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What’s this 40-something person with no web experience doing here?

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Introduction

When I mention that I had no experience in the web industry before joining KINTO Technologies, I get looks of surprise. The puzzled look on their faces, wondering how someone with such a career could (and made it to) join the company. What’s more, this guy is in his 40s, unlike young ones here in their 20s!

Walking in a Different World

Originally, I worked as a programmer developing embedded software for home appliances. From there, I experienced working in control software for automotive ECUs. In my previous job, I was a project manager at a European company, introducing test equipment for engines. The software was just one part of the entire system, which comprised various elements such as mechanical, electrical, measuring, fluidics, simulations, and more.
From a world of neutral grounding system of three-phase four-wire distribution system, pressure drop and torsional vibration analysis of heat exchanger for flange connection of piping and CFD, to a world of modern architecture in the cloud.

It’s been a little more than three years since I jumped into a completely different world. That is why today I’d like to look back on the journey I’ve taken.

a person in his 40s with no web experience
Here’s what it looks like to have a 40-something web inexperienced person described by generative AI

Work at the Production Group

I was assigned to the Production Group, not in an engineering position where I would actually be coding web systems. Internally, the Production Group is called "Pro G." Currently, we are four people working and one team member is on childcare leave. We are the smallest group in KINTO Technologies.

Boundary Spanner

When talking about the role of the Production Group, I think the closest thing I can think of is that we are boundary spanners who connect people and organizations. Our job involves collaborating with members of the business department to identify the type of system needed to achieve KINTO’s goals and connecting them with the system development department. Among these tasks, I am mainly in charge of conducting "system concept studies" in the most upstream process of large to medium-sized projects.

Production Group
The Production Group connecting business and systems (They all look so young)

Do Not Overengineer

So what kind of systems should be developed? While it is a prerequisite that business needs are met, I do not think that is enough. It is crucial not to overengineer. The initial requests for systemization tend to be rich and packed with a lot of content. Out of those, we try to understand the core requirements of the business side, identify the functions that are really needed, and bring them to a development scope that is necessary and sufficient.

Most of the businesses that KINTO handles are unprecedented. Even if you imagine a system in your mind beforehand, it may not be all that useful in practice. There are things that you can only find out by doing. I think it is best to start small with the minimum necessary system first, then grow the system step by step as the business grows.

Also, since the in-house development teams are a valuable asset of KINTO, its resources must be utilized without waste. Each project must be allocated efficiently according to its priority and target dates. By making the development scope compact, we can develop as quickly as possible and bring products to the market as soon as possible. This sense of speed is part of KINTO’s culture and its strength.

Colleagues in charge of the business side may be unfamiliar with creating requests to the system development side. Although they may have used systems before, many of them have never been involved in creating one from scratch, and this situation could be completely new to them. It is also said that developing a system from scratch is similar to building a house. But it’s a house that not even the owner knows exactly how he wants it, as it’s his first time building one. Production Group also plays a role in leading such team members.

Because we are an in-house development organization, we can work with and sometimes lead the business department side on an equal footing, proposing a balanced system that is not overengineered. This awareness has spread throughout KINTO Technologies, but I think the mission of Production Group is at the core of that.

A Hunting Tribe

The Production Group is basically like a hunting tribe where each goes out to find their own prey (projects). At a group meeting, everyone’s eyes light up when they hear about a new large-scale project coming up. Then, just like the Neanderthals discovering a mammoth on the other side of the mountain, we quickly get ready to embark on the hunt. The first brave person who jumps on the prey becomes the main person in charge of the case. This has become a customary practice.

Note: Assignments may also be made based on location and areas of expertise.

Use Half, Let Half Go

I think it is best to travel as light as possible when you begin venturing into a new world.

Don’t lean fully onto your previous experiences.

When you start afresh in a new place, you may think, "I should make the most of my previous experiences." That’s because it’s always a bit scary to just jump in unarmed. You’re expected to be ready to fight immediately. I feel that the only thing that alleviates the anxiety of being in a new environment are past experiences. However, if you’re overloaded with your past experiences and values, you leave little room to assimilate new things. Past performance can no longer be changed, so holding on to them is like having roots grown out of your feet. When I first changed jobs, I had failed because of that.

It Will Be Helpful Even If You Forget

So, let go of half. Things like persistence or style are the first to be let go of. Isn’t the right balance to make the most of half and let go of the other half? "Let go" means to "leave or forget for now", not to "lose or deny." Even if you usually don’t think about it, when needed, the drawer where you left them will pop open and help you when you need it. No one can steal that from you, so you don’t have to keep holding onto them tight. Thinking this way makes things easier to me.

Experience Stock Sorting through your own stock of experience

<What To Make Use Of>

Feelings of project managers

In my generation, there was a saying that rabbits die when they are lonely, but project managers are just as vulnerable to loneliness. I was a project manager at my previous job, and I know that projects are going well, things are good, but when they don’t go well, isolation accelerates. Members, customers, owners, supervisors, finance department, sales department, service department, home country, subcontractors, partnerships, and some even mentioned family, pressure coming from all sides. Before you know it, there’s nowhere to run. Everyone at KINTO is kind, so I don’t think it goes here so far, but it can still become lonely and challenging. So I would like to support other project managers as well.

In most cases, projects are delayed because the baseline gets messy (e.g. scope, schedule, completion conditions). The best thing that I can do as someone from Pro G is to ensure that the project is in good shape before we hand it over.

Things will work out in the end

In my previous six years alone, I have worked on nearly 40 projects. That’s a lot of projects. There were times when things went wrong and then succeeded, ran over the budget, or moments where the future looked bleak, but all of them were eventually managed to work somehow. Even if you can’t reach the goal as cool as you imagined and you roll in breathless, a goal is still a goal. I believe even if you think that everything is in a dead end, there is always a way out somewhere. It is a wonder to me that I can think this way after having suffered so many painful experiences.

Diversity is the norm

I’ve worked with many different people. Nationalities varied, from Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, Czech Republic, England, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, to South Korea, among others (for some reason, I had no opportunities to work with people from the United States or China.) As for occupations, I’ve worked with people in software development, mechanical design, electrical work, plumbing, delivery and installation work, sales, finance, procurement, warehousing, general contractors, fire departments, automotive design and development, industrial robotics, and collaborating competitors, etc. It is natural for a variety of people to participate in a project, and it is worthwhile to have them participate because they are different. KINTO also has people with various occupations and habits, which is interesting to see.

<What To Let Go>

Making decisions is a project managers’ job

My former supervisor said, "The job of a project manager is to decide," and I thought that was true. It is more serious to be blamed for not making a decision than to be blamed for making a mistake in judgment. Not deciding meant not doing a project manager’s job. You may seek advice from your supervisor, but never delegate your decision-making. It is the same as sitting in the driver’s seat and not actively steering the wheel yourself. It was deemed that the moment you leave the decision to someone else, was the time where you should leave the driver’s seat. It was a global company, but I think it was like that for every project manager in any country.

I was surprised because I spent my life with such values. Because project managers at KINTO/KINTO Technologies do not make decisions on their own, but with the agreement of all parties involved. I was quite puzzled by this difference, but in time I came to realize that this is also another way to conduct project management. If my previous job was conducting it in a more direct-management style ofDecision and Order, KINTO would be more on the indirect management side, that could be called Facilitation and Agreement. I feel a sense of respect for my teammates as what KINTO is doing is highly advanced. It is simpler and easier to decide everything yourself.

However, the approach of "advancing projects through consensus" may suffer from a lack of speed. There is also a risk of entrusting direct "judgments and orders" to an individual. I wonder if it is possible somehow to have the best of both worlds.

Phone calls

My flip phone served as one of my most used tools at work. Calling people as soon as ideas came to mind. Many outgoing and incoming calls were made, so it was common to have a daily history of dozens of calls. Since project members are scattered all over the country, the only way to reach them immediately was by phone. Even in the middle of the night, I didn’t mind calling. Of course, this is not the case at KINTO Technologies, where smart communication is predominantly facilitated through Slack. When I was surprised by such a natural thing, it felt as if I had slipped through time from the past.

However, the one-minute call requirement can sometimes take up to 30 minutes for Slack interactions, so it is necessary to discern when to use each. I’m sure you are all practicing this.

Embedded software knowledge

I was deeply attached to it, but as expected, I had to let my preconceptions go. Since it is a web system, there is no real-time requirement (there is a request for response speed, but it is different), and it does not operate on Event-Mode-Action state machines. It is also different from a continuous control system like PID. It is essentially hardware-independent, so resource constraints are limited. Therefore, as sad as I was, I had to put my knowledge away in the back of a drawer. AWS SQS reminds me of the FIFO ring buffer made by hand, and it makes me nostalgic.

Even so, once there is a point of contact between the edge area, such as software defined vehicle (SDV) and IoT, with KINTO’s cloud, it may come into play in the future. So, my drawer is buzzing with hope.

Get the Overall Gist

Because it is a different world, you will encounter unknown things just by walking.

Understand the alpaca

When you first see an alpaca, you may think it looks like a sheep with a long neck. Or some may think it’s like a white-haired camel. It is actually written in Chinese characters as "羊駱駝 (sheep camel)," so both points of view I think are valid. We have no choice but to honestly follow our natural upbringing and intuitive feeling. It is impossible to face an alpaca from the beginning and understand it from scratch. Therefore, I think that it is okay to understand something roughly at first, like "It’s like the XXX I know.

Observing alpacas
You don’t need to observe that hard!

It’s different, but it’s almost the same

Rather than focusing on the differences, focusing on the same will help you get used to the other world. I often rely on my experience in embedded software and engine test equipment to make rough understandings. However, it is not about pretending to understand (deceiving others), but rather about feeling like you understand (stopping further investigation for now). When you actually work with knowledge, you have to face the fact that you "don’t understand" it. In other words, it is probably safe to leave it in the shallow end until then.

Overall rather than correctness

I find it more fitting to grasp the whole picture in a shallow and broad sense, even if it means making a few assumptions or leaving some parts undigested, rather than carefully and correctly understanding one thing at a time by scrutinizing the minutiae. Even if it is a collection of dots, you can somehow sense a hidden story as you look at it (like a constellation?). Or, it can be a clue to get to the place you want to climb (like bouldering?). In particular, I think that the roles of project manager and boundary spanner will help us to grasp that kind of holistic understanding.

To the point where you can dive

What can be read from looking at the whole picture is only a hypothesis. 'Assuming it’s XXX, this way we can proceed.'
Once a hypothesis comes to your mind, dig deeper if necessary. I have no desire to become a professional in that area (I can’t), but it’s enough to be able to talk to professionals. In my case, that’s how I get things done. A byproduct of the diving is the knowledge which was previously just dots becomes connected and forms a line. In this way, we connect the lines little by little to make a map.

How to Spend the Rebellion Phase

As you get used to your work, there are things that gradually come up.

Discomfort and irritation

I think everyone is humble until they get used to their new job, spending their time listening to their surroundings a little timid. As you get used to the work, there are things that will gradually spring up. 'Huh? Isn’t it strange how this company works?' This is a feeling of discomfort that arises from the gap between past and present experiences. It is a very valuable realization in itself, and if it works well, it may lead to some improvements. Maybe it’s just for me, but there is frustration involved. Feeling irritated somehow.

Post-transition rebellion

I personally call this feeling after changing jobs, "post-transition rebellion." It begins as early as around 3 months and lasts until about the second year. I’ve changed jobs three times, and it always comes. Even if the feeling of discomfort itself is okay, you can’t scatter irritation around you. In my case, I used one-on-one meetings to solve it. I talked to my direct supervisor, two ranks above superior, and three ranks above superior each. In order to be heard, I need to verbalize my discomfort, and in this process I first become objective, so I can calm down a little. It’s tempting to get a little fancy and organize it like a suggestion. When we talk frankly in this way, the sense of discomfort gradually disappears.

  • Sense of distance: two ranks above is the vice president, and three ranks above is the president. Flatness is the appeal of KINTO Technologies.
  • If you sort out the sense of discomfort, some of it can be put into your mission.

Adult’s rebellion
generated "Adult’s Rebellion" (the same person on the first page appeared!)

Conclusion

Perhaps now is the best time to be proactive about new technology and knowledge.

When the old drawer opens

It is interesting to listen to people in various positions within the company, as well as to attend external events and talk with people from other companies. As I get stimulated and reconstruct my thinking, my rusty old drawer slid open, allowing for a potential chemical reaction between new and old ideas. I wrote bouldering as an example; as you climb just a little bit, the view changes and you start to realize things like what you’ll be able to reach next, or whether you should reconsider because it’s different from what you thought. If I accept such changes honestly, I can enjoy the next change. Conversely, when I felt distressed, it was usually when I was trying to stay there.

That’s how we survive

"I used to use the Tiger hand spin calculator." or "I can read punch cards." When I got a job as a new graduate, those experienced engineers were still active. Both "cloud-native modern applications" and "LLM/Generative AI" will eventually find their way onto the computer history as dead technologies. Technology will change, the roles required will change, too. I can’t imagine what I’ll be doing then, but I hope I will be able to survive tenaciously, by replacing half of myself as I go along.

Computer History
Former state-of-the-art technology and apples lined up

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【部長・部長候補】/プラットフォーム開発部/東京

プラットフォーム開発部 について共通サービス開発GWebサービスやモバイルアプリの開発において、必要となる共通機能=会員プラットフォームや決済プラットフォームの開発を手がけるグループです。KINTOの名前が付くサービスやTFS関連のサービスをひとつのアカウントで利用できるよう、様々な共通機能を構築することを目的としています。

【分析プロデューサー】分析G/東京・名古屋

分析グループについてKINTOにおいて開発系部門発足時から設置されているチームであり、それほど経営としても注力しているポジションです。決まっていること、分かっていることの方が少ないぐらいですので、常に「なぜ」を考えながら、未知を楽しめるメンバーが集まっております。