In this article series, we're introducing our hiring partners in Tokyo: startups, web agencies or large tech companies that regularly hire Le Wagon Tokyo graduates. Discover their services, the working environment they propose, and most importantly, what they like about our amazing graduates!
For this second article, we’re sitting down with François Tcheng, who’s leading the back-end development team at a growing Tokyo startup, Shippio. This time around, we talked about teamwork, working environment, and what makes a good engineer.
Startup + Junior Developer = 👍
Thanks for being with us François! Let’s start with your background.
“I am originally from France, and I’ve been working as an engineer for over 10 years, mostly with startups. I started my career in Paris, and spent 6 years in several different startups, both for French and international companies. The smallest company I’ve every worked with was 8 people, so I do know a thing or two about small teams.
Half of my experience is with Rails, so it’s definitely my go-to language. But I’ve also been doing some front-end, and I am comfortable with React and Angular. Right now my job is a mix of Scrum Master, as well as leading the back-end development team at Shippio, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years.
Shippio is a Japanese startup, but both founders and most team members can speak English fluently. Actually, the interviews I went through when I joined all happened in English. I do enjoy that mixed working environment, and it’s definitely more flexible than traditional Japanese companies. Since most of my experience was for B2C companies, I also like the fact that Shippio is a B2B company. In short, we’re working on improving logistics and freight forwarding: booking trucks, containers, insurance, deciding what trucks are needed… We’re also working to convince freight forwarders to digitize their processes, and eventually we want to completely dematerialize that part. Our typical customers are import / export companies with 10–15 shipments a month.”
Is there a reason why you mostly worked with startups?
“Yeah, I find the rhythm more exciting. Development cycles are usually shorter, and communication between teams (sales, operations, tech teams) is much smoother. Overall I think that style suits me better.”
So how many Le Wagon graduates have you been working with so far?
“I actually first heard of Le Wagon when I was in Paris! I was working in an open space and we had a whole room with developers from different companies, including a few Le Wagon alumni.
With Shippio specifically, I’ve worked with 4 graduates until now. the thing is, it’s extremely hard to find developers in Japan, and students who come out of Le Wagon definitely have experience, and know how companies work. Compared to someone who graduated from a CS degree, they have an interesting set of practical skills we can work with.”
Shippio, a very international working environment
What makes Shippio’s working environment special?
“First of, the team is very international: we have people coming from France, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico… So english is the main language we use in our dev team. Presentations given by our CEO are both in English and Japanese, too.
At the same time, even though we doubled in size over the past 2 years, it’s still a startup-like environment, and teams are very close to each other. We try to promote a working style where you can give honest feedbacks, share your opinion, and where no question is classified as “stupid”. For a junior developer joining our teams, there is a good amount of experience, so they’ll definitely have mentors to help them grow.”
What tools do you use to collaborate on a daily basis?
“It’s the usual suspects, really: Slack & Zoom for direct conversations, mail and Drive for documents. We also started using that wiki-like app called Kibela, which works pretty much like Notion.”
What’s your idea of good teamwork?
“Understanding context is a big aspect of teamwork: for example, when a customer or product manager asks for a specific feature, you want to understand where they’re coming from — it’s often worth it to stop and ask: “Is it really what they want?”.
Being flexible is also a strong point that I am looking for in my dev teams. Basically, it sometimes means working on something that prevents other teams to move forward, even if it will set you back with your own feature development schedule.”
So, what’s a good web engineer?
What is your advice for fresh bootcamp grads during their first few months as a developer?
“I do have a few pieces of advice, not only for fresh bootcamp grads, but also for what I think is being a good developer: knowing how and when to ask for help is obviously important, and that goes hand in hand with “knowing when you don’t know”. That’s particularly true when a fresh bootcamp grad joins a technical company: they will see code they’ve never seen before, and probably have very little idea how to deal with it. Lastly, constantly looking for self-improvement is the best quality a developer can have. A very good example is to try and find the right solution for each issue you’re facing, instead of just applying what you already know. To me, that’s the main difference between a developer and an engineer.”
What technologies would you recommend learning for the years to come?
“Well, that really depends on the direction you’d like to take: despite what you can read, if you’re into web development Rails is still a major framework, and extremely well supported. TypeScript is also very popular, and there’s a good reason for that, so I’d recommend picking it up.
"If desktop software is your thing, give Rust a try!"
On a more personal level, I am very interested in Rust these days. If desktop software is your thing, give Rust a try — It’s pretty much what C++ promised to be, but never really managed to become!”
Thanks a lot for your time Francois! Is there anything you want me to add?