My Rakuten Experience: Stephen

Stephen works at the EC Marketplace Development Department at the Rakuten Nagoya Branch

Work Experience

I graduated from from the University of New Hampshire, and in 2004, I moved to Japan to pursue my interest in music and anime. I worked for a software company in Tokyo, in charge of a database handling data migration. In 2007, I moved to Nagoya to work on various projects, including customization of ERP packages, inventory management applications, and automated warehouse systems.

I joined Rakuten in 2017, and am currently leading a team of 12 people as an assistant manager in the department of system enhancement in the Nagoya branch.

Why Rakuten?

I joined Rakuten because I was attracted by the company’s philosophy and the opportunity to do wide-ranging work with a diverse group of people.

I worked for a small company for 13 years before joining Rakuten. After that, I moved to Nagoya to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. When I was looking for a job where I could work and be exposed to a broader range of systems and technologies, I came across Rakuten and thought it sounded interesting.

I knew Rakuten as an e-commerce company called Rakuten Ichiba, but I also knew they operate various services such as credit card. When I heard that Rakuten was about to create a new development group, I visited the recruitment and employee interview pages. I saw that the company had a wide array of businesses and operations, a unique work culture and provided a positive working environment. I was especially interested in Rakuten’s corporate philosophy of “Rakuten Shugi (Rakuten Basic Principles),” which includes “building a brand concept” and the company’s “definition of success.”

Stephen is attracted to Rakuten's company philosophy and its opportunities to do wide-ranging work with a diverse group of people.
Stephen is attracted to Rakuten’s company philosophy and its opportunities to do wide-ranging work with a diverse group of people.

Current Job

Working to improve the development environment and streamlining work processes to promote team growth.

I am responsible for leading the system enhancement team, improving the development environment for system developers and making it easier for them to work across the organization. For example, I research new development tools and technologies and figure out how to implement best practices.

There are so many new technologies and tools that can make development work more manageable. By communicating with developers, we may discover new questions and issues, and by actively holding discussions and meetings, we can get ideas for new technologies and tools.

When I share information on various ideas with the team, they come up with what they want to do. As a leader, it is my job to understand these ideas, allocate work, and collaborate with my team to keep the projects moving forward.

Currently, I am in charge of subscriptions, distributions and pre-order purchases for Rakuten Ichiba.

The system for confirming orders based on the customer’s application was created about 10 years ago, but since there were no significant problems, we were able to maintain the system as long as we took care of the more minor issues. However, adding new services and functions required a lot of time and effort with the old system in place, so, to further improve the service, it was necessary to update the system in its entirety.

Our first project was to migrate our legacy applications running on servers to the latest cloud-based solutions. This significantly reduced the time required to develop, test, and add functionality to the service.

Our long-term mission is to facilitate knowledge transfer within the team so that we can continue to grow. This includes finding ways to effectively share information within the team and accelerate the growth of new team members.

We are also working on “systemization” to make use of what we have done in the past so that we do not have to face the same problems repeatedly.

Our Team

A team with diverse cultures, backgrounds and careers.

My team is made up of people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and careers. Half of our team are foreign nationals, coming primarily from India and China.

They approach their work differently, and those who take a detailed and systematic approach can be instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition when making changes to the system or implementing new features. Those with a broader perspective are very helpful when discussing new ideas.

I am working to build a sense of solidarity within the team. Once a week, we have a meeting to check the overall progress. We are a supportive team where everyone helps each other, and we have an environment where everyone can communicate openly regardless of their positions. We all get along very well and always have lunch together!

Stephen leads a team of people with diverse cultures, backgrounds and careers.
Stephen leads a team of people with diverse cultures, backgrounds and careers.

The appeal of working at Rakuten

Rakuten is building the future.

I believe that Rakuten is building the future. While the business and service sector is expanding rapidly in Japan, I feel that Rakuten can provide value to an even wider range of people around the world. It means that we, the employees of Rakuten, can make a difference in the world and contribute to society and the betterment of people’s lives.

There is a saying, “think globally, act locally,” and I believe that the company’s actions will eventually have a global impact.

Our work involves not only Rakuten Ichiba customers, but also the stores. We work with three groups: customers, Rakuten Ichiba stores and people within the company, so we need to understand their needs from different perspectives. We have the opportunity to grow significantly because we are seeking to develop the best services for everyone involved.

I also really like the “Rakuten Shugi (Rakuten Basic Principles),” which symbolizes Rakuten’s culture. It is instrumental when I have to take on complex technical challenges.

The appeal of working at a branch office

I can see the faces of the people I’m working with.

The Nagoya branch has about 100 employees, and I think one of the most attractive aspects of the office is that I can see the faces of the people I work with. We do have multiple departments, but we often communicate across organizational boundaries.

Also, as the office is located in a rural area, you can work closer to your hometown.

I sometimes go sightseeing, hiking and visit shrines and temples in Gifu and Mie Prefectures on weekends. My wife, daughter and I often go out together as spending time with family is important. I like to climb mountains, and Mt. Gozaisho, near Yokkaichi City, is my favorite mountain. I visit every year for the beautiful view from its summit.

*The affiliation and contents of the article are based on the contents at the time of the interview.

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