I had a discussion last week with my SO regarding Japanese and their interest in baseball. Baseball isn’t something that you can play alone. There is no one-single-person who will ultimately win you a game. Every player is expected to at least be well-rounded, before they excel in something (pitching, batting, etc). This can be seen outside of baseball, in the way they interact with one another; In a way, being quirky is frowned upon. Even my SO has the tendency to discourage me from doing something outside of the norm when I’m in Japan. The good thing is, I’ve learned a lot of “good manners”. The bad thing is, I’ve started overthinking everything I do, because I worry whether I’m committing any faux pas.
Our discussion moved a little to the Japanese working culture, and how it differs from other countries (or in my context, I was comparing it with western culture). In Japan, everyone starts off with almost the same salary, the same qualifications, and the same skillset. They eventually branch out a little, but in most cases, if you are X age and doing Y work, your salary will usually be Y range. There are no star players. Your worth increases with your experience, but capped by your number of years in the workforce.
In the western culture (from my observation of my company’s mostly caucasian-dominated upper-management colleagues), everyone’s worth is unique to their experience. My manager is younger than me, but he’s moving forward really fast (being promoted from contractor to in-house developer to manager level within 6 months). Another has gone from being my ex-manager to being full-time VP, or perhaps, he’s already, the president of engineering. Ever since he went on to picking up more higher-level tasks, I have not spoken with him at all.
The developers in my current company are expected to excel on their own; teamwork is a minimum expectation. Being Asian (and influenced by my SO’s Japanese way of doing things), I expected teamwork (or as Japanese put it, the Wa (harmony)) to be higher priority, but instead, I have really talented colleagues who are independent and almost always doing things on their own first and discussing the effect of their actions during feedback sessions. In the Japanese working environment, making mistakes is generally a bad thing, so they’re really, really slow at making decisions. On the bright side, at least everyone on the team unanimously agrees to something before moving forward (even if it’s painfully slow).
Anyway, my point of today’s monologue is that I have realised, I appreciate teamwork and communication more than talented colleagues. I mean, yes, clever colleagues are valuable to writing good software, which ultimately impacts your products, but if they’re not good at teamwork, I think there’s little motivation for other colleagues to be emotionally invested in the company. Personally, I love that I have full freedom in the work I am doing now, but the lack of communication and teamwork from my colleagues makes me feel lonely sometimes. I asked myself, “If I left the company today, would I miss anyone in the company? And, would anyone miss me?” I think, sadly, the answer to both questions are “No”.
However, do I like my work? Am I learning a lot? The answer to both is “Yes”, so I think my sentiment sort of balances out.