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Half a year ago, I never imagined I’d be writing this article in the heart of the Land of the Rising Sun. But here I am, a six-hour flight away from my homeland, writing this article somewhere in a chic cafe sipping on my hot cup of coffee and periodically admiring the view of autumn leaves falling signaling the transition into winter. A while back, I was in the tropics, sweating under the intense heat in a sunny island called Singapore. Since then, I have made my way to Tokyo, Japan to start my career as an Associate Product Manager in a tech venture capital called upon graduating from my university. In this article, I reflect on what it is like to be in a tech venture capital-backed company as a non-Japanese fresh graduate in Tokyo.


eft: Me posing with the famous Merlion in the sunny island of Singapore. Right: Me posing in front of Ginkgo trees in the middle of autumn in Tokyo, Japan.


Although I am a fresh graduate, I was hired here as an Associate Product Manager. This is an unorthodox position because it is rare to hear venture capitals hire fresh graduates, let alone to have a fresh graduate with no expertise take on the specialized role of an Associate Product Manager. But set itself different from other tech companies by disregarding the conventions and believes that any fresh graduate can be nurtured into a specialized role.


My responsibilities can be broadly categorize into two categories: 1) corporate responsibilities as a fresh graduate and 2) developer (dev) responsibilities as an Associate Product Manager. puts fresh graduates in the forefront by having us take on responsibilities that can directly impact the company. One of which is to routinely run company-wide meetings that are held weekly every Monday morning. The purpose of this meeting is not just information sharing, but to also vitalize the company and start the week properly.


It is on us fresh graduates to inject youthful energy into the company and kickstart everyone’s engine on a Monday morning. As such, I often work with the other fresh graduates to run the meeting, and brainstorm different ideas to achieve this. Here, I’ve learn how to use Japanese to effectively communicate with the other Japanese fresh graduates to operate the meetings. I am also required to stand in front of the entire company to make announcements, which is something that I am not good at. However through this activity, I get a chance to improve on my public speaking skills and gradually begin to be more comfortable speaking in front of an audience.


My main responsibility as an Associate Product Manager is to oversee product development, and help bridge any communication between the Japanese business department and the global tech department. Although I am just a junior product manager, I do not have much say in the product development, but I learn how to operate in an agile scrum team with other developers. I was also introduced toConfluence and Jira, tools that software developers often use. Some of my current task includes translating technical documents made by the developers into simplified release notes for the business department in Japanese. I am also responsible for supporting the Scrum Master in scrum ceremonies.


On this note, I guess you could divide these two roles by language as well − my corporate responsibilities as a fresh graduate operate in Japanese because is a Japanese corporate, while my responsibilities as an Associate Product Manager mainly operate in English because the majority of us developers are from overseas. Hence, I often find myself having to switch between these two languages throughout the day as I work, which is an interesting experience by itself. Funnily, some of my Japanese peers are able to speak English and we can choose what languages we speak in with each other or both.


Me and my English-speaking Japanese colleagues having our lunch together. They are all new employees like me.


A day at work could look something like this:


  • 9:00am: Arrive at the office and start work
  • 9:00am: My own focus time − I look at my calendar and task managers and run through tickets or tasks I need to work on and the meetings I need to attend.
  • 11:30pm: Daily meeting with the Tech Lead, Scrum Master and Product Manager to discuss any tickets.
  • 12:00pm: Lunch
  • 1:30pm: Daily Scrum with developers.
  • 2:00pm: Meeting with the Scrum Master and another Product Manager to discuss any blockers faced or get confirmations about tasks.
  • 2:30pm: Postmortem meeting to dissect and investigate bugs that caused incidents. Here I help the scrum master facilitate the meeting by taking down meeting minutes.
  • 4:00pm: I work on my own tickets and tasks.
  • 5:00pm: I report my progress to my supervisor and clarify any questions I have.
  • 5:30pm: I run through my task manager again and check the done items, and prepare tomorrow’s agenda.
  • 6:00pm: End work


Of course, as a fresh graduate I have quite huge shoes to fill for the role of an associate product manager. I have zero experience in product management, and this is my first foray into the working world. It is easy to feel that you are inadequate among the other talented people here in the company and to feel seemingly unable to contribute much to the team due to your lack of experience and expertise. However, that is natural for a fresh graduate. I often remind myself that this is precisely the reason why I as a fresh graduate was selected, because I am a blank state with infinite possibilities. What really matters for now is to always have a growth mindset and take initiatives to do something no matter how trivial the task is. Although I do not have much expertise in product development right now, I can only learn by taking on different tasks and grow myself into the role. Fortunately, is still essentially a Japanese company at heart. Japanese companies like believes in nurturing fresh graduates, and honing them with different skills to enable them to deliver someday.


This generalist approach allows me to learn on the job and trains me about proper work etiquette, together with the myriad of other skills that will help me in my career on top of my specialization into product management. That is something that you can only experience in a Japanese tech company like


Upon stepping out of the cafe I was just in, I was greeted by a cool air. I wrapped my scarf around my neck to keep myself warm. Do I miss my warm life in the sunny island of Singapore? Certainly. There are days when I wonder, “what if I chose to just remain in Singapore and work? How would my life play out then?” But when presented with such opportunity to come to Japan to work, I just couldn’t say no despite my fears. Being in Japan has surely made my life more vibrant and broadened my perspective. Everyday is filled with new discoveries, be it at work or in my personal life. I am glad to be here.