Working at Mujin: An Intern's Perspective

We would like to get an inside look at how different roles contribute to Mujin’s success. Mujin Internship Program is designed to match students interested in pursuing career in robotics field with Internship opportunities spanning a variety of technologies. Today I talked with Tab, who is an intern in Hardware team at Mujin and a graduate student at University of Illinois at Chicago.

At Mujin office

What originally attracted you to Mujin? How did you become interested in robotics?

I came to know Mujin through LinkedIn intern position and applied. And the first thing I noticed compared to other companies, is a large social media presence, which is very attractive to me. I’m a very extraverted person, so I can see Mujin is very transparent in this way too, which is important for me. Seems that in Mujin everyone knows the product, robots and everyone likes robots. 

 "I can see Mujin is very transparent"

What attracted me about Mujin itself is robotics and Japan. This combination, together, is futuristic, kind of complementing each other. Japan is a country full of technology: automation of cashiers, vending machines. As soon as I saw an actual Mujin product which had a vision control algorithm, I  found out that it was different from other robotics companies. 

From the beginning my intention was not robotics. I did hardware in a power supply side (batteries, wall charges, etc.), in the end the application was always different: like one time it was a robot, once a video game system, or a medical system. So, when I looked online on the Mujin website I saw that all these different power systems in one company, I can see that the power splits  and it can be applied everywhere. I was impressed to know that the batteries used in the AGV cars are the same as used for satellites. Making these kinds of things to be efficient now for the energy save.  

I was nervous about coming to Japan. I have never been in Asia before. Later, after I applied to Mujin, I went on a business trip to Hong Kong, and I really enjoyed this trip. I came back and was reached out by the Mujin recruiter. I asked so many questions not only about Mujin, but about Japan. The recruiter was so helpful, so Mujin and Japan itself became transparent to me. 

Tell me about the hiring process. How did you know about us? 

First, I got a phone call from the recruiter saying that my potential manager expressed interest in my resume, and I filled out my skill sheet which is amazing because, I think, it says to applicants exactly what skills they will need to apply to the job. So it’s a good opportunity to understand for yourself ‘will you be a good candidate for the job’. So, I think it’s a good idea to have a skill sheet. 

Then I had a phone interview with my hiring manager who was very open to answer my questions like team size, demographic, diversity, transparency. That’s helped me to understand that even if I don’t speak Japanese I can be welcomed in the team and I can work appropriately. 

Lunch time at Mujin

How did Mujin prepare you for your internship? 

Mujin did all the paperwork and prepared documents for me, here in Japan, and I filled out the visa application. Also, I got a list of things that I had to do, like 'When you walk to the embassy, they will ask you this document, so please take and and sign it', and actually it was exactly the same as in the instructions from Mujin. Easy and convenient process. 

Overall, the HR team is a flexible team, they helped me a lot during my busy time. Actually, while preparing my documents, I was working full time and also my University classes in the evening, so I was available only around midnight US time, and obviously the time difference here was perfect for me.

"When you first come to Japan you need a lot of things"

So, the easiest part was to get a cell phone. I was recommended by Mujin which mobile to buy; so I found a plan (in English), chose one and ordered it in advance from the US. 

The next important thing you have to do once you arrive in Japan is to go to the city ward office. It’s quite easy to do, the receptionist spoke English and directed me where to go. 

To get a bank account was tough, that process took around one month. But without Mujin’s help I would not be able to do it. All documents you have to fill out are in Japanese, so Mujin helps to do it and to submit. 

Mujin also helped me to choose my apartment in Tokyo, suggesting several options and I chose one through the agency website. My choice was based on the apartment location, like how far from the office, is there a grocery store, etc. The apartment itself is very good, everything is included in one bill, not so far from the office and Mujin covers transportation fees, so it’s a best choice for an intern. 

But actually, the hardest part to be in Japan is to know the Japanese daily life etiquette or tips. What I heard is that proper manners are valued highly in Japan, and foreign visitors should be familiar with at least the most basic rules. I learned most by myself, but still thinking about how to avoid making mistakes. Anyway, people around are very helpful and answer all my questions. 

Please tell me about your learning experience here. What is your favorite part about working for Mujin? 

   
Working with Mujin pendant
The first month was difficult because I wasn’t familiar with Mujin systems, I learned what a single-board computer or controller is. I knew the electronics inside, but I didn’t know the system. So my first month was learning the system and also people whom to contact. Also, there are a lot of software tools that technical teams use, so for me it was more to understand the interface of each tool. Currently, I’m more involved in designing work. 

My favorite part about working at Mujin is seeing different people everyday. The startup environment is new to me, but now, after a couple months working in Mujin, I can say that to work in a startup company is cool, you can see that every new person is added to the company, it’s because their marginal value is going to bring a lot of value. If you are in a small company with 100 people, that means you have 100 different talents with 100 superpowers, like strong people, flexible people, etc. This is very unique, every new person adds a lot of value, starts writing the whole procedure, starts designing a whole new architecture, so it’s completely different from big companies. 
"You can see your impact directly"

Describe Mujin’s culture.

   
At Mujin lunch
Mujin culture is the most open working culture I've ever seen in Asia. I feel like I’m in Silicon Valley, everyone speaks English, everyone has a startup mentality. For me it’s like a bubble inside Tokyo. 

And Mujin is so transparent. I can find any information about it on SNS, I can see how the company is great through events they organized (not now due to coronavirus). I have very friendly co-workers, who always help me if I have questions. This company is a diverse company. People here are very passionate about what they are doing and they love it. Most of my friends here, in Tokyo, are my team members. They are the same age and different nationalities; so we eat lunch together, I like this time to ask them about different countries, their cultures and traditions. (Diversity: everyone is unique). And I like Mujin lunch food, of course. (Hungry? There is a free lunch!)



What experiences do you have during your internship, outside of work? What is it like living in Tokyo and how did you acclimate yourself? 

I changed my life's daily routine after coming to Tokyo. 

The formalness of the city and the culture. For example, if you are in Chicago, people playing music outside, selling food, but in Tokyo it is very formal. You walk and you can’t disrupt others, keep your distance and respect other’s space. 

Inside the train it’s clean and warm, I really enjoy the transportation system in Tokyo. I believe it’s the best transportation system in the world. I use google maps for everything, I already got used to the different rail systems and understood the difference between them. Inside each transport you have free WiFi. I already took some 1 day trips, I visited Kamakura, Kawagoe, Nikko and Tokyo itself. 

One more important thing to be mentioned here is food. I didn’t eat much fish when I was in the US, but here fish are very good and I cannot stop eating it. Definitely, one more thing to be eaten in Japan is fried food like tempura, katsu, also yakitori. My favorite food is monjayaki in Tsukishima, I like the way it's cooking. We usually go out with friends from Mujin, so I never feel lonely here. 

Overall I like izakaya’s culture, it’s exciting. You can see people having fun there after work, it’s a good way to reduce stress and relax for the business person. 

After work

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I am a very big fan of classical art, especially impressionism. Every city I go to, I always go to the Fine Arts museum. I like Tokyo museums too. In the Mori Art museum they have a great AI robotics exhibit now, and of course, I enjoyed the city view from the roof. So, Mori Art museum is highly recommended. 

Also, I do like to run. For example I ran from Mujin office (Tatsumi) to Nerima. Like cross Tokyo, and I enjoyed the city, it’s a good way to explore Tokyo. 

One fun fact about me. My last name, Torres, in Spanish means towers. That’s why I would like to climb on towers! I’ve been on 10 towers so far, in the US and Japan. 

What advice do you have for students interested in obtaining an internship?

If you are interested in Mujin, first thing you should reach out, don’t be afraid that it’s in Japan, don't be scared you cannot speak Japanese. It’s not a problem at all, you can get along with Japanese language at Mujin and in Japan itself. 

"Don’t be afraid that it’s in Japan, 
don't be scared you cannot speak Japanese"

Also, which is the most important, think about what skills you have and what can you contribute to the startup. In a startup you have to be kind of your own leader, you have to drive your own project and you have to implement it. Make sure you are willing to find a problem if any and fix it. Be independent. 

Understand robotics as from the technology side and robotics role, and why we need it. If you know what it does and you know you want to do that, you will be more motivated to build it. Japan has a declining population, it will become a crisis soon because the labor shortage is too high, and this might affect the price of everything important in Japan. So, if you feel you want to make a difference in that problem, it will drive you to learn more. 

I’ve really enjoyed working in Mujin. When I came here, I listed 5 goals for myself. By far, I’m accomplishing 4 of them. The 5th goal is to climb Mount Fuji. So, I hope, I will do it before leaving Japan. 

If you think Mujin is the best place for you then just apply:
Mujin Career Website

Read more Mujin employees interviews: #Mujinian voice

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