From Navy, to Eikawa, to IT: A veteran’s personal journey in Japan

“Life isn’t fair,” is what I used to tell myself. I had an excuse for every pitfall that had happened in my life, since I moved *back* to Japan. That’s right-- I had come back to Japan, only to blame all of my mistakes, shortcomings, and failures on the country of 127 million Japanese people, I didn’t even know.

Let me provide some background: I left the US Navy as an E-5, had a girlfriend in Japan, and thought, “Hell, I’ll go to school there since the GI Bill will pay for it.” I attended TUJ (Temple University Japan campus) in the heart of Tokyo, and graduated with an International Affairs major and Economics minor. I had it all figured out. A veteran with 5 years military background-- and now a degree-- I’d be irresistible to employers. I even had my resume professionally rewritten.

Then reality struck — employers didn’t call back. I received so many rejection letters that I began to consider it normal, and when a potential employer did follow up, I had almost no idea how to proceed onto the next stage in order to get an offer.

I had lost touch with the civilian world. Being in the Navy five years had its merits, and had prepared me for quite a lot, but rejection and competiting with people who I now looked down my nose at, because they had never enlisted, was not one of them.

In Japan, no one cared I was prior military. It made good bar room chat, but when it came to business, a place for using my skills was hard to find. US military is already viewed in a not so positive light because of recent incidents in Okinawa, most infamous being the brutal rape murder of a 12 year old Japanese school girl.

Some guys I used to work with showcasing the core skill every sailor has.

All of this was happening as I was teaching English to businessmen, housewives, and students. I would look at these people and think, “How are they suceeding in life? These lessons are very expensive, yet, they can afford these lessons and more…” Students would often discuss their upcoming business trips, vacations to Hawaii, or something exciting going on in their lives. This just added fuel to the blame-fire.

Japan was racist and only the Japanese could succeed here, was the next excuse. I’d sit in bars with ex-pats, coworkers, and other disgruntled foreigners complaining about the students and how shitty Japan was (I still love to complain, just about different stuff ).

Then something magical happened. Well… magical might be a bit of a stretch, but I experienced the failure that shocked me to the core: I failed the FSOT, the Foreign Service Officer Test, a test for those who want to become an FSO for the U.S. government. So even though I was a veteran, and thought my degree was the icing on the cake, I had to accept the fact that it was ME who didn’t properly prepare for the test (with a recommended preparation period of 1 year!), and that I had just blew my chance at leaving Japan. On top of that, my wife was pregnant with our second child.

Life was throwing everything it had at me, or so I thought, and I was taking a beating. I had to make something happen, I had to do something, I just didn’t know what.

Months earlier, a friend of mine had recommended that I learn Python, and after failed attempts at installing Jupyter Notebooks on my computer, I gave up. Only to wind up getting into FreeCodeCamp and CodeCademy. Where I created some VERY basic apps and projects. Nevertheless, it put me on the path I’m on today, where I can envision success and have a much brighter vision of my future.

I had originally joined the military seeking an IT position, and settled with becoming an Aviation Electronic Technician, a job I absolutely loved. FCC and CC gave me a second shot at it, albeit with software instead of hardware. I began my journey around August 2016, and even when I got my first IT job, never stopped. I’d fallen in love with logical IT, and couldn’t put down books, stop watching videos, and reading articles about coding. I was most inspired by other people’s success stories.

The most crucial thing that was happening, was not the fact that I was picking up another skill, but that my outlook on my situation was changing rapidly. I began to see how the negativity had kept me stagnant. How focusing on what was wrong, kept me from seeing what was right. I began to study more and more, and move out of my comfort zone — something I had failed to do when I was in college. I went to a few meetups for programmers and a few job fairs, all things I thought I didn’t need as a veteran.

Then my break came. In February of this year, I got an offer to have an interview with a small IT company. I had not managed to get an actual sit in interview on my own, until this opportunity.

Oh how ironic fate is. After studying software for months and months, the offer I received was based on my experience in the Navy!!

I was still quite elated to be moving out of teaching into IT. I quickly accepted the *cough* low *cough* offer, and happily informed the school I worked for that I was moving on.

This year has been a roller coaster ride. I have already left the small company I worked for, and moved on to a larger IT company — in the same building. I’ve been headhunted by global companies (not sure if their interest was genuine or not, but it was something not happening at all before), and, recently, started a website with a friend, in hopes of actually leaving the industry to pursue my own interests.

Please join me as I write more about my journey in Japan :).