Keep pursuing the job that is suitable to you
When children with immigrant background think about their future career paths, there are some who wish to work in a job that makes use of their roots, but there are also some who limit their possibilities due to lack of Japanese language skills, information, or economic circumstances. For such children, Alberto Diaz says, “I want them to look at their abilities rather than their roots and see the wider world. There are many things we can learn from his journey as hints for choosing a career.
Working as a SE for a foreign company in Singapore
Alberto Diaz from the Philippines is now 30 years old. He works as a system engineer at an American IT company based in Singapore. He has been living in Singapore for five years now and is enjoying his days as a leader in the workplace.
I decided to work in Singapore because it was close to where my parents live in Japan and the salary was good. The company culture emphasizes generalists, but I was also attracted by the education policy that supports people to become specialists,” he said.
Although he works for a foreign IT company, Alberto has not always been on the elite path. There have been twists and turns along the way. He came to Japan from the Philippines when he was nine years old due to his mother’s work. He entered an elementary school in Tokushima Prefecture and has lived in Japan ever since. It was only after changing jobs several times in Japan that he left Japan and settled down in his current workplace.
The first place he lived after coming to Japan was Tokushima Prefecture. As a foreigner, he was greeted with some curiosity, but he quickly adjusted to school life. He took Japanese classes separately from the other students for a while, but soon he had no trouble speaking Japanese. He was not particularly bullied, and recalls that he had a fulfilling school life in the relaxed atmosphere of the local area.
Things changed when he moved to Tokyo in the third year of junior high school. Unlike in Tokushima, where he had lived until then, he felt that the people in Tokyo were cold. Although he was not particularly greedy, he began to hang out more with friends who had bad behavior, and he hardly studied at all.
In fact, until he was in high school, his dream was to become a doctor, but because of his poor grades, his teachers assured him that it was impossible. When he became a university student, he had a vague idea that he wanted to become an international human resource, but he did not have a concrete idea of what he wanted to do.
However, not many students, not only children with immigrant background but also Japanese students, have a clear vision of their career. Alberto was one of those common young people.
Sending own resume around the world
After graduating from college, he had a variety of jobs. His first job was with a company that was looking for a “bilingual system engineer” position. Having grown up in a household where English, Tagalog, and Japanese were spoken, this was a job that would allow him to make use of his abilities, but at the time he was not really aware of this.
“At the time, I was overly confident and proud of being able to do anything, but I didn’t have any particular passion for the job. I felt like my friends and I took the employment exam together and I joined the company because I got it.”
He didn’t know much about the job and didn’t know what he really wanted to do. In the end, he quit the company after only eight days because he could not find anything worthwhile. When he was looking for a new job, he tried to appeal his experience in a positive way so that he would not have a negative image in interviews.
“It was after I left the first company that I realized that I could use my language skills to my advantage. Rather than hiring and training one Japanese person, I appealed to them that if they hired me, I could play three roles at once. I also put forward the fact that I wanted to find a job that suited me.”
Aside from his language skills, Alberto’s strength is his ability to see things positively and take action. Through the relationships he had built, he was able to find work as an interpreter at the Philippine Embassy, as a business English instructor, and as a translator at a TV station, so he never had to worry about food. Before moving to Singapore, he had also worked as a compliance officer for a Philippine-based company that handled overseas remittances. After sending his resume all over the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia, he was hired by his current company.
“I guess my strong point is that I can fit into many different communities. I’ve heard that people are so different from each other that they think they’ve known each other for a long time. However, I believe that I can be any color, but I have my own color. I feel like I’m making myself by absorbing all the different colors,” he says.
Don’t care where to work
Alberto says that starting to work abroad has given him a different feeling than before.
When I was in Japan, I thought I could do anything, but overseas, the professional culture was completely different, and all my confidence disappeared. As an American company, we are very strict about results, and all of my peers quit.
In spite of such a severe environment, he has continued to work for the company for the past five years, unlike before when he repeatedly changed jobs in a short period of time. He explains that his current job has a great influence on the industry and that he never gets bored with the frequent development of new products. His pride in his work is evident in his words.
“It seems that the company values me as a rare talent. I have a lot of subordinates who are more skilled than me, but it’s hard to find someone who has been with the company the longest, speaks fluent English and Japanese, and can build good relationships with clients. If I were to quit, I think the team’s business would be in serious trouble.”
However, he is not stuck in his current environment. He believes that he can change his job anywhere in the world, regardless of the region, as long as he can take a step up.
Want you to keep looking for a job that applies to you
When he was in Japan, he did not feel particularly alienated, but there were times when he was rejected from applying for part-time jobs because he was a foreigner. Despite these experiences, Alberto continued to take positive action and paved the way for himself.
“Even if something negative happened, it was probably a good thing that I took action before thinking about it. Even if I had to stay inside a little bit, I would act in reaction.”
He also said that his roots did not affect his career development at all. However, this is not in the sense of being a foreigner or the abilities associated with it, but in the sense that he was able to get help from his home community when he needed it. Language ability is certainly a great weapon, but I don’t see that they are overly dependent on it.
“Many children with immigrant background who grow up in Japan tend to keep their perspectives and ways of thinking within Japan until they graduate from school and enter the workforce. But if they have the ability, why do they stay in Japan? I have my roots, but I want people to believe in their abilities and try different things without getting hung up on that. In my case, I had the idea in my head that I wanted to dream a little bigger, and when I actually took action, I was hired by a company, and I think that was a big part of it.”
He once interned at an organization that supports children with immigrant background who are in a similar situation to his own. What he saw there were young people who started out with hopes and dreams for the future, but gradually became tainted by reality.
“In particular, there were many children who gave up on what they wanted to do because they could not speak Japanese. Some of the children I taught returned to their countries of origin because they could not work in Japan. Of course, if they can be active in their home country, there is nothing wrong with that, but there are often cases where people think that they have to give up just because they cannot speak the language. I’ve always kept at it until I found a job that suited me, and I want to tell people that there is a world out there.”
It is said that this is due to the growing tendency of Japanese young people to be satisfied with their current lives and not dare to look outside. On the other hand, children with immigrant background are probably too busy getting used to life in Japan to pay attention to the outside world. Still, Alberto advises them to be flexible and broaden their horizons when it comes to career development.
He also pointed out that one key factor when it comes to learning a language and building a career is the “depth of character. This is because a strong desire to communicate one’s thoughts and make use of one’s abilities becomes the driving force behind one’s actions.
“When it comes to learning Japanese, it’s important to “do your best”. It’s important to absorb everything, swallow everything, and even if you can’t swallow it, keep trying. As for your career, you might want to keep looking until you find a job that fits you. Rather than living in a job where you are denied who you were before, I would rather you find a job where you can make the most of yourself. It’s not just in Japan, and I want you to broaden your horizons and work hard so that you can sell yourself to the world.”
He pursues his own potential through flexible thinking and action without being constrained by his origins. Alberto’s way of life can serve as a model case for many young people who are struggling.
Interviewing and writing: Hiroshi Yoshida