A day in the life: Ben Price (Backend Engineering Manager, Mercari)
Ben Price describes his life as an Engineering Manager for the backend team at Mercari, a C2C marketplace and formerly Japan’s first tech unicorn, in Tokyo. Mercari sponsored the inaugural Lead Dev Berlin conference in December 2019.
What has your journey in tech been like so far?
I’m originally from Canada, but I have been living and working in Japan as an engineer on and off for about five years as a backend engineer for numerous fintech projects.
I eventually moved back to Canada to advance my career and move into management. However, I still had the urge to further advance my career and was looking for a company where I can continue to grow professionally. This later led me to join Mercari’s Tokyo office as a Backend Engineering manager.
Since I was able to work with multiple startups during my time in Canada, I wanted to work at a company that still had a startup culture. I feel that although Mercari has over 1800 employees, it still has that startup vibe — and also the potential for further growth.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced moving into your current role?
Balancing product and engineering after an agile adoption phase through continuous communication with all parties involved.
We have just shifted from a waterfall to an agile system and my role is to bring fresh new ideas, talking to project managers and other stakeholders to improve how we develop a product as we go through this phase.
To do so, I’ve been taking external, company-sponsored training and certifications such as the Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) training to better understand the product side of the business.
Briefly describe your stack and workflow?
Our legacy codebase, which is still kicking around, was built with PHP and MySQL hosted on dedicated servers. We’ve been actively migrating to a new microservice architecture using GoLang and various Google Cloud Platform tools such as BigQuery and Cloud SQL. But of course, we work on releasing new features at the same time!
What does your typical day look like?
Every day varies, but I use my time most in communicating with stakeholders and discussions with my teammates. This includes things such as: participating in scrum ceremonies, daily scrum ceremonies, regular one-on-one meetings with my direct reports, team-building events, weekly open-door sessions, and sitting directly with the team to allow for ad-hoc discussion.
Since I meet with a lot of people during the day, I try to set some time for daily tasks beforehand by utilizing Google Calendar and setting reminders.
What’s the best and worst part of your job?
The best part about working at Mercari is that there is always an opportunity for professional growth. One of our company values is “Go Bold,” and the company encourages people to come up with big, crazy ideas and to not be afraid of failure. It’s rare to see a large corporate company that encourages employees to take a chance, and that kind of company culture is what allows members to set their own path.
As an engineering manager, there’s a lot of opportunities to make significant changes in the company, and you can say that there is enough transparency to allow members to do so. For example, every single member is entitled to ask questions directly to our execs at our all-hands meetings.
The worst part is because I’m a manager I don’t have time to code anymore.
What is your most useful resource (book, blog, newsletter)?
I would say my most useful resource is talking to my peers.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Managing people is all about building relationships with those people — not telling them what to do.
What’s one thing you’d like to learn, develop, or work on in 2020?
I would like to work on defining a clear, long-term technical and product roadmap for my part of the organization. Mercari is just seven years old, so we are still in the phase of trying to define the processes to adjust to the growth of the company.