Devin Rupert is a former military man and current associate with a defense consultancy. We had the pleasure of asking him some questions about his life and job in Seoul.
Can you lay out your “origin story?” What made you want to work in Seoul specifically?
The opportunity to work in Seoul came about by just browsing the web one night. I wasn’t looking to make a career move, but decided to respond to a post on a discussion forum for Korea. Immediately I was in discussions about working over here and in less than a month, I was on the ground.
Do you feel like your career progressed more quickly in Seoul than it would have in a typical large western metropolis?
I would say that career advancement is dependent upon the individual who is willing to show that they can go the extra mile, can show that they are smart, can show that they can perform, can show that they can deliver… and they will get rewarded by more responsibilities. I’ve been lucky in my career choices that I advanced quickly by being able to adapt and perform. If your boss sees that you are a smart go-getter and can deliver results things can develop quite quickly.
What sorts of responsibilities were you given that you would not have been given in a place like Seattle?
The work I do in Seoul is quite different than Seattle. I was a manager at both locations, but the unique structure of the work in Seoul provides me with more variety and working with more players is exciting.
What tips and advice would you give to young up-and-comers trying to break into your industry, particularly in Korea?
My industry is defense consulting, so if you don’t have a military background, then I recommend to be a subject matter expert in a field… any field. I did work with a few nonmilitary people who were part of the team here, and they fit in well. Be an expert in IT, finance, project management, logistics or any other function that the military can use. It’s not all about weapons and tanks.
Networking does play a huge role in meeting people in various fields. You get to meet new people in other companies as well as catch up and exchange information on what’s developing in the field.
What were your favorite things about having a career in Korea? Do you feel your experiences would be transferable and valuable to a career in America?
The favorite things about working in Korea is living in Seoul. Living abroad isn’t for everyone, but I enjoy being able to live in a big city like Seoul. One thing that sets my job apart from most other expats in Seoul is that our office is 100% English. Since our client is the US government, they speak English as well as the workers. I never had to take Korean classes or do any Korean business customs. So for me working in Korea is just like working in the States.
Any advice for Asian-Americans looking to launch a career in Asia?
I grew up in Texas where my sister and I were the only Asians in school. Of course kids can be kids and perhaps that kind of childhood made me determined and work hard. My advice for people looking to enter Asia is to have a skill and be the subject matter expert and network. It may sound simple, but it’s hard work. Before anyone can take you seriously, you have to prove that you can perform and deliver.
When you meet someone who can influence your future, it’s time to be smart about what kind of information you tell them. Don’t just tell people that you are an accountant/engineer/
So what is next in your plan?
I’ve started my own consulting firm and will remain in Asia with a base in Seoul. My focus will be providing project management support to small-medium businesses. Many small-medium sized businesses don’t have the manpower or resources to successfully implement a project or program because they may start a new project every now and then, so they won’t have people on their staff who are experienced in project management. This is where my company can come and help then in this short time. I will also focus on sales engagement and other special projects.