This article is part of a series of interviews with Rakuten Mobile employees. In this edition, we speak with Genta Nishimura of Rakuten Mobile’s IP Transport department. Genta’s team is responsible for building the infrastructure that connects and controls Rakuten Mobile’s network of base stations around Japan.
The Rakuten Mobile team recently launched the world’s first end-to-end cloud-native mobile network, which you can read about here.
How did you begin your career?
I graduated from the economics department of my university and joined a startup carrier [in Japan] that provided internet and phone services to offices and homes. I worked in sales for about a year before switching over to the technical side of the business, and that’s where I’ve been since.
What prompted the jump to a technical position?
To be honest, I didn’t start my career looking to be an engineer. Doing sales, I had to talk to a lot of customers and realized that if I didn’t understand what I was talking about, I wouldn’t be able to explain it to them either.
I started studying the technical side of our products, and before I knew it, I was working there. It’s quite a unique career path for someone in my position.
What does your job at Rakuten Mobile involve?
I work in the IP Transport Department. We engineer and operate on the domain known as “Mobile Backhaul and Backbone,” which enables our users to connect to the internet and other services. Another part of our team is responsible for what is referred to as the “core,” which controls base stations and user devices through transport nodes. This team builds out the infrastructure between the core, a control center, and its base stations. This infrastructure is essential to the transmission lines which utilize optical fiber and network devices, such as routers and various other equipment.
Our department is mostly focused on the back end of the network — parts of the network that users don’t see directly.
“You’re able to see the entire scope of the project at once, from end to end. You can really feel your impact on the bigger picture.”
What’s it like working among engineers without having a formal technical background yourself?
If you’re doing things like research and development, you may need academic background. But I’m in a sort of project manager position, managing vendors and manufacturers and construction companies. My job is essentially to adopt technology that already exists and implement it. I do have that basic level of understanding required to work with them effectively and don’t feel like I’m at a disadvantage for not having a technical education.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I’m not someone who tries to keep work separate from everything else — I want my work to be an enjoyable part of my life. My job at Rakuten Mobile doesn’t feel like work to me because it’s something that brings me joy. I think that’s incredibly important.
For me, the most enjoyable thing is probably the scale of the role.
My previous company was so huge that they had about 10 different departments for what my department is doing now. They’d have a department for development, another department for planning, others for designing, construction, operations. It was all compartmentalized.
“Rakuten is a big company, but it doesn’t act like one.”
At Rakuten Mobile, my department is basically responsible for all of this. It’s a bit crazy sometimes, but you’re able to see the entire scope of the project at once, from end to end. You can really feel your impact on the bigger picture, and that’s really motivating.
How is Rakuten different from your previous companies?
The agility! The speed at which we build things and make decisions.
Rakuten is a big company, but it doesn’t act like one. Usually, to make a major decision in a big company you have to escalate it all the way up the ladder, getting approvals along the way. It can take six months, or even a year. At Rakuten, that same decision will happen in a month, or even a few weeks. That’s a big difference.
What kind of people do you work with?
My team is getting bigger and bigger each month — we have around 30 or 40 people in the department now. Pretty much everyone is an engineer, but we all come from really diverse backgrounds. Some of us worked at tech manufacturers, others at other mobile carriers or system integrators. People here are very frank, and everyone is always ready to adapt to sudden changes. They live for the excitement!
“You don’t really get the chance to build a completely new mobile carrier from scratch like this. It’s an incredible opportunity.”
What would you tell someone considering joining Rakuten Mobile?
Strap yourself in! It’s all about speed here.
Rakuten Mobile is a place for people who are excited by the notion of doing lots of different things in a short period of time, rather than building something slowly over a long period of time.
We need to take Rakuten Mobile to a position where it can compete with the other major carriers. That means expanding coverage, achieving a high degree of quality and gaining the trust of the public. There’s still plenty of work to be done.
In that sense, we’re still in the startup phase. You don’t really get the chance to build a completely new mobile carrier from scratch like this. It’s an incredible opportunity.
Genta Nishimura works in Rakuten Mobile’s IP Transport department, building the infrastructure that connects the network’s base stations and delivers mobile coverage to customers around Japan.
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