So. 2020 is over. That uh…. that could have gone better.
I honestly have no idea what to say about this year. It sucked. It sucked for me personally on a huge number of levels, and I don’t think many others would say anything different.
I went into 2020 with a huge amount of excitement. After 5 months of interviews in 2019, I had received hiring approval for an engineering role at Google Tokyo. In preparation, in order to detach from my time at Mercari, I decided to resign at the end of the year to take a bit of a sabbatical where I could relax and catch up on my side projects.
January was an absolutely amazing time. I traveled to Singapore to attend iOS Conf SG, and I was even able to sneak into Google Singapore HQ to meet some of my Google recruiters in person. Little did I know that that would be my last regular conference after that.
February was also a tremendous amount of fun. I was able to attend my first Star Trek convention in Tokyo, and even get to visit Kojima Productions when some friends were in town.
A lot of conferences were lined up that year. I signed up for try! Swift, Merpay’s Conference and pixiv in February alone. Unfortunately, the risk of COVID-19 started in Japan in February and it took off incredibly quickly. Pretty much all conferences were canceled, or the ones that had already committed ran in very limited fashion.
Unfortunately, March was when things started looking like they were about to go out of control. I’m always very wary about my health in Japan since the language barrier and access to health (despite the fact they’re really good) are still not as good as the established facilities I have in Australia.
I decided to head back to Australia in March, at the encouragement of my parents. The idea was I could stay in Perth for a little while, with far better access to hospitals if needed, and then head back to Japan when we had a better picture of what would happen. I didn’t need to quarantine when I got back, but I did so anyway, just to be on the safe side. Mandatory quarantining came in just after I came back.
Sadly, at the start of April, Japan enacted an extremely draconian travel ban. No one except for Japanese citizens (Not even working residents like me) would be allowed back in. Suddenly I got stuck in Australia, with no word of when I could go back to Japan.
But it still wasn’t so bad. It was great to be back in touch with my family, and all my friends in Perth. While we were in lockdown for the first few weeks, thanks to the amazing work of our premier, Perth returned to normality very quickly.
I managed to set up a great working environment in Perth, and was really happy to be able to continue participating in the global iOS developer community. I taught a workshop at try! Swift World, hosted some talks, and did some presentations for local iOS meetups.
Up until that point, I had also kept in regular contact with my Google recruiters as well. They were very diligent in keeping me up-to-date with the current status of the role I was going for. Unfortunately, a little bit after that, I received some bad news from them:
Due to the pandemic, Google had enacted a hiring freeze, and as a result, my position was removed from the Tokyo office. My job offer officially got rescinded, and the recruiters cut all ties with me.
Um, so yeah. Easy come, easy go. I officially joined a very select crew with the title of “Fired from Google before even getting hired by Google.”. It sucked, but it was the unfortunate reality of the economic downturn this year. And I later heard a lot of the other big companies ended up doing the same. Unfortunately, at that point, with my job prospects in Japan dashed, and my visa eligibility and savings dwindling, I had to make a decision on what to do.
So. In the middle of the year, I basically set myself a deadline. I would spend 3 months looking for a new job in Tokyo. No compromises on quality; the company would have to be on par with Google, but still out of Japan. If no jobs came forward, I would throw in the towel and figure out how to pull out of Japan remotely.
So, I set my LinkedIn to “Need a job in Tokyo ASAP. Come at me kudasai”, and hoped for the best.
It was certainly a weird landscape this year. Most companies had done a hiring freeze, so only a few big companies were hiring. And unfortunately what that meant in practice was that TONNES of recruiters ended up contacting me representing the same firm over and over. I tried for a few companies. Some Japanese, some American with presence in Japan. Sadly, the main experience I had was I would spend a non-trivial amount of time on a code exam, only to be told “Sorry. Your application was rejected. We can’t say why”, which is super draining. I really hope companies realise this and try and
At the same time, I also started experimenting with doing freelance work out of Perth. I helped out some friends from Realm times in writing an introduction to Bluetooth tech on iOS, as well as helping a music production friend in Melbourne produce some animated visuals for a video game soundtrack.
Certainly I had a fantastic time doing this sort of work. Despite how financially unstable commissioned work is, the amount of flexibility and variety is really really nice. Certainly if I ever return to Perth, I’m keeping it in mind. 😀
Anyway, throughout job hunting in Tokyo, multiple recruiters contacted me about a company called Drivemode. I was super skeptical of Drivemode at the start since it had someone slipped under my radar the entire time I was living in Japan. But looking at their website, they looked exactly like the same environment I had at Realm, which I was really excited to see. So I told the first recruiter I’d love to jump at it. Unfortunately, the first recruiter told me not to even bother with them because they’d want someone not stuck out of Japan. So I initially wrote them off. However, when a second recruiter reached out to me about them, they proposed I try just in case and see what happens. And the rest is history.
It’s now the end of the year. Absolutely nothing I had set out to do this year ended up happening, and I felt like I ended up I completely lost control throughout it.
But. All throughout this year, it was so nice to be able to spend it with my friends and family in Perth. Certainly this was the year where we all needed support the most, so I was really happy to be back here. So while this year ended up not being the outcome I was originally intending, I am, very thankfully, happy.
I think I learned a fair few lessons this year. But to boil them all down, simply, my biggest take away is never assume anything. I passed on some really interesting opportunities in January because I assumed Google was happening. And I nearly passed on Drivemode because we assumed they wouldn’t consider someone out of the country. This was certainly the year where it behooved us all to be very cautious, and to only act on things when they are 1000% confirmed to be happening.
In any case. This was a messed up year. But we’re at the point now where hopefully things are starting to look up for most people. I am extremely grateful Western Australia wasn’t too badly affected, and all of my friends and family were safe this year. Hopefully this time next year, we can look at this and appreciate all of the things we’ve realised we took for granted.
Happy 2021. Here’s to getting back on track. 🙂
- Published December 31, 2020
- Categories Events