Faces of Gengo: David
David, our Product Manager, is responsible for deciding what we should be focusing on to make Gengo successful and then working with the engineering team to make it happen. To do this, he weighs what is important to our customers and translators against time and resource restraints.
As well as the “what”, he also has to consider how things will work in terms of design and usability to ensure everything we deliver meets a consistently high standard of quality.
The key to this balancing act, he says, is focusing on solving problems in the simplest way possible instead of building new features just for the sake of it. Not an easy task, but David has mastered the art of saying “no”.
Hometown: Norwich, United Kingdom
Education: BSc Software Engineering, Durham University, England
Places lived: London, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Tokyo
When did you come to Tokyo and why?
I came to Tokyo in early 2013. After spending five years in China, I wanted a change, and had always been attracted by Japan’s rich history, culture and food!
How would you describe living and working in Tokyo?
Tokyo is a really interesting place to live because it is an international, modern city but still has uniquely Japanese aspects.
It’s a hard city for foreigners to truly assimilate into, but the cultural benefits of being here really outweigh that for me. The city has a really fantastic arts scene, far better than that of other cities in Asia. You’re never short of something interesting to do here.
Where have you lived before, and what were your previous roles?
After graduating, I lived in London for three years where I worked as a consultant for a software development company. It was here that I got to work on projects across a multitude of different industries and had my first taste of working abroad in Beijing.
Being in China just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics was such an exciting experience that I decided to relocate there full time. I then worked my way from Beijing to Shenzhen and finally to Hong Kong where I product managed CNN’s travel website, CNNGo.
How long have you worked at Gengo?
About 1.5 years.
What drew you to the company?
Having worked for a number of really big companies, I wanted to work for a smaller company where I could have a more direct impact on the product and business. I was also attracted to the fast pace of startup life.
Moreover, the work environment is a little freer than many traditional Japanese companies.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
I love being a product manager because I get to work within many different areas of the business with lots of interesting people.
My role encompases strategy, project management and user experience so it’s a challenge to be constantly switching between the big-picture vision and the nitty-gritty details, but there’s rarely a dull moment.
What have been some of your challenges, and how have you overcome them?
When I joined the company, the team was working on too many things at the same time, which was making it hard to deliver anything on a predictable schedule. Now, we concentrate on doing a few things really well.
How has Gengo changed since you started working here?
We have seen a real growth in product maturity and have developed a stable process, meaning we can push out fixes and improvements faster than before. Also, things break far less!
Some of the biggest changes I have worked on are the translator workbench as well as a new system for the support team, employees, and senior translators to manage our translation flow.
We also have a four-person QA team who continually test the product for any bugs so we can fix them before they cause any real damage in production.
What has been your biggest achievement within the company?
We did a huge release at the end of last year that involved a major overhaul of our database structure—intended to make our system more stable and scalable—and launched the new workbench at the same time. It was a high-risk project that took nine months to complete but we pulled it off with relatively few issues.
In addition, I’ve been really happy that we’ve managed to put aside time to test new features with real customers and translators before being released. This constantly challenges our assumptions and has driven many key improvements.
What are you most excited about for the future at Gengo?
We currently work with a lot of partners to provide translation services directly through our API integrations. We are developing new APIs that will allow our partners to integrate even more deeply with us and provide a far more tailored service to their customers.
I believe we’re still only at the early stages of understanding how technology can aid humans in the translation process and it’s super exciting to be on the cutting edge of building tools to facilitate this.
What do you think makes Gengo a great place to work?
We have an extremely internationally diverse group of people from all walks of life who bring their unique perspectives to the company. This is particularly important for the type of global business we are in.
We have a very open work environment where, even if we don’t know how to do something, we have a lot of great people to speak to and figure it out. We know we don’t always get it right, but we are in an environment that supports this learning.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to explore Japan, as well as visit different neighbourhoods within Tokyo. There are many local festivals taking place throughout the year, the museums are great, and there is an abundance of interesting architecture.
I also take a lot of pictures, and write about culture, travel and design for my blog, Randomwire, which I have been writing for more than 11 years.
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