Sam Prashker, BCS/16

It wasn’t long after graduation in the spring of 2016 that Sam Prashker, a graduate of the School of Computer Science, packed his bags and headed to Japan.  He spent the following month working as a Software Development Engineer for Microsoft’s Tokyo office. We caught up with Sam to find out more about what it was like working for Microsoft and what lead him to Tokyo.

So you moved to Japan after graduation. What drew you to working in Asia?

I had wanted to travel as part of a post-graduation vacation. I was not set on where I would go but I remembered that a student at Carleton had come to one of my classes years prior and basically asked “why not Japan?”.

I kind of had an epiphany that growing up a lot of the stuff I have watched I never consciously recognized that it came from Japan like Studio Ghibli, Nintendo, etc. So I realized now that I had an incentive to go to Japan, to learn more about the culture, to explore their technology, and to grow as a person. I’ve never travelled internationally, and I was alone to boot.

Originally I was set on teaching English, something that most foreigners can do with minimal trouble, given that many Japanese children these days want to learn English. It was outside my area of expertise but it would offset the cost of the trip significantly.

However, as luck would have it, emailing the Carleton Recruiter for Microsoft, things could not have turned out any better.

Why were you drawn to working at Microsoft?

I always liked to tinker and create small scripts to increase my productivity when using the computer. If I worked at Microsoft it meant that I’d have a chance to put stuff like that into production and reach the most amount of people.

Oh and, growing up my friends would always say “don’t forget about us when you work for Microsoft” so maybe I subconsciously didn’t want to disappoint them.

What are they like as an employer?

The environment is very relaxed. The amount of internal tools and systems are absolutely phenomenal. I have weekly standups with my manager who has always gone above and beyond to help me with any troubles or concerns, either inside or outside of work. They also pay very well, in addition to actually covering the cost of my accommodations and reimbursing my flight tickets to Japan.

What is your daily work like?

Currently I am working on the Office Team – responsible for all products under the Office moniker. Going more granular than that, I am on a small scrum team responsible for the Office Lens iOS application. If you have an iPhone be sure to check it out, lots of new features coming out soon like Office Lens on the iPhone App Store.

Every day we have a small standup meeting to explain what we’ve done in the past day, what is next, and any comments concerns. It allows a very fast development cycle for a ton of work to get done. Any engineer is allowed to pluck a task that they wish to do from the prioritized list of bugs and features.

What is it like living in Tokyo?

Absolutely overwhelming. And that is why I love it. I’ve never felt so far outside my comfort zone before and feel it was a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow. I am in Tokyo, which is a huge metropolis and is fairly accommodating to English speaking foreigners – a lot of the signs have translations on them.  However, that luxury is mostly restricted to the big cities in Japan. Anywhere rural or less than urban, it is almost always Japanese only. I have been able to get around with a very small set of Japanese words, as well hand gestures. Everyone has been so nice. Having been in Japan for 4 months now I am more comfortable than ever here. I still don’t know much of the language but my word bank has grown enough to help me out in dire situations.

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