Working at a Software Engineer at Startups in Seoul

Working at a Software Engineer at Startups in Seoul

Among the many professions that non-Koreans can get in the city of Seoul is the field of software engineering. Since 2016, I have worked at four different startup companies and for now I am really aiming to have greener pastures in the future.

How it all started

I was an exchange student at Korea University of Technology and Education (KoreaTech) back in 2011 and kind of liked it here. Everything is so fast that within one year, you will see a lot of changes in the neighborhood you are living.

I came back in 2013 as a master’s degree student at Sogang University in Seoul. I was lucky because I was able to grab Sogang University’s scholarship for foreigners during that time and my laboratory was offering monthly stipend in exchange for working for the professor in a lab.

After finishing my master’s degree, I really didn’t have an idea on how the job market works in Seoul and the usual application process for a software engineering position. For readers, I suggest reading “Cracking the Coding Interview” as a crash course.

I just know that working for a startup company is better than a big company when you are just starting your career because you can wear several hats at once.

First Job: System Integrator (SI) company

I got into my very first IT company through a recommendation through a Korean friend whom I met back in 2010 when that friend of mine was still an exchange student at my home university in Manila.

At first I really do not understand why many people would like to apply for jobs at Samsung, LG and other big Korean companies until I landed my first job in my first company.

The salary was actually low. I couldn’t complain because I needed a source of income to fund my rent and living expenses here in Seoul. Not to mention, I have to shoulder a lot of expenses in Manila the moment my dad lost his job.

My first company was dealing with big companies as customers. These companies would like to have software but they don’t have the resources and specialty. The software engineers in these big companies are trained to develop the core-business solutions in which the company is making money out of. On the other hand, my company was selling customized enterprise software to them.

It was really hard because of the language. I was forced to say “yes” or “no” to things which I don’t understand at all. Mind you, my level of proficiency during those times was really down to earth.

The youngest staff in the company was actually three years younger than me.

As of the time that I wrote this blog post, reviewing my life back in 2016 and my life now in 2020 as a software engineer, I can say that most older Koreans than me are more sympathetic and really understanding.

The things that I didn’t like about my first company were (1) it was a slave of bigger companies, (2) it was mostly focusing on Adobe Enterprise Manager, and (3) it was mostly dealing with clients using older technologies such as jQuery and Java.

Second: Blockchain-based Remittance Company

When I was working for the SI company, I was actually looking for another company because life is really hard if (1) you are the only foreigner in the company, (2) if you are not proficient with the language, and (3) you cannot afford . I found this remittance company that mainly catered to Filipino remittance clients. I was happy that they had a position when I applied.

It was pure luck when I got accepted because the blockchain industry was actually on its start here in Korea and no company ever do remittance using blockchain except that company which I worked at.

Surprisingly, there were three nationalities in the company: Chinese, Vietnamese and yes, Filipino. Similar to my previous company, I was not the youngest in the company. The youngest was five years younger than me.

To be continued

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