Bong-jun Jin and Jae-sung Lee came to Jeju with a clear mission, which is to find business opportunities and to test remote work. They are very detailed with their plan and a smart pair that they changed their partner every month to test the different results of remote work depending on the difference of the inclination and work type of the partners. Since they appear to enjoy (?) their time in Jeju so much that they are in danger of getting fired (…)
J-Space I have heard that Play Auto itself is testing remote work that some adjustments have been made as a result, such as organization reformation and improvement in the environment, so how is it going so far and how did you handle your tasks in Jeju?
Bong-jun Jin Our Company has been in the industry for 12 years and has about 70 employees. We are mostly handling B2B (Business to Business) projects. When the company was first started, it didn’t have a strict work environment but the hierarchical structure was present. However, a horizontal structure was promoted when our CEO was replaced. The very first thing the new CEO did was to use English names in the company. I was top 4 in the company ranking but now that kind of hierarchy was abolished. So changes were brought into the organization that positions were abolished yet tasks were more specified. Also, there was a change in the office space that usually a person in a higher position uses a separate room located in the inner space for himself, but efforts to abolish downsides of the vertical structure were made by abolishing designated seats and running co-working space. Meeting room table was changed to a round table and designated individual tables were changed to a hexagonal table that it was designed to make each team sit together. Desktop computers were removed and replaced with laptops. In some cases, designated seats are allowed but aside from that the environment was created to allow us to work in cafes and got rid of with the concept of ‘individual desk’, because with the presence of ‘individual desk’, the environment would easily become under the vertical structure again.
We are preparing to enter overseas markets and with that, there could be situations that our developers may need to work abroad. Our work here is to experiment for those potential situations, experimenting it in abroad is unrealistic so we are doing it here in Jeju. For remote work, supplementing device for the physically separated situation should be considered, so we are using Skype or Hangout for the conference calls. We could reach conveniently since we are using communication tool like Jandi, but there are shortcomings. It’s a communication through text so in times of emergency, it’s hard to communicate in comparison with meeting in person. Furthermore, we don’t exactly know the actual situation of headquarter and vice versa so there might be misunderstandings from it. Nonetheless, it is not a problem of a tool but a problem of a person and internal process so we consider it as a side effect of a transition period.
We should continue to think about it. It’s too early to decide on whether it is good or bad but one good thing I thought of while working in a remote place is that there is stress coming from the conflict of interests with each department when working in the office, but there is no such thing here so it makes me emotionally stable by working with peaceful mind.
<Bong-jun Jin is mutually communicating with Turum Soon-dong Park, the performer, at the dinner networking event for supporting stay held in April. Play Auto’s No.4 has an extraordinary vibe from his sleepers with three stripes!>
J-Space Play Auto must have a lot of developers, and they might need the optimized working space for them to work. Some developers we met through interviews shared that it took some time for them to adjust. So it was questionable if networking was necessary for them and besides, a lot of them seem to be an introvert.
Bong-jun Jin You’re right, Jae-sung Lee is actually a special case for a developer that he is very extrovert. Our own developers hate to transfer from their seating arrangements and prefer to work in a fully-equipped environment. So the developer who came with me last April, Sang-kwon Seo, had a hard time at the beginning. Developers need desktop monitors as many as three so coding with a small laptop screen itself was hard. As time goes by, he got used to it but perhaps, that’s because where he worked was here in Jeju that he could feel comfortable with it yet the actual environment was still a struggle. However, this buddy (Jae-sung Lee) is totally opposite.
Jae-sung Lee It is true but also for Sang-kwon, his field of specialty requires development with a fixed address, so to enter the server with security he needs to register IP. He can’t register IP everywhere he works so he needed to work in a designated place. On the other hand, for developing new things, a place doesn’t matter but rather a creative place for development is much needed. If the development is for maintenance, it requires concentration so working in one place could be more efficient. In fact, the advantage of digital nomad has the purpose of resulting in a creative performance and with that, it greatly helps my mind to be refreshed by transferring places. Therefore, this is suitable for me.
J-Space You have a lot to do in Jeju, right? You’ve met various people from the agricultural sector in Jeju, could you tell me about it?
Jae-sung Lee I’ve received so many business cards. It was President Myeong-sil Kang, whom we met continuously and in-depth from the field of agriculture. We were introduced to President Myeong-sil Kang through the owner of the guesthouse for stay applicant, President Myeong-sil Kang used to be a vice present of a school and became a farmer and grows blueberries. Probably Present Myeong-sil Kang didn’t have a good connection with local residents in Jeju, so instead formed a union with people who became farmers and was offering education in order to expound on online channels. Education composed of blog posting, register for store farm, establish shopping mall called ‘modoo’ etc. We were able to get much information and to learn about the kind of value chain for the management. People in the agricultural sector are usually of old age and it was hard to approach them because, even though it's an era of IT, they were having a hard time with even blog posting. Nevertheless, people like President Myeong-sil Kang projected their strong need for online so we could focus on developing the specific service for them.
Second of all, we went to Mureungoegatjip. We met Chang-wook Hong, the office head and learned about the business item called Koo-reo-mi aside from direct dealing from farming. Service for farmers was limited to direct dealing but after meeting them, we got the hope that we can develop other types of business models for farmers.
Then, we met Ae-ja Kim of Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial Tourism Association, who is in charge of marketing for experiencing agricultural village. This marketing was structured in a way that they offer experiencing agricultural village for free and with that many people come to experience it and buy one for two boxes of fruits from the farm in return. A lot of people are here for experience for a month and it was really good to meet different types of farmers in Jeju.
<Jae-sung Lee is presenting the result from one week of stay at the social gathering for stay applicants in May. He felt missing because there were ‘only’ 10 people of the applicants, he is a grabby and talented developer!>
Bong-jun Jin To add on to it, we have a project with the University of Jeju. In Jeju, there are tourism contents related to museums, exhibits and leisure and these mainly get tourists through online. Our project is to provide a solution to make it easier for the content sellers in online. The reason why I came here in April was actually to do a market research here since I have no connections here. At first, I was introduced to people by the center but they were not directly related to the field. We were in the process of developing ways to find people with original contents and farmers can be one of them because aside from selling their products, they also manage services like experiencing agricultural sector so we approached them.
Early in May, we met farm owners again and most of them were distributing their projects through direct dealing and that direct dealing was possible through their friends. Since the dealings were done from the pool of people of their own, there is no need for an online solution for them. In the beginning, we didn’t know about these things so we had a hard time in approaching them. We told them “you should make use of online” but it wasn’t working. So slowly and deeply we try to meet them and asked their difficulties and that’s how we found their need. We surely found their need but they don’t feel the need for expanding the online platform. Nonetheless, there is a demand on how to manage online platform but they are accustomed to the hardships already so they do not even recognize the fact that they are having a hard time with it. So, we didn’t hear any positive feedbacks from the farm owners. They said, “I think I don’t need this, until when can you do it for me? I can do the dealings by using what I have now!” However as we continue to contact with farmers, we finally got to meet the people mentioned above.
One thing we newly acquired is that there are people who don’t feel the need for online platforms but also there are people who feel the need for devising online channels. An example would be the president Myeong-sil Kang and with like-minded people. We ask them to introduce other like-minded people and that’s how we continued until now. Right now, we will proceed with the project we want to do. This is not a pivoting but as we meet this kind of farm owners, we think that making programs for them could be a good idea so when I return to the headquarter I will organize the thought. They make active proposals to us and when we propose in return, they try to help us in a positive manner. In addition, the original targets are also being connected. In April, when we were starting, I tried to meet people I wanted to meet directly and it didn’t work out, but after experiencing it for a month, I, myself became more flexible. What made it work was actually when I try to listen to their hardships, instead of trying to listen to what I wanted to hear from them.
J-Space You mentioned about developing the solution with the University of Jeju through industrial-educational cooperation and thinking of doing it with students from Computer Engineering and even furthering it to hire them.
Bong-jun Jin There was a kick-off meeting with the University of Jeju in March this year, and in the process, we applied for stay application. In April, we went there to have a regular meeting, because they have a laboratory for Computer Engineering. We met the students from there, talk with them and talk while having barbecues together. We also have to do team building and so it was important to know who will fit for our company. Knowing what kind of concerns they have will help us to become flexible when the students are hired so I try talking with them as much as possible. We created separate group Kakaotalk chat room and hang out from time to time and talked to each other. We feel comfortable with each other now. At first, their personality was not exclusive but rather introvert so I was careful in dealing with them but now it became so much better.
J-Space I think you are good at this kind of activities, such as going to meet personally and trying things again.
Jae-sung Lee I hope even the developers also have a good understanding of the product, have business knowledge and try to experience all these. Later on, the position doesn’t matter but everyone will take their part in developing and planning a project as well.
J-Space You have a mind of a leader.
Bong-jun Jin That dude aspires to be president.
Bong-jun Jin, who went to Jeju with a strong mind for business, said when all the accidental encounters gathered, it results in a strong synergy, and Jae-sung Lee, who is really excited about meeting people, left us the suggestions for a lot of recreational games that can be played with more people. The fantastic pair, who may and may not look like each other, hope to see you again in Jeju!
*The above script has been slightly modified from the original interview for readability and the order of interview has been reorganized while we try to maintain Interviewee's original words and intention as much as possible.
Contact of <Play Auto> Bong-jun Jin
Contact of <Play Auto> Jae-sung Lee
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