This is Sasamon from Rakuten Fukuoka branch – yes, we do have an office in Fukuoka where many engineers are working very successfully!
Today we interviewed one of them, Daigoro.
Daigoro started his career at Rakuten in 2011 as a new graduate when he joined the development group in Osaka branch and experienced wide range of works including the development and administration of Rakuten Ichiba services.
He experienced the training at Rakuten France for 6 months then engaged in API construction for the global market after returning to Japan.
Currently Daigoro is in charge of the big data which is the key basement for Rakuten Ichiba business and working for the construction and management of the system base to support it.
What is a data platform engineer?
So to start with – when we say a “data platform engineer”, what kind of engineer is it?
Daigoro: These days the data platform engineer is regarded as a very important job as the data itself is often said to be more valuable resource than oil.
The mission for data platform engineers is to build up a system to utilize that data in a most effective way. They constantly need to catch up with the latest technology which rapidly improves day by day so that they can incorporate such technologies including data science, big data and AI into the firm’s systemization process for making maximum use of the data.
It is such an exciting job that we can see the organizational move or the change of strategy triggered by the technology we introduced although we need to work very hard as the level of demand from the firm is really high.
Sounds like it is a job with great attractiveness. What does a data platform engineer do at Rakuten?
Daigoro: Rakuten Ichiba has more than 40,000 shops and 200 million products registered on the platform. It is a critical part of our business to analyze the data about them and set strategies based on such data as the various businesses are on-going on the virtual market. It is an essential task for us to process the huge amount of data properly and to find a new value out of that data.
Data platform engineers at Rakuten are working on organizing that processing systems. For example, we are responsible for setting up the base point for engineers to utilize for their machine learning technology and create new values out of it, by centralizing the various data sources into one big data platform.
Could you tell us about the projects you are currently working on?
Daigoro: Sure, first of all we have 3 important key words with our projects, which are: Improvement of data governance, Centralization of data flows, and Enhancement of scalability as a platform.
Our processes/flows of data from Rakuten Ichiba used to be very complicated given our long history and some other factors. For example, the data sources were everywhere and business logics to utilize multiple data were different by each business unit, and also the various data were owned by all different people, etc. We are trying to make these things more simple by collecting all data flows into one place as well as improving our data governance.
We are trying to set up a platform which can be made use by different business units in a more flexible way by improvement of cross-business scalability as well as improvement of system scalability.
What do you actually do?
So looks like your job is dealing with a great mission – but what actually are you doing on a daily basis?
Daigoro: I am now assigned to be a tech lead and a manager.
My team is a group of 5 people including some based in Tokyo and Sendai whilst I am based in Fukuoka.
I believe it is necessary for data platform engineers to be conscious about what impact were made on the firm by the new technology we introduced. Therefore our goals are to set a mission for each of us by ourselves and complete it. It is because I would like each member to consider what they need to do, whether it makes sense to do it, and make impact on the firm’s business. Therefore I do not do micro-management but delegate each task on the team members. One thing I am trying to do is that each member spends too much time with suffering from something. It is important to secure the time for considering something but the time for being in trouble with something should be minimized.
What I am trying to do is prepare a base for the members where they can come for necessary supports or technology verification for their future use.
As a tech lead I have been working on the optimization of the whole project by keep my eyes on the latest technology information and verifying / utilizing such technology. I am trying to brush up my technical knowledge and provide environmental support as well as assisting the team members with technical supports.
What kind of environmental support do you provide?
Some of the key actions I am taking are things like team’s health-check and products’ health-check. These approaches are based on my thought that people always change their minds and every person has different idea to each other. I always try to check if the team members are satisfied with their current jobs, whether they have something else they want to do or not, and whether they think they are delivering values through their work, etc, via different angles like per individual/team/products.
The biggest point I am trying to cover through such support is for the members to be connected with the users of our products and realize their accomplishments.
Construction of a platform means to support the goal of someone.
I am encouraging our engineers to link with users properly and see if their deliverables are the right ones or if they know who exactly are using our products, etc.
Platform work often go too much with technologies and too much “How” to construct it but we lose sight of “Why” we are working on it. I would like engineers to think about this “Why”. Actually the engineers with good understanding of “Why” tend to have higher satisfaction rate and they even learn to judge what kind of technology should be introduced to our work.
I would like to build a team of such engineers and challenge new things together with joy, and to feel thrilled myself.
You are full of love with the team and each member. What is the most important thing, as a manager, for you?
Daigoro: I am originally an engineer. I thought I should be mindful of two objectives when I started to look at the things from a “manager” point of view, which are:
Members will deliver values as engineers.
Members will maintain their motivation.
There are 2 things I keep in my mind to achieve above objectives:
Firstly the engineer grows in the team and realize his/her own growth.
I think the important thing during their growth process is that engineers will identify some technology they find interesting/necessary spontaneously and wish to learn about them by themselves.
Secondly the engineers to have network with other engineers and stimulate each other.
I think the things one can learn on his/her own would be quite limited. However, there are many things we can discover through the discussion with others. I think it is very important to be in the environment where we can connect with others, to stimulate and learn from each other. I think such environment is the best in terms of our output that people can talk about themselves.
We have the following activities for realizing our objectives above:
Remote work team
I would not go into details of each activity but basically these are aimed to increase the members’ challenging/learning opportunities. Also I think these would support both self-growth and mutual growth of engineers.
What I currently have in my mind is that engineers would have a great success in a team of full thrills. I hope to work with engineers with passion myself.
Remote work from Fukuoka
Thrilling, with passion – important key words.
Now moving on to the remote working – Rakuten has regional offices in many cities throughout Japan and I understand you are mainly working via remote work; what about your view on it?
Daigoro: At the moment we have team members in Tokyo, Sendai and Osaka offices and we connect these 4 sites remotely. Nonetheless the communication amongst team members is I think very important so we fully utilize all resources/tools like chat or video conference systems. I have been trying to care for the members so that they would not feel alone and left out but so far we do not see any big issues with the remote working. Rather I am having more opportunities to present new information from Fukuoka recently.
Messages to R-Hack audience
Thank you so much for your great stories. I could see how attractive it is to work at Fukuoka office as a data platform engineer. Can I request for your message to R-Hack readers please?
Daigoro: I hope I could tell you one of the diverse working style at Rakuten. It would be great if anyone got interested in working at a regional office and even better if I could get some feedback from such person what worked well or did not work well with his/her life in a local city. Thank you for your time.
How did you feel about his story? We have some open positions for engineers in Daigoro’s team. Please apply now if you are interested!
Please look out for more stories about engineers at Fukuoka branch – please stay tuned!