#AnyMindFamily Stories: Journey to foreign lands: Yoko Hirakawa on moving to and working in Bangkok as a fresh graduate
“I want to challenge my potential overseas” - choosing to join a startup instead of a large company
Yoko Hirakawa works in a rapidly-growing office for AnyMind Group in Bangkok, Thailand. Having developed an interest in working overseas, Hirakawa first knew about AnyMind Group whilst enrolled in a university in Japan, and joined the company as an intern in the engineering department of AnyMind Group. When her internship ended and after graduation from university, she decided to continue at AnyMind Group in a full-time role. Hirakawa currently works in a product development management role in AnyMind Group’s Bangkok office.
“I wanted to work overseas for a long time. I wanted to build up my independence since I was young.” Why did she decide to work in a technology startup in a foreign country? We speak to Hirakawa to find out more about her current job.
A fast-growing multi-national startup & working in a culturally diverse environment
Hirakawa had just graduated in 2019, and initially joined the company as an overseas internship student in the engineering department. Subsequently, she joined the company full-time upon graduation. Currently, she works as an assistant product manager at AnyMind Group, and working on the CastingAsia business line.
“Being heavily involved in product development, whilst working with colleagues from Europe and other Asian countries is a really exciting and enriching experience. We have a flat organization, so my opinions, actions and decisions can make an impact on the business. It is a very rewarding feeling.”
Studying stint in Australia introduced her to expatriate life
During her third year of university, Hirakawa had a roommate who was a remote-working freelance engineer. This had a profound impact on her, and she wanted to experience life working abroad. Having come from a business background, Hirakawa decided to step into the world of engineering.
When Hirakawa was looking for a job, she was looking for a company and role that was willing to give a chance to fresh graduate software engineers, and the possibility to work abroad. There were not that many companies that met these points, but Hirakawa received a job offer from a global e-commerce company. However, she had one concern: “If I had chosen to work in a big company with many employees and competition, I’ll get buried and become just a small fish in a big pond,” she said. Hirakawa then chose her current role at AnyMind Group, a fast-scaling startup.
One of the deciding factors for her was an employee interview article, where she saw her same-age peers working overseas. During her interview process, she went through rounds with HR, the lead engineer and the CEO, Kosuke Sogo. She felt that the speed of the recruitment process, office atmosphere, and environment was great - a company where people enjoyed what they are working on. She felt that AnyMind Group is where she should be.
Difficulties of a fresh graduate working abroad, and startup life
During her internship, Hirakawa worked as an apprentice software engineer. She is currently an assistant product manager for the CastingAsia platform, working on development progress management and product design.
A year has already passed since she joined the company as an intern. At first glance, it looks like a great start to her career - but this road was never smooth-sailing for her.
“When I moved over to Bangkok, I didn’t have any friends - my friends were all in Japan, and sometimes I felt a strong sense of loneliness.” She also had to learn quickly on the job - something that most startup employees can attest to. “You can’t just wait around for someone to teach you about your job. Just observe, do it, and learn as you go.”
There were a few factors that got her through those times - determination to succeed and friendly competition with other expat engineers.
“I can always count on the support of my expat peers, from countries such as Spain and Ukraine. When I joined I felt like I lacked the expertise of the other engineers, but when I get back home after work, I'll work on learning more and more. With AnyMind Group looking to make a big impact on industries, I know that I can help change the world with the products that I’m helping to develop. Every day is really exciting and fun because I can feel and see this growth each day!”
Starting from a simple motive of wanting to work abroad, Hirakawa’s narrative moved beyond that to one of determination.
“I don’t have any regrets when I entered this company. I have never felt demerited because I am a woman. Over here, everyone is evaluated based on ability, not race, age or gender. This motivates me to strive for greater things.”
“We have an environment where we can take on challenges, and we can motivate each other and grow together,” says Hirakawa, “the flat working environment matches me perfectly.”
“Working with people of different nationalities, a fast PDCA cycle to respond to the rapid growth and unique needs of Asia, and the problem-solving skills that I have cultivated will definitely aid me in my entire career. I still sometimes feel like I can improve my ability more, but the experience working here is something that I definitely cannot get in a large company. I also realized that I have grown so much compared to a year ago, and that it was a wise decision to work at AnyMind Group, and I think I can grow even more in the future.”