Meet the Global LINERS
Jimmy Verite / Android Engineering / Japan
Jimmy Verite, a French engineer who joined LINE in the company’s earliest days, now manages an Android engineer team. Jimmy's career in Japan began in 2008 when he decided to leave behind his native France. Before joining LINE he had already held several positions in the country even working as an entrepreneur at one point. Read on as he talks about his journey to manage an international team of engineers along with the challenges and memorable projects that he has come across.
A quick three-line summary
- Jimmy Verite, coming all the way for France, has been now living in Japan for 12 years.
- LINE offers you opportunities to work closely with a bunch of experienced colleagues.
- Working at LINE, you will have extensive experience dealing with data, which could be a challenging and rewarding next step in your career.
Life in Japan
Q What did you do before joining LINE?
I graduated from a French IT university in 2005. Right after graduation I joined one of the big national energy companies in France, like TEPCO in Japan. Then I moved on to work as a website engineer for one year before coming to the conclusion that I wanted a change. I hadn’t decided yet on Japan, but it was clear to me that I wanted to experience working abroad. But then I found Japan on the list of countries where French people can go with a working holiday visa, so I went for it. I finally came to Japan in 2008 to work for a small startup company as a web engineer. Before joining LINE as an Android engineer in 2012, I also had a company of my own for a while.
Q Next, tell us about your life in Japan!
It feels like I’ve been here forever – 12 years already. Of those 12 years I have spent eight years at LINE. When it comes to daily life in Tokyo, the first thing that stands out for me is the cleanliness. I come from France where it’s normal that half of the time the escalators don’t work! Another thing is the convenience, in the literal meaning of the word. Convenience stores are banned by law in France, and here you have them in every street corner and they are open all the time. In short, convenience of life and of course safety.
Q What’s your take on the local working culture?
In Japan we come up with a plan and just start doing it, improving further down the line as we progress. As an example, let’s say we have an engineer. We also have a planning team that helps us to implement a new feature. The whole process involves a lot of decision making. First off, we need to consult the engineer in order to discuss the technical details. When we have those details gathered, we can turn to the planning team and discuss with them while keeping in mind the technical specifications. Those facts need to be present for us to make balanced decisions all around.
Q Tell us about your team.
I have a team of six people and everyone is from a different country! I am from France, there’s one guy from Japan, another one from Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Spain. We use English to communicate and there are hardly any issues. It can get slightly complicated when we have meetings with our Japanese colleagues, but for that we have in-house interpreters. We also work a lot with an Android engineer team located in Korea since we share many projects.
Q Can you tell us what your day-to-day work entails?
I start my day with checking for any urgent issues and new messages that I might need to follow up on straight away. Then I’d move on to check what I need to fix that week and if I can assign some of my team members to help with those tasks. I’m responsible for the “home tab” on the LINE app and its new features. I also have responsibilities regarding web-related platforms like LIFF (LINE Front-end Framework) and CWA, so I organize meetings related to those as well. Of course, I try to find some time to code, too! At times there are a bunch of issues that need to be addressed and deadlines that must be met, so it can get hectic.
Q Tell us about a moment when you were really excited about a work project.
My first major project that had a direct impact on a large number of users was the “shake it” (or “furu-furu” as it is called in Japanese) function on LINE Messenger. I developed it myself and was just so happy and proud!
Q How would you describe the working environment at LINE?
Speaking on behalf of iOS and Android engineers, I would say that there is a mutual trust that everyone gets their work done on time. That gives a certain amount of freedom, but also responsibility. I also think that we have very competitive engineers at LINE, which, of course, is great!
Special experiences at LINE
Q From an engineering perspective, who would you recommend LINE to?
That’s a tricky one to answer, but I think that for people who wish to work at a company with a global presence and whose products that are used and loved around the world, LINE’s great. I encourage engineers to look at it like this: because our apps are so popular, it’s natural for them to develop technical issues. But analyzing and fixing those problems is something that you can only learn here – they simply don’t exist in smaller applications. I think that’s a really big deal as an engineer and helps you grow a lot. All those scaling issues can be very challenging and of course, interesting for an engineer. Although, sometimes it’s scary to make critical changes because you know what the consequences can be. If you mess it up, it’s going to have a huge impact… Haha! But that’s a part of it. It makes you grow, teaches you to clean up your process and think about all the possibilities and edge cases before making a release. It’s also cool that the apps are used by your friends and family, so it has a direct impact on your life!
Q You are working with many Korean and Japanese people. Do you think it’s easy to advance in the company without knowing either of the languages?
To be completely honest, I think it depends on the team, but it can be challenging. For example, on the Android engineer team we don’t require Korean or Japanese at all. However, the more you grow within the company and move forward, you will start working with Japanese people at some point. It’s important to remember that we are still in Japan. For example, if you are in a meeting with Japanese managers, the language will most likely switch over to Japanese and most of the documents will be in Japanese, too. Taking all that into account, it’s good to know Japanese as it will become necessary at some point. However, if you don’t want to learn it, that’s totally fine. You can still do your work here but if you want to keep moving up within the company, it’s better to learn it.
Q How is your team adjusting to remote work? Have you discovered any significant challenges?
When you’re all sitting together, it’s naturally easier to talk with your colleagues. Now that we have fewer chances to meet in person, we try to increase communication through online meetings. We also have stand-up meetings and scrums every day, which help us to share progress and talk openly within the team. When we were just starting to work remotely, I actually wanted to go back to the office as I felt more productive and had more opportunities to interact with the team as compared to just staying home. However, I have now started to see the advantages: commute time is reduced to virtually zero and there are fewer distractions. Honestly speaking, I don’t think that the productivity level has changed that much but the social aspect might not be suitable for some people. For me, I think it would be ideal to go to the office two or three times a week after COVID-19 situation.
Q Moving from present day to the future: what does your future at LINE look like?
First of all, I want more experience as a manager. There are many things to learn. Thinking long term, I’d want to work on the product side. For example, being in charge of rolling out a new product that would have a positive impact all the way back in my own home country would be great. That’d be an ideal career scenario. Stepping up and working on a big, new project. I’m open to any new challenges, as long as it’s a mobile application!
Q Lastly, let your future colleagues know what you think about working at LINE!
First of all, Japan has a bit of an image of being a country of workaholics, just everyone working all the time. Don’t be taken back by that, it’s not how we work at LINE. Japan is a great country and LINE is a great company. Now we’re mostly working remotely due to the pandemic, but at the office we have an awesome working environment where you can get work done without too much stress, surrounded by talented engineers. All in all, I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone.