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Making The Leap From Established To Start-Up: What To Expect

Over the past 18 months, we at HACARUS have focused on expanding our organization to  keep up with market demand for our services. It is no longer a rare occasion to welcome a new member from a major corporation – rather it is becoming commonplace. In this blog Tomomi Kikumoto HACARUS’ HR manager, discusses the experience with some recent members of the engineering organization. 


Tomomi: Today the focus will be on 3 HACARUS members who are originally from major corporations. We will ask them about their change in career; the differences between working in a major corporation and a startup, and some common characteristics of people who thrive in a startup environment. 

We will start with a quick introduction of the members we have with us today.

Firstly Shiraishi-san from the System Integration Team,

Shiraishi-san: Hello, my name is Mitsutaka Shiraishi from the System Integration Team.

In my previous job, I developed embedded devices – mainly networking devices.

Since joining HACARUS, I was part of the NEDO project developing a new edge AI. This year I am in charge of integration work for HACARUS’ AI solutions. 


Tomomi: We will move on to 2 members of our Data Science team. Firstly, Daisuke-san.

Daisuke-san: My name is Daisuke Takahashi of the Data Science Team.

In my previous job, I was introducing new installations and improving processes using data science at a major steel manufacturer. At HACARUS, I am mainly involved in projects such as image analysis and anomaly detection for industrial use. I enjoy mountaineering, cycling and traveling.


Tomomi: Followed by Iwao-san

Iwao-san: I am Yoshihiko Iwao of the Data Science Team. In my previous job, I was developing software for controlling equipment and analyzing data at an analytical equipment manufacturer. At HACARUS I am mainly involved in machine learning projects using medical images such as MRI.


Tomomi: Thank you for your introductions. As mentioned above, what you all have in common is that you have joined us from major corporations. We will focus our questions on that topic – and some others!


When you started looking for a career change, did you include start-ups in your original choices?


Shiraishi-san: It was an option for me from the start. In my previous job, I experienced letting down customers due to problems caused by the so-called major-corporation-problems- that mainly occur due to the slow moving and complicated procedures of big firms. Also, although I had some concerns in the long term when considering startups, I thought it wasn’t the end of the world even if the company were to cease to exist.In this fast-changing world, you can no longer be at ease just because you work for a major, famous organization.


Tomomi: How about you Daisuke?


Daisuke-sanAt first, I had no intention to go to a startup. Although I was an engineer in my previous job, the technical part was mainly outsourced. Therefore I was predominantly in charge of the coordination and negotiation work, so there was not much technical work that I could do by myself. I decided to change jobs because I wanted to code more. During my job hunting period, I had talks with some major manufacturers in Kansai. However, I chose not to work for them because when I asked about the actual work, I felt the main focus was on  coordination and negotiation work which is what I wanted to get away from. Around that time, I happened to find a job posting for HACARUS. I came to think the work here would be interesting through the interviewing process – so I decided to join the company.

Iwao-san: I didn’t consider startups as a choice when I originally started looking into a change of career. However, one of the reasons I decided to change jobs was that I felt my previous company was not agile enough to continue adapting to changes in the world. Although in a rapidly changing world,I felt more time was spent on internal work such as coordination, rather than on client work to deliver value. Of course, some people inside the company, including top management, felt the need to change. However when the size of a company grows too large, changing becomes very difficult. In that situation I started to be attracted to the speediness of startups, and through the interviewing process at HACARUS, I felt very strongly that I wanted to work here.


Tomomi: Thank you very much. Based on your answers it seems that your focuses were A.Whether the work was really something you wanted to do  B.Whether the environment was right – I can understand you found HACARUS when prioritising the above. But even so, leaving a famous company for a startup still to grow must have been a huge decision.


What was it about startups that made you leave major corporations?


Daisuke-san: Honestly, before joining HACARUS, I wasn’t sure if there were any startup-specific qualities. I changed jobs because I wanted to be able to code myself, so as long as I have that, I’m happy. One quality I noticed after joining was the speediness of things.


Iwao-san: I as well, feel that speed is the most appealing factor. When starting a new business, it will take at least a few years from planning to actually launch in a large company, like my previous one. However, it is often said that startups do not have time to say such leisurely things and must move five times faster. Here at HACARUS we are actually starting new businesses within six months.

Tomomi: I agree. “Five times faster” is something that everyone is aware of on a daily basis. 

Iwao-san leads the AI ​​education business program for the medical industry that launched this March. I admire you leading a team even though I assume there are many new experiences.


Iwao-san: Also, the fact that you can challenge yourself to all sorts of work is very attractive. Startups don’t have enough people, so everyone has to do something other than what is their own specialty. I’m a data scientist, but I don’t always work with computers in-house. There are many opportunities to go outside and talk to clients, and I am able to do various work. I feel the chances to gain various experiences is also an appealing point.

I think there are many opportunities to challenge yourself to work that you have never done before. Although I understand it is hard, you can develop different skills and for people who can receive this in a positive way, startups are a great option!


Tomomi:I know Shiraishi-san was looking into startups upon looking into a career change. How do you feel now after settling down?

Shiraishi-san: I find it attractive to be able to work with flexibility. As mentioned above, from having experienced the problems of a large organization, this is significant for me.

Also, as everyone is saying, speed; especially pivoting speed. Being able to drastically pivot to fit market conditions as they change, is very different from my previous job.


Tomomi: I can see that the larger the organization, the more time needed for coordinations. As Shiraishi-san says, everyone needs to take ownership. We don’t usually ask others to do the work for us, we always take ownership.


Moving on, what were the significant differences you experienced through your career change from major corporations to a start-up?


Daisuke-san: In HACARUS, there is a culture of calling everyone ○○-san, regardless of age and position. In my previous job, I would only use ○○-san for my superiors and for people who were older than me. Furthermore we had to use ○○-sama(様-which shows formal respect) for all emails .


Tomomi: Shortly after I joined the company, I noticed the same thing. We generally all use “Keigo” to one another. It really is a flat organization. Also, we often use first names when referring to each other. It seems that this is a typical culture that creates a HACARUS atmosphere. How about you Iwao-san?

Iwao-san: I think the biggest difference is the high capability of the members you work with. In my previous job, I was more likely to teach juniors and others due to my position. However now I am surrounded with many capable people and I need to keep up.


Tomomi: As the HR officer, these kinds of answers make me happy. But yes, I agree, our high level of technical capability is one of our strengths.I know we have elaborated on the good aspects of a startup, but major corporations have many good points too, right? In all honesty, what do you miss about working in a major corporation?


Shiraishi-san: I think that the fact that you can collaborate with many people is superior to startups. As a new graduate you will have many colleagues of the same class; you can widen your views through experiencing multiple divisions, and simply interact with many people. 

Daisuke-san: I also feel that “Douki”(colleagues of the same class) and “Kouhai”(colleagues with less experience whom you are expected to mentor) were very significant. We shared our troubles from work and socialised outside of work as well so I was very sad to leave. I’m drifting away from the main point, but I am happy to welcome a former colleague to HACARUS, starting this may.


Tomomi: Certainly, as a new graduate, “Douki” can be very important. In the case of HACARUS, we are yet to hire new graduates, so there isn’t really a concept of “Kouhai” as you will find in a normal organization. It’s exciting to welcome Daisuke-san’s former colleague. I am glad that HACARUS is actively hiring candidates referred by employees!


Iwao-san: It’s not a good point (maybe good for some people), but at my previous company, you were able to make way without putting all the effort in – at HACARUS we are held responsible which I find really empowering. 


Tomomi: Where there any surprises when joining a startup?


Shiraishi-san: Since I joined HACARUS, I now have many more chances to speak English, and I realized that everyone here can speak English normally. Although my previous job encouraged English conversation, few people had the opportunity to actually use English.


Daisuke-san: That’s true. Since ⅓ of our employees are non-Japanese, there are many opportunities to use English on a daily basis. Thanks to there being so many chances, I am more motivated to improve my English speaking skills and I feel I am getting better faster.

Also, although some people think of startups as an extension of student clubs and circles, I think we at HACARUS are a very mature organization. However, this is something I felt during the interviewing process so this wasn’t exactly a surprise. I have not personally had many surprises.


Tomomi: Someda-san, the CTO, jokingly says that HACARUS is a middle-aged venture. 

In fact, the management team has a great deal of experience in large companies and global business. I think this relates with Daisuke-san mentioning HACARUS being “mature”.


Iwao-san: The fact that everyone gets along with one another was a pleasant surprise. I thought a certain amount of complaining and disagreement comes with work in general, but I have found none so far.


Tomomi: For readers who are considering a move to a startup, what do you think are the characteristics of people who thrive in a startup environment?


Shiraishi-san: If you are a person that is willing to take risks, and to be really dedicated – I would be more than happy to welcome you.


Daisuke-san: I think you need to try everything in life, so If you are interested, I don’t see any problem with giving it a go. If I had to say, I would say this is not the environment for people who can only work in their given boundaries but rather for the ones that want to try new things. 

Iwao-san: I think people who like to think and act by themselves are suitable for startups. However, I think it is not suitable for people who like to think for themselves but only want to do their favorite jobs. To work at a startup, you need to be open to various jobs and changes.

HACARUS is actively hiring, to see our open positions visit our careers page.