Culture

Dear Future Colleague, these ancient proverbs are now my own pearls of wisdom

Dear Future Colleague,

I grew up in Guiyang, the capital of the Guizhou province in southwest China. Like many other cultures, Chinese has a long list of idioms, or proverbs. When you’re young, the truth in them is not so clear. But as you go through things in life, you start seeing the real wisdom of these sayings and why they are passed down from generation to generation.

I’d like to share some proverbs that have proven to be true in my life — and that have led me to where I am today, as a UX/UI designer at Reaktor Japan.

 

请教别人一次是五分钟的傻子,从不请教别人是一辈子的傻子。
He who asks a question might be a fool for five minutes; he who doesn’t ask a question remains a fool forever.

 As a child, I enjoyed art. But I soon realized that art is meant to be a way to express yourself, and I wasn’t too keen on that. Design is different. Even though its foundations are in art, design is more about purpose than expression. That was made even clearer to me when I went to graduate school. There, I focused my research on human-computer interaction, specifically virtual reality and haptic technology. It was this work that got me started on a lot of user studies. I found it very interesting to gather feedback that I could then use to refine the design. Of course, this kind of interaction is grounded in questions. So I think a crucial part of my job is to be comfortable asking questions — and to know what to ask, who to ask, and when to ask them.


欲速则不达。

Those who just want speed don’t succeed.

After graduate school, I joined a consultancy in Tokyo. Most of the time, the scope was very limited and I found myself focusing on specific tasks instead of getting a good understanding of the business as a whole and what the clients wanted to achieve. After a year, I switched to a large corporation that employed more than 25,000 people worldwide. It was a very traditional organization with a lot of hierarchy and micromanagement. Reaching goals was the most important thing — even if they weren’t really possible. This proved true during Covid. When the whole world changed, and the ways of doing business changed along with it, quotas were missed. As a result, very big, sudden changes were made within the company. Whole departments were sold or dissolved, and some lost their jobs. Even though there were a lot of nice people there and I learned many things, it was really stressful. I felt I wouldn’t be able to stay there too long.


要知山下路,须问过来人

To know the way down the mountain you must ask those who come before.

I actually knew a bit about Reaktor well before I applied. I first heard about the company from a past colleague who wanted to relocate to Europe. After looking into Reaktor, he thought I might be a good fit for it. At the time, I wasn’t ready to switch jobs, but Reaktor kept coming up in conversation. For example, at meetups, I came into contact with former Reaktorians. Even though they didn’t work for the company anymore, they had great things to say about it, and they explained the differences between Reaktor’s Finnish work culture and the Japanese corporate norms I was used to. I was also introduced to Joey, who quickly became a good friend. Not only was she Chinese, but she had also worked for the big company where I was still an employee. When we met, she’d been at Reaktor for about 18 months. As we got to know each other better, I saw her working style, and it inspired me. She, too, attributed it to Reaktor’s culture, and that is what moved me to reach out to them.


千里之行始于足下

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

When I first started talking to the talent growth team at Reaktor, I got the impression they were looking for more senior people. I was convinced that wasn’t me. I’d only worked for two companies after graduate school, and I really didn’t think my secular experience measured up. But after a while, I decided that if I wanted to grow, then I had to take some leaps of faith.


疑则勿任,任则勿疑

Do not choose the one you don’t trust and trust the one you chose.

During my interview, I asked, “If I come to work here, do you have any expectations for me?”

The response was odd to me at the time. The designers that were conducting the interview said, “No, we just want you to shine.” 

I didn’t know how to react to that. What did it mean? It sounded more like a marketing slogan than anything else. But once I started at Reaktor, I began to understand what they were talking about.

One of the most refreshing things about working for this company is the trust everyone has for each other. I have felt it from the beginning. When I came to the office, no one knew me, but they trusted me. That was a big change from my last employer, where my managers would often ask me to prove that I did the work I said I did. It consumed a lot of energy and I found myself drained at the end of the day.

At Reaktor, we all assume that everyone is always doing their best. This doesn’t mean we don’t give each other feedback. In fact, we give a lot of it, and it’s not always commendation and praise. But it is always 100% honest and comes from a good heart. That kind of supportive setting encourages people to succeed — or to “shine” as we say. 

 

家和万事兴。
If a family is harmonious everything will go well.

Before I joined Reaktor, I heard a lot of people say it was like a family. Of course, that’s an analogy that can be loaded with meaning, both good and bad. But I like it. Another way to put it is that my coworkers feel more like friends than colleagues. That feeling actually started while I was interviewing. During the skills part, two Reaktorians and I reviewed some design by talking about a project. Midway through, I realized it didn’t feel like a job interview at all — it was fun!

Beyond that, I know my coworkers are sincerely concerned with my well-being. I am often asked by them, “How was your day? Do you feel you had a meaningful day?” They don’t want to know if I finished a set of tasks, they want to know if I felt good about what I accomplished. That small difference is what makes a colleague a friend. And it’s what makes us a harmonious team that can do great things together.


不怕慢, 就怕停。
Don’t be afraid of going slow, just be afraid of standing still.

A few months after I was hired, the design team had a discussion about professional development. I said I would like to learn coding. In my work, I interact with a lot of engineers, and I’ve found they just think differently. I figured if I understood more about what they do, then I could bridge that gap a little bit.

One of my fellow designers, Adam, has a computer science background and he said he would be happy to put some classes together. Another developer said he could help, too. Since the classes began about six months ago, I’ve studied CSS basics and it gave me enough confidence to create a simple webpage that was needed for the project I’m working on. In the future, I want to incorporate coding into my prototypes to make the design more accurate.

I love that Reaktor encourages horizontal growth. Most companies only care about their employees going up the ladder. But Reaktor doesn’t restrict me to one area. In this case, I was really excited to explore something I wasn’t hired to do — coding. Instead of saying, “that’s a waste of time,” the company told me to pursue it while my coworkers graciously shared their knowledge. I don’t think I’ll be a developer anytime soon, but I do think this will make me a better designer, and maybe it will make those I work with better developers. 

 

冰冻三尺,非一日之寒。
It takes more than one cold day for a river to freeze a meter deep.

When I joined Reaktor Japan, there were 19 employees. Now, a little over a year later, we are close to 30, including eight designers. Even though that’s about a 60% increase, we are nevertheless a pretty small group. And that means we are still figuring things out. But it doesn’t bother me. The people we have here are very earnest and sincere. They have a clear vision for what they want to do, and I know with time we will be able to accomplish it.

 

 

So, dear future colleague, those are my words of wisdom. Not one of them is original, but all of them are mine — because through experience, I now grasp the value of them. I can’t wait to hear what proverbs will prove true for you during your Reaktor journey.

 

 


Dear Future Colleague: A series of letters written by Reaktorians. Come join us, as you are.

 

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