I'm based in Japan (originally from the US) and have been working my first ever front end web dev job since 2015.

Due to bad, outdated practices in my current company I want to change jobs, but am concerned about my unfamiliarity with how modern, proper tech companies operate and what might be needed to change quickly and successfully. I've been Too complacent for too long.

I'll get right into it: I've been working as a front end web developer since 2015 and it has in fact been my first job in the industry. I'm originally from the US, but am now based in Japan (been here since 2012).

We'll start this one positively:

The place I'm working isn't a full-fledged tech company, but rather they just have a "creative division" where we make/maintain the companies' sites (some 80-100 of them).
When I joined, it was exciting to actually use my computer skills in an actual job. I was able to pick up good HTML and CSS practices.
Later on, I picked up PHP and MySQL which I had never done before. A lot of it was self study and looking at existing company projects. Lately I've really been refining my JS, too (also self-study, occasionally implement in company projects).

Above all, the experience of working in a Japanese company also got my Japanese speaking/listening/reading up there.

However, I've been quite frustrated with the company and their practices and have wanted to leave for a while. I've been too complacent for far too long. If it weren't for the work visa, I'd just leave and look for work after getting out of there.

Their turnover rate is high company-wide. The creative division I'm in used to be like 8-9 people and is now down to 3. (No hires in the past 6+ months.) I won't go into all the reasons, but in a nutshell: they want too much and give (way) too little.

The thing that pushed me over the edge was last July I was going to negotiate and was expecting a (long overdue) pay increase, but they instead did the opposite with the response of "we can negotiate again in 6 months" (absolute unnecessary, arbitrary length of time) and ¥2,500 deduction (money issue excuse). I almost walked out right then and there, but again, the visa situation.

Apart from that, I've been looking more at what the tech industry is supposed to be like and they definitely don't seem to operate like tech companies in the modern age and have a lot of bad practices.

To clarify:

●Unnecessarily rushed, unrealistic time tables tending to lead to garbage, difficult to maintain code. They're way too focused on getting things rushed out there.

●Pretty much no "team", but rather 3 guys working independently. They don't have a clear, unified way of doing sites so whenever edits need to be made on someone else's site (this includes sites made by people who left), many files need to be checked just to figure out how things were made.

●Adding to the above, they don't use any version control, but instead we FTP into the sites, make backups on the server, and then overwrite whatever files were edited. Before working on a file, we have to check the dates to see if we have the newest file. Looking back on this, it's actually incredible that this system has worked from back when they had 8+ people in the division.

●No remote work option for me, but others DO have it. In a recent meeting, I overheard them saying that "if new hires want it, they can have it". No reason I need to be in the office for this kind of work.

●No desire to at least try to implement newer tech. A lot of their stuff is on old PHP and they won't upgrade to PHP 7 because it's "too much of a time-consuming pain". I honestly don't mind PHP, just wish the newer versions were usable. I also am digging Node.js which I've been doing my own independent things.

●Coupled with the above, most sites tend to use bad, oudated frameworks like Smarty.

●Unpaid overtime (which I won't do; others do do it, so they can get away with it) with a vague "if you do good work, you may be compensated extra in the future". (You can guess how often that happens)

●National holidays are not paid vacation like in other companies.

So, that's the gist of things and why I am trying to change.

From what I've seen, there are far better jobs out there. My main concern is that this is my first job in the industry and don't have any experience changing jobs.
I can do the work, I just feel like the lack of advancement in the current job, its outdated practices, and my unfamiliarity with how modern companies operate might hurt my chances. I know age discrimination can be a thing, too.

So in your opinions, what would you recommend for changing and, as they say in Japan, leveling my career up? I do have the 5 years of experience and have been self-taught since way before that too.

It seems that a portfolio is needed. I never heard of needing anything like this until recently, so I've been putting together something locally. It's been fun. I'll have to figure out how to get it hosted.

What else would you recommend?

  • 1
    Welcome to the Workplace -- thanks for asking a question. You'll probably get more answers if you 1) edit down the question to the bare minimum relevant detail (we don't need 8-10 reasons/examples of why you want to leave your job) and 2) focus on a specific question ("What else would you recommend?" is broad and has no real definitive answer). Perhaps outline some things you specifically worry about, and what answers there might be.
    – mcknz
    Nov 21 '20 at 4:02
  • Joe Strazzere Yes, I am.
    – Sivak
    Nov 24 '20 at 12:57

If you aren't happy and think it's a crappy company (regardless of specific reasons) then find a way to move on. The visa makes it more complicated in your situation, but you still need to do it.

It is hard moving from your first job after working there for so long. I worked at my first company for 9 years. Moving on was not easy, but I'm glad I did. My only regret is taking a counter offer and not moving on sooner.

I've been too complacent for far too long

Trust me, the longer you stay, the worse it will get and the harder it will be to leave and find a new job.

I recommend start applying for other jobs, and find out what common interview processes are like in your area. Then you can either focus on producing what's needed such as upskilling, creating a portfolio, or practicing silly leetcode style questions.

It seems that a portfolio is needed. I never heard of needing anything like this until recently

A lot of social media / twitter / youtube videos are full of marketeers (disguised as developers) to gain followers or sell you something... Their target audience is mostly junior developers looking for their first job. A portfolio can help them, but not so useful for an experienced developer.

Never once in my 12+ years working in tech between UK and US have I NEEDED one. Unless you're a Designer companies don't care, and just want you to take their interview tests instead.

A portfolio can help, as a small embellishment, but almost not worth the effort if you have proven experience instead. (Maybe it's different in Japan)

As an experienced developer, a portfolio may even hurt. To make an impact it would need to be extremely impressive.

  • 1
    Hello. First off, thanks for reading/replying. Yes, I am focused on getting out there. No question. Regarding the portfolio: the fact that it was requested in application e-mails several times is what finally prompted me to do it. I'm going to do it multilingual to prove my language ability. The company I'm at isn't really run like a proper tech company, so despite having 5 years, companies might not see it as such...
    – Sivak
    Nov 22 '20 at 1:57
  • I'm very confused by the "portfolio" thing. Are you more of a designer than an actual programmer? Have you been "accidentally" so to speak been applying for more design-a-website jobs than programming jobs per se?
    – Fattie
    Nov 22 '20 at 14:30
  • If they ask for one then that's what you've got to provide. Personally I'm a back-end developer. I maintain a portfolio of my work, mainly code examples however, every place I've interviewed for weren't interested in seeing it. They just wanted me to take their technical test, and if you pass + they think you're a good match for their culture you get the job.... Also as a front-end or back-end, a portfolio could just be a code repository. If you provide a portfolio website or similar you may get judged based on the design - which you probably don't want.
    – flexi
    Nov 22 '20 at 14:54
  • 1
    Regarding the portfolio, I've applied to a few places and the ones who didn't outright reject the application actually asked for a portfolio. The first time, I just said I didn't have one and sent some links to example sites. Once portfolio got mentioned again, I just decided to make one because it seems companies just want it. I applied to jobs focused on front and back end and nothing pertaining to design was in the descriptions.
    – Sivak
    Nov 24 '20 at 13:02
  1. I've never heard of a "portfolio" for programmers. (You may have some confusion since you work with designers, who usually have "portfolios".) So totally set aside that notion, forget it.

  2. You need nothing, at all, other than your resume. I have never, in my life, hired anyone based on anything other than a half-page PDF resume, nor have I ever been hired or scored a contract or project with anything other than that.

  3. I would actually urge you to just go work in the US for 6 months or a year. You'll be able to get a job in the US trivially. (Not to mention the excellent advantage of speaking Japanese.) You can easily return to Japan if/when you want. If you have a family there or whatever, staying the US awhile should be a non-issue for the sake of your all-important career.

  4. As everyone has said, "just go take another job". My guess is you are looking for "something you need" to go ahead; the good news is there's nothing you need, just go ahead. This afternoon.

  5. A problem you face is "trapped by a visa". I honestly direct you to Point 3. The months it will take you f'ing about with visas, you could have drastically advanced your career in the US anyway in those months.

Also, note that you could indeed do this:

  • This afternoon, quit and politely say goodbye
  • In the AM fly to the US. Stay with your folks, a friend or whatever
  • Take a job. This will be easy with five years of experience and a very long list of sites/apps you have programmed
  • Inevitably ....the job will be remote
  • After a month or two, you can mention to them "Oh, I'll be staying at my flat in Japan for awhile, but I'll stay on your timezone"

Depending on yoru visa situation / marriage condition or whatever, you can then be living in Japan again.


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