Originally published in Time Out Tokyo magazine issue 6 (March 2015)
The community manager at Gengo talks about her life and work in the capital.
When did you first feel like a Tokyoite?
I have lived in Tokyo for almost four years but only bought a bicycle about eight months ago. I frst felt like a Tokyoite after getting on my bicycle and cycling around the city – it helped me get to know street names and really experience the sights, sounds and smells of the city.
What does ‘community manager’ mean, actually?
Gengo is a startup company that offers a translation platform. My role is to build, grow and manage our community of over 14,000 translators living and working all around the world. I am the ‘voice’ of the translator and ensure that their feedback an opinions are heard within the company so we can improve and build upon our product.
How do you find working with different cultures?
Over 12 different nationalities are represented in our Tokyo offce. The diversity allows me to be more appreciative of our differences and open to learning from my colleagues. Diversity in a company helps us become more innovative. There are also plenty of funny moments when small misunderstandings happen.
What has working in Tokyo taught you?
Working in Tokyo is great! It has opened up many opportunities for me and I feel much more willing to take a risk and try something new. I have learnt how important communication skills are and how important work-life balance really is – it’s essential for success in a fast-paced city.
What is it like working at a startup?
Unlike other startups in Japan, Gengo is more global, diverse and open. Startups are fast-paced, which has pushed me to learn how to make decisions quickly and to complete tasks effciently. I feel I’ve learned more within a few months here than I would at another company because you need to be able to juggle tasks. There is no hand holding.
Recommended cheap eats in Tokyo?
The Oreno chain of restaurants offers really cheap and delicious fresh food. They offer French, Italian and Japanese food, and only have a few seats so it’s kind of a standing restaurant.
Have you ever tried cooking washoku?
Yes! My boyfriend and I have cooked nabe, sukiyaki, nikujaga, curry and gyoza. We have even made our own umeshu (plum liqueur), which took months of patience! I always look forward to winter when I get my big pot out and make nabe for friends.
Any survival tips for city visitors?
Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially food. Japanese people will go out of their way to help you, so don’t be scared of the language barrier. You will realise it is actually very small after a few beers with locals in an izakaya!