From Toronto to Tokyo: Li Liu on Joining LINE from Overseas
Li was working in Toronto when he was recruited to join LINE as a principal engineer. He tells his story of relocating to Japan.
Li Liu was working at the Toronto research lab of an international tech company when a recruiter reached out to him on LinkedIn, asking if he wanted to consider an opportunity at LINE in Tokyo. Moving to Tokyo seemed like an interesting opportunity, so he replied to the recruiter that he was interested.
The position itself was to be a principal engineer of Verda, LINE’s private cloud, where he would lead a future-proofing project. Building on his previous experience as a researcher, he would work directly with top management to push things forward, so it seemed like a good opportunity to advance his career.
Li was initially concerned about how he could survive in a Japanese company. After all, he didn’t speak any Japanese. But he found out the Verda team was already very international, with members from around the world, and internal meetings conducted in English. What’s more, in the cases that he’d need to speak with others outside his team who weren’t fluent in English, LINE had a team of interpreters on hand that would facilitate communication.
Enthusiastic about the opportunity, he pushed forward through the interviewing process, and got the job. As all interviews had been conducted online, the first time he actually set foot in Japan was after he had been hired.
I came here with my two pieces of luggage and that was it.
As Li was relocating from overseas, LINE provided him with a furnished apartment for his first two months free of charge. Their dedicated overseas support team also helped him with settling down in Japan, helping him navigate the local bureaucracy, including taking him out to complete various registration procedures and creating a Japanese bank account. Li said that moving here was “basically worry free. I came here with my two pieces of luggage and that was it.”
Li spent his first couple of months at LINE getting up to speed on Verda, reading documents, looking at the existing products, and doing research on the pain points and challenges within the existing system. After the first two months, he moved on to drafting proposals, and making proof of concepts on the ideas that he proposed. A month later, after back and forth with upper management, he’d convinced them to adopt his proposal. Just four months after joining the company, he had helped make high level decisions about critical infrastructure for the company.
LINE is different because it is composed of a lot of young people.
One of the things he appreciates about LINE is that it is a very young company with room for advancement. “I know how it feels when you work in companies with a fairly firm structure. You don’t have a chance to move up. LINE is different because it is composed of a lot of young people. They’re very energetic. So since joining here, I feel like I have a much bigger playground to play with, and a better place for me to fulfil my talent.”
For international engineers looking to move to Japan, he recommends to “take a look at how the team you’re joining is formatted. If the team is very international, if they have people from different parts of the world, you’ll be fine. Be careful if you’re the only English speaker to join the team.” LINE’s engineers are actually about 40% non-Japanese, though you might not notice this at first glance, as many of them come from other asian countries like China and Korea. He embraces this diversity, as “teaming up with people from different places all over the world, that’s how you can innovate, and come up with very exciting ideas.”