Wild Geese: ‘My biggest opportunity is about experiencing the wider world’

For computer science graduate Dave Cahill, even after three years the shine hasn’t worn off and Tokyo is still ‘the best city in the world’

Dave Cahill: “It’s a fascinating country if you’re willing to spend a lot of time learning the language”

Dave Cahill: “It’s a fascinating country if you’re willing to spend a lot of time learning the language”

 

In 2014, computer science graduate Dave Cahill joined the newly opened Tokyo office of online recruitment search site Indeed. One of his early roles as senior software engineer was training in the new recruits for his department as the company grew from eight to more than 100 engineers in just over a year.

Shepherding newcomers still forms part of his job, but his key responsibilities now focus on troubleshooting and building new features for the site.

Indeed is based in the heart of Tokyo on the 32nd floor of the Ebisu Garden Place Tower with views of Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji, and Cahill just loves living there.

“Even after three years, the shine hasn’t worn off. I still think it’s the best city in the world,” he says. “People are extremely kind and thoughtful and everything works very smoothly. Public transport is punctual and easy to use and service in shops and restaurants is impeccable.

“There are four very distinct seasons, with a summer that is always reliably warm – which is very nice after Ireland’s unpredictable summer weather. I also love the language and studied fairly hard to get the highest level of Japanese language certification.”

When the Cahills moved to Japan first, they lived in a typically tiny Tokyo apartment. However, with the arrival of baby Eva 18 months ago, Cahill and his wife Charlotte, a freelance graphic designer, moved to get more space.

“We’re still very close to the centre and can be there in a matter of minutes, but we now live in a quiet residential area with a Western-style apartment and it’s really nice,” Cahill says.

Cahill originally moved to Japan in 2012 to work with virtual networking start-up Midokura. He had previously worked with Accenture in Dublin before moving to rural Japan for a year to teach English as part of the Japan exchange and teaching programme. Cahill and his wife loved Japan and, when their year was up, they came back to Ireland but always dreamed of returning.

Online services

DemonwareCall of Duty Guitar Hero

“Since I joined Indeed in April 2014, we have grown at a very fast pace and Indeed now has sites in more than 50 countries and 28 languages,” he says.

“My work is varied and involves developing and optimising the company pages section of the site – which gives jobseekers information about companies and what it’s like to work there – and I’m currently also working on improving and maintaining the systems that support sponsored jobs.

“This allows employers to promote their jobs in much the same way as companies advertise their sites on Google.”

Indeed works through English so Cahill says the culture shock has been minimal in that respect. What has surprised him, however, are some of the other practices that are acceptable in Japan.

“Falling asleep at work is considered fine because people in some companies work very long hours and need to catch up on sleep,” he says.

“Even falling asleep during meetings is okay but, for someone used to the Irish or American way of working, it’s quite a shock when a member of your client’s team falls asleep when you’re presenting to them.”

Cahill has adapted well to living and working in Japan, not least because he put a huge effort into perfecting his language skills.

“There are several levels of politeness and the highest level of politeness (which is the norm for dealing with clients) is quite difficult for foreigners to grasp,” he says.

“I enjoy the language and, when I moved to Tokyo in 2012, I wanted to challenge myself to get better quickly. So when an opportunity came up to present to about 100 Japanese engineers in Japanese at a tech community meet-up, I decided to throw my hat into the ring and volunteer for the job.

“People were pretty surprised but I went through with it and all went well. That said, it is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

Cahill particularly likes the ethos at Indeed, which is owned by the giant Japanese HR group, Recruit.

“In software engineering specifically, the norm in Japan is for engineers to move fairly quickly into management, leading to a lack of engineers with long experience,” he says.

“It has been quite inspiring to see how Indeed is so passionate about changing this culture and providing a place where great software engineers can continue to work on software and improve their skills.”

Irish opportunities

“I loved working for Demonware and there are many other very exciting tech companies in Ireland at the moment, including Indeed. Given that, I think the biggest opportunity I’m getting by working abroad is really about experiencing the wider world.

“There are definitely companies in Japan where you can work through English and have a similar atmosphere to Ireland,” Cahill adds, “but the vast majority will be very different, with a fairly strict hierarchy and will require a high level of competency in Japanese.

“It’s a fascinating country if you’re willing to spend a lot of time learning the language, but I’m not convinced it offers significantly better work experience than Ireland.”

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