Ben Palmer – BA (Hons) Media Lab Arts graduate

Current Employer: Rain Interactive KK (co-owner)

Current Job Title: Creative Director

Current Location: Toranomon, Tokyo

“Starting a company is tough enough, but especially in Japan which is not known for ease of business. We often reminisce about the infamous potato diet I lived on during the first few months.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

After graduation I decided to live in another country to try and understand a different culture and learn a language. I began working in Japan teaching English where I was able to apply the communication aspects of my degree. I pivoted to the company’s e-learning department where we developed an online teaching platform. When the banking crisis hit I was able to get a design position in a Japanese web company. I then formed my own company, Rain Interactive, with three friends, and have been growing it ever since.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Yes and no. Part of the path I chose was to understand what I really wanted to do. Therefore it didn’t change as such, but rather unfolded and I was able to discover where I wanted to go. Then when I had made my decision, the path was part of a calculated way to get there. So, in very fixed terms, yes: my career path has changed a lot with regards to roles and titles. But they are details, sections of an overall career path which was about discovering what I enjoyed doing and putting myself in the position to do it. Call it a career river.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Starting a company is tough enough, but especially in Japan which is not known for ease of business. We often reminisce about the infamous potato diet I lived on during the first few months. I also flipped out with panic that New Year in a video chat back home to my parents. However, the most difficult thing I’ve faced was the process towards graduating in media lab arts (MLA) with a first. So, in all honesty, the trauma of starting a company overseas, and living on potatoes with no money, wasn’t all that tough.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Go to Japan. Form my own company. It’s kind of masochistic, but there is a pleasure in trying to take on something the hard way – and achieving it. However, when I first arrived in Japan I joined and formed a rock band, and we played around Tokyo for four years. Not exactly my career, although easily the most fun. I did use my MLA skills to design and promote us: including website, CD release, and merchandising. It was never something that was going to take off, largely due to visa restrictions and possible lack of talent.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

I thought the MLA course was brilliant. I really did. Also the year in industry was massive for gaining experience and skills. It was one of the reasons I chose the course and it really justified it. Also, I felt the course itself was especially hard-core, and I liked being pushed. When I came out of MLA I felt battle-hardened and making an impact in a company seemed a matter of course. I especially appreciated the mix of practical skills with the psychology and philosophy edge, plus business application. It really was a fantastically well put-together degree and the plaudits it received were well earned.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Appreciate the time you get to study and learn new things. Once you hit the workplace you really appreciate those opportunities you had to develop because in the workplace you are often only concentrating on the thing right in front of your face, and you’re not able to learn new skills and tricks. Also, once you graduate, you have a great chance to try new things. It is well worth taking your risks then because, if it doesn’t work out, it really doesn’t matter that much. Start a company early on with some mates just for a laugh: if it works out you’re laughing. If not, it’s not going to destroy wife, kids, family, career prospects etc.

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