to go through the traditional Japanese job-hunting process since the system has some disadvantages for foreigners who are competing with Japanese graduates. Companies that participate in recruiting with this system often process your application amongst others, and all the selection procedures such as entry-sheets, assessment tests, and multiple interviews can be quite stressful. Sometimes I wonder whether the companies that I applied to through 説明会 (Setsumeikai), career seminars by companies, had time to look at my CV at all as there were hundreds of other applicants.
In my opinion, companies who still use traditional hiring systems might not offer a work environment that would suit foreigners. But lately, more and more companies are changing their way of recruitment.
As for my personal experience, I found LINE’s internship program on LinkedIn. I am not trying to say that you should not try the traditional way of job-hunting, but there are other alternatives that you can explore to find a job that suits you here in Japan.
Japanese Skills Opens more Doors for Engineers
For engineering majors, we may not need to concentrate as much on learning Japanese when compared to other fields which requires a high level of Japanese language ability. However, learning Japanese will surely open new opportunities for you.
Back when I was looking for internships, I received an offer from a well known Japanese research firm. I had already accepted but they rescinded the offer two weeks before my start date because the manager who was to be in charge of me was not able to speak English. It upset me that a company so famous would revoke an offer due to language capabilities. That is why even though Japanese is not the first priority for engineering students, keep in mind that being able to communicate in the local language will open more doors and may eventually lead to greater opportunities.
Enrich Yourself with Internships
I strongly encourage students to do internships before graduation because it will not only help your finances but it is the best way to get to know about the corporate world while you are still in school. Some companies are interested in getting students for internships and willing to pay because it is the easiest way to tell whether a person is good at what he or she does. Unlike somebody who has prior work experience, it is difficult for fresh graduates to show that they are good at something because they have no track record which shows potential. Internships allow you to learn new things and are ultimately an opportunity to get a job because companies see them as a legitimate working experience that can enrich the resume.
What are the beneficial skills needed for working in Japan?
Have that "Always Want to Grow " Mentality
I sometimes participate in hiring activities for LINE, and an interesting fact has become clear to me over time. When we are evaluating candidates, of course we consider technical skill, but also key characteristics such as the desire to learn more. Even for senior engineers, aside from the experience required by the job description, interest in learning is something we value. In a fresh graduate’s case, this is something very important. Showing your passion and the ability to learn on your own is something to take note of for students. Learning proactively is one of the elements a candidate should have if they want to work in an innovative company.
Learn to Adapt
For foreigners, the ability to fit in and adapt is something useful to have in Japan. Being a foreigner here requires more adaptability in terms of cultural tolerance especially when you work in an international company. Even in LINE, there are some things that are done differently compared to western companies in terms of business processes but being able to adapt and make the best out of things will make your time more enjoyable. If you cannot adapt well, then you might be hard to talk to and might cause trouble for the team and even yourself.
What does a Software Engineer Do?
I am a software engineer for LINE and the division I am placed in is called Development Center 1 which is affiliated with the development of the LINE Messenger application itself. Currently, I am working on the back-end development of the LINE Home Tab project which is the tab on the left of the application where your contacts are. My particular team is called the Shop Team which consists of more foreign members than Japanese nationals. We are responsible for the development of various features for the LINE Sticker Shop, such as the creation of new stickers, custom stickers which allow users to put their text into stickers, sticker subscriptions, and various campaigns.
One of the biggest projects I personally participated in was the annual LINE New Year Campaign / 「LINEのお年玉」キャンペーン project as one of the core developers. During this campaign, users could purchase special stickers and exchange them with their friends to win prizes at the beginning of January. The traffic we receive at midnight is significantly higher than the average traffic rate. In 2019, more than 2,000 products were made for this campaign including LINE official stickers, LINE Creators stickers and LINE official emoji. LINE official stickers and emoji were made in collaboration with companies like Disney, Ghibli, and other official partners.
Being an Engineer for LINE Corporation
For engineers, it is common to say that the job does not finish when you go home. Maintaining an interest in technology and continuing to learn is necessary for an engineer because you always need to grow. It may be a characteristic in many other professions but since IT experiences such rapid growth, it is one of the most important challenges for the job. Personally, I also like to get into the management side of the business as well when I have a chance. There are many challenges for me such as communication with other teams like business planning, and project risk assessment, but LINE is a good place to be because these experiences are difficult to find when you are not working for a big, innovative company.
Working here, with LINE being one of the main means of communication in Japan, is a huge responsibility. With millions of users opening the application every second, tasks which may otherwise be considered relatively easy become very challenging and interesting. This level of scale makes all the engineering processes more complicated in terms of analysis, planning, testing, and deployment. The best part of the job is witnessing actual users using the app right next to you when you are on your commute. Having everyone inside the train car use the application you develop is an unbeatable feeling.
Work Environment LINE Corporation
I would not say LINE is a Japanese company in terms of working culture. About 40% of our engineers are international employees. We also have flex working hours, a free dress code and organization system without a strict hierarchy and with freedom of speech. I find that really helpful because I’m able to share my ideas with people in higher ranks, rather than being told “you’re just an engineer”. It still feels a little bit “startup-y” in a good sense, which is mostly in terms of communication because in my division I actually work closely with cross-division departments like the business planning team or LINE family services like LINE Manga. Working in this environment, I feel like we are encouraged to speak up frankly with colleagues.
Can't Speak the Language? No Problem
The three major languages within LINE are English, Japanese and Korean. We have interpreters within the company and also use chatbots to automatically translate our messages. For example, if I send a chat message to a Korean engineer in English, the message will automatically be translated and sent in Korean, and vice-versa. When you need an in-house interpreter to have a small meeting, we can book one for that occasion to help with translation of dialogue, documents, and presentations into the preferred language. There are employees in LINE who cannot speak Japanese but it is not a problem. LINE provides Japanese, Korean and English language classes for our employees who want to learn more and improve communication. LINE is committed to supporting international talent and we do our best to minimize any language barrier present in the work environment.