Notes for Nigel

Notes for Nigel

As promised, I will continue to open up my casebook of job enquiries, so that readers can have a reference to some real-world situations. Today's case is "Nigel" who is a Lotus software developer looking to come and work in Japan for the first time. Nigel is a US citizen who has been interested in Japan since he was a teenager. He studied Japanese in college for several years and even did a semester of study in Japan, though feels that his languages skills have become pretty rusty. Nigel has been a Lotus Notes/Domino developer for almost six years.

When Nigel contacted me, he was considering entering the JET (English teacher) program, and spend his first year in Japan (while teaching) honing his language skills and improving his chances of getting the RIGHT job. I applaud his ability and willingness to think long-term and believe that his approach is a good one. The JET program is indeed an excellent way to get to Japan - there are anywhere between 3,000-5,000 new positions to be filled each year, and so long as you make the most of the opportunity (many don't and take to partying instead), you can get a reasonable salary while learning the language.

Here is an extract of the communication between Nigel and myself:

N: What do you think about my applying to the JET Program as a means of getting to Japan?

Terrie: Yes, this is a good, safe strategy. The great thing about being a JET is that the pressure is off you when you first get here, so that you really can focus on the language and assimilation issues. However, I hope that you are a strong and self-motivated person as some people find being a JET to be very boring and/or feel over-controlled and thus end up losing any initial interest they had in Japan.

N: On the www.workinjapan.com website, I found your article "IT: What Should I Learn?", and I was especially interested to see you mention a " big need for Lotus Notes developers." Since I have been making my living developing applications for the Notes/Domino platform for almost six years now, I wonder if there really is a significant on-going demand for Notes Developers?

Terrie: The demand is not significant in US terms, mainly because Notes people are hard to find and so companies tend to look after their existing administrators/developers well. BUT, that said, there are indeed Notes jobs around for bilinguals and you should be able to find a suitable position within 2-3 months of job hunting. Most likely you will wind up at a multinational that has ongoing Notes/Domino maintenance needs, so your initial job approaches should be to companies using Notes/Domino in-house globally. Most likely your future employer will be in the finance, insurance, freight or manufacturing industry.

N: What kind of salary could a Senior Notes Developer expect to make?

Terrie: If in a stable multinational IT department, you could expect about JPY6-10M per year - due to the fact that you would mainly be doing maintenance. If you're in a software development boutique (there are a number around), about JPY8-14M per year - although better paid and more interesting, fluent Japanese will be really key to getting in to one of these.

N: What is the best way to learn about these jobs? I have rarely seen postings for Notes Developers.

Terrie: That is true, there are very few postings - I'm not sure why, but I assume that it's because there are so few Notes people out there that companies don't even bother advertising. The best way to find a job is to initially apply to a foreign-specialist temping company like our sister business BiOS (a division of LINC Media), or a company like Panache. Alternatively, you can apply to a bilingual SI company like PwC (now IBM) or Deloitte. Lastly, if you're willing to patiently hunt around for a while, as I mentioned earlier, the best strategy would be to find out which major multinationals in Tokyo use Notes internally and simply make a direct approach as either a full-time employee candidate or an independent contractor.

N: What complementary skills, in addition to Notes/Domino, would make me most attractive to potential employers?

Terrie: Notes and Domino are an adequate base to start with, however, to ensure that you survive a Notes->Exchange migration (there are still a lot going on), you should be up to speed with MS Exchange. Also, you should make sure that you know both the applications and server maintenance sides of the business. Most multinationals here are small operations working under mandates from their headquarters, so local employees tend to be multi-tasking and therefore need to be multi-skilled. Obviously, strong Japanese ability is also important.

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