I'm Maxwell Forrest
Bachelor of Media Design
English / Japanese / Korean
I'm Maxwell Forrest
Bachelor of Media Design
English / Japanese / Korean
About Maxwell Forrest
I was born and raised in Sydney where I had many Japanese friends. During that time, I always felt like my personality was well suited to Japanese culture. Later on, I got involved in the Japanese community in Sydney, started studying Japanese at age 10 and eventually decided to go to a high school exchange to Japan at the age of 16. I’ve always enjoyed living here and loved that people here are reserved and respectful, which led me to move to Japan when I was 18 years old.
What did you do during college?
The most memorable thing I did during college
During my time as a college student, I enjoyed working more than studying, so I spent my university days working part-time at numerous Japanese companies. Some of these jobs were internships, but some others were アルバイト. It was a great way to gain experience in different roles and environments and gave me a good understanding of what kind of role and working environment would suit me.
Other than internships in IT companies, one of the first part-time jobs I had was selling electronics in Yodobashi Camera (Electronic appliances store). During that time, I learned and practiced using Keigo (an honorific form of Japanese) to speak with customers. Through the experience, I learned that Keigo is actually not as hard when you are able to memorize all the phrases. Until today, I still use it for my work, as I deal with people as a researcher.
Internships are a great way to learn about yourself and what you want to do in the future. Other than that, I was able to make use of the knowledge I gained from my internships for my university work. For my graduation project, I was able to create an e-learning software.
What I wish I had done during college
Experiencing college life in other countries would be something I would do if I could rewind the clock. In college, I studied Korean and wanted to go on an exchange program to a Korean university. But in the end, I prioritized my work and internships. I think it is valuable to experience college life outside of Japan. Japanese university life is unique - it is where you find yourself and have fun. I think it would be a good experience to study in a university outside of Japan because universities outside of Japan focus more on specialized education.
What career advice would you recommend for job hunters?
Know what you want
While it is a common practice in Japan for new graduates to choose companies based on their popularity or name value, I personally think it is more important to find a company that has a mission and values that align with your own. This will make it easier to get hired and also make the work more enjoyable.
Participating in long term internships is one way to find out what sort of companies suit you, and I also recommend using sites like OpenWork to see what employees are saying about their companies (and NewsPicks has some great articles and infographics about certain jobs and industries!). I think what some students don't realize is, internships are another method to find a job. If you do well during an internship, there will usually be an opportunity to join the company as a 新卒.
Be Confident and Sell Yourself
Being able to find your strengths, and sell yourself is crucial in job hunting. I think that people, especially from western countries, are used to practicing this from a young age, but Japanese students have trouble. So how exactly do we sell ourselves? We should be able to explain why we should be hired, and as a foreigner in Japan, having an international perspective and being bilingual could be used as an advantage. Remember to take advantage of the fact that you stand out as a foreigner.
What are the beneficial skills needed for working in Japan?
Japanese is important
I think that as long as you can speak Japanese, there isn’t much of a difference in the skills that are needed to work here compared to other countries. You need to be aware of what skills you can offer, and find a place where you can make use of those skills. For example, good communication skills are essential for my work, as I need to get feedback from users.
Keeping an International Perspective
I believe that being bilingual and having an international perspective is always an asset. One of the reasons why the company hires you is because you are able to bring a different perspective. While you might feel pressured to conform to the company culture, remember that sharing your perspective is important too. Although I don’t use English in my work currently, I am able to keep up to date with the latest trends in my industry in English and share this information internally.
What does an UX Researcher Do?
What does a UX researcher do
I’ve always loved building technology and apps, while another passion that I had was solving problems. Through my work, I learned about design thinking - a process for creative problem solving which leads to innovative products. I then discovered the role of UX Researcher, which allows me to combine my passions and make use of design thinking to improve people’s lives with technology.
My company makes one of Japan’s most popular economic news apps. As a UX researcher, I am the bridge between our users and our product team. I spend a lot of time talking to users about how they use our app in their everyday lives and then work with engineers and designers to make changes and improvements to increase user satisfaction.
Work Environment Uzabase
A unique way of getting the position
NewsPicks has always been one of my favorite apps to use even before entering the company, due to their high-quality articles, infographics, and video content. However, I had noticed that there was room for improvement in the user experience. I wanted to be part of the company to help develop the app to become better. However, there was no position advertised for UX Researcher. So I initially applied for the position of UI Designer.
Fortunately, my interviewer was also interested in UX Research and took a chance on hiring me as their first researcher. I faced many challenges when getting started, and spent a lot of time reading articles from people around the world in similar situations. I was particularly motivated by Google’s philosophy - “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” (“ユーザーに焦点を絞れば、他のものはみな後からついてくる”). This is similar to one of Uzabase’s rules, “ユーザーの理想から始める” which means “Thrill the User”.
Currently, I still face various challenges working as a UX researcher, seeing as the job is still very new to Japan. In other Asian countries like China and South Korea, companies recognize the importance of UX, but it is still challenging to convince Japanese companies of the need to invest in user experience.
Working at Uzabase
I chose to work at NewsPicks because I believe in the product and identified with the company values. Our app offers a new way to read the news, with comments and perspectives from experts that encourage users to think for themselves about how they interpret information. We also have a team of reporters that do investigative journalism, which is quite rare in Japan.
“経済情報で世界を変える”, or in English, “We guide business people to insights that change the world”, is our company mission. This mission statement really resonated with me. I think that providing reliable information is incredibly important, and NewsPicks is a service that encourages information literacy. We help empower people in Japan, and that’s why I really like working here.
NewsPicks is a subsidiary of Uzabase, a company with one of the most open and progressive working environments in Japan. This means that I have the freedom to work whenever and wherever I like, and the flat organizational structure means that I am often working directly with the executive team. This degree of freedom is also challenging as it requires great self-discipline and motivation.
In my opinion, Uzabase is one of the most progressive workplaces in Japan. The environment is very open and everyone has complete freedom to design their work and how they do it. We have a flat hierarchy and the culture highlights the importance of recognizing everyone’s unique qualities and strengths - making it a great place to work.
This also includes entry-level new hires or 新卒, who are also given this freedom and responsibility from day 1. One reason for this is that we don't hire many 新卒. It’s similar to the recruitment process in the US or other countries, where people are hired for specialized roles as necessary. Regardless of your background or level of experience, to work at Uzabase you need to be able to demonstrate your skills and how you can personally contribute to the company mission.
Recommended Job-hunting Resource
NewsPicks / Wantedly /OpenWork