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Here is a little insight about work life in Samsung, one of the biggest korean company.

I was a bit disappointed by what I read first, but it actually seems obvious now…

This article comes from a mail exchange with a korean man currently working at Samsung. I never worked at Samsung myself.

1. Is there foreign engineers working at Samsung ?

Yes, there are a number of foreign nationals who are working at Samsung Electronics. Just to warn you, Samsung is not a software company even though they want to be one but they are far from being one. I am very disappointed with the way they treat engineers in software development, and I am not planning on staying here for very long.

I get lots of developers from india and russia, but hardly any from EU members or USA.

2. So what could be a better company to work in as a software engineer in Korea ?

I’d say stay away from any korean owned company. Mid-size companies may treat engineers better, but not many of them have the environment to hire someone who does not speak the language (not that Samsung does but samsung thinks that they do. Lots of non speaking employees feel that they are left out very often)

3. Then why Samsung is hiring foreigners ?

When it comes to a foreign hire, Samsung has to have a specific purpose. That is whether you are coming from a competitor in the industry that Samsung wants to grow or you are a Korean decent.

4. Can’t I get a job at Samsung otherwise ?

That does not mean you won’t be able to get a job but Samsung will not be willing to match your salary that you are making in France (Engineers with 2-3 years of experience make somewhere between 40-50,000,000 KRW /year before tax)[30 000€ environ NDJB]. You would typically need MS or higher or have to have 4+ years of experience to get a work permit in Korea but in your case being married to a Korean citizen should be able to get you a work permit.

In general, if you are visiting for 2 years and certain that you know where you are going back to, it might be good experience but at the same time I am not sure if you will be happy.

5. And what are the work conditions for software engineers in general ?

The work culture here is completely different than what you are probably used to. Software is not the strongest part of Samsung. The software process is really not there. Everything is done on ad-hoc basis and you will see often that people will have to work late by repeating the same task due to lack of process and right expertise.

6. How is the management ?

The manager believes that their job ends with delegation. Analyzing resources or feasibility of a job does not seem to be in their concern. Hence, you will just be given work randomly and it is your fault if you don’t finish it.

I hope you know a little more about Samsung and work in Korea. Many thanks to my correspondent for giving us an insight.

And you ? Could you work in those conditions just to get in a prestigious company ?

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23 Responses to “You don’t want to work at Samsung !”

  1. Good to have insight feedback from this company!
    It seems to be very bad work conditions, but this feedback is also very subjective. I personally decrease my expectations level being in an foreign country, because just being is that country provides me curiousness and happiness just walking around. But this is just for limited period of time only, and only if your job does not prevent you from walking around and spend some time in the new country.

    Not speaking the language won’t help you a lot… I am sure you will speak it soon! Try to find (other) persons in the same situation as you. French associations in Korea? International workers associations?

  2. I am in Samsung from last one year. My personal experience is not great too. Company policies are not transparent. You may come across any shocking policy undocumented or with out your prior notice any time. « Just be ready for it ». HR/Admin behavior some time give a feel that you are not required by company and they have done some favor to you by hiring you. Some time(not always) in some scenarios your colleagues(Koreans) give you feeling that you been extradited by your country and Korea has given you shelter, but this may be specific.

    So if you are joining be sure to oblige what ever you come across, don’t take it personally and think what ever you are thinking is wrong and what ever is happening is right. You will be happy in Korea(Samsung).

  3. Thanks Daniel. What’s your kind of job in Samsung ?

  4. Daniel, I’m going to finish my PhD in korea soon and want to join Samsung. I have a decade of software development experience with the US firms. I know you won’t recommend it, but I’d like to give it a try. I don’t speak the language, how can I apply?

  5. I work as a Samsung process engineer in the manufacturing environment of microelectronic semiconductors. There is a reason why Samsung is a world leader in many corners of the world electronics market. There’s also reason why the company is regarded very highly in Korea as making a positive impact on the society. Yes, the management has unrealistic goals and expectations. But without that, Samsung would be just an average company. It’s a privilege to be part of something so impressively large.

  6. The problem with Samsung is that it’s too big, and it’s trying to be wholly Korean while also being a global company.

    Good luck with it – but get used to a somewhat less efficient, more bureaucratic and less flexible corporate culture. This isn’t unique to Korea – all large, bloated companies (and Samsung is definitely that) survive based on absorption rather than creativity; and they tend to drain their creative elements and employees rather than develop them. Once drained, they get discarded.

    IBM was exactly the same, as was Nortel and any of the big 3 automakers and a whole list of other megacorporations.

    Samsung hasn’t escaped this terrible disease – it may in fact be exaggerated there. It represents too much of Korea’s economy and it’s far too invested in whatever the status quo happens to be in an industry. it’s too interested in control.

    This obsession with the wrong kind of tight management and absolute control actually generates the opposite effect.

    Samsung has never responded flexibly ((in the last 15 years or so); it’s difficult for outsiders or even many insiders to determine if X or Y product is profitable; the company’s management is fractured, so while it may gain something from vertical integration, the design philosophy isn’t coherent or well articulated.

    In short, Samsung survives because it’s a big, massive, elephant-like chaebol. Like elephants, its environment is very specific: If the economic climate changes drastically, which it’s doing, Samsung will suffer immensely. There are whole divisions of Samsung which are financially suspicious; how Samsung pulls serious money out of them is mysterious.

    Electronics: A major player, but I’m guessing they’re hit their zenith. They suffer not from low quality or inherent flaws, any more.

    You need to compare Samsung to companies like Apple or to brands like Bosch. And when you do, yuo realize that there’s no comparison.

    Until the old guard dies or retires, Samsung will continue to be hidebound by an arrogant, semi-survivalist corporate philosophy and an opaque, control-obsessed corporate culture that’s not appropriate for a technology company that has to be nimble, flexible, feet-on-the-ground and innovative.

    Good luck with it.

  7. Hello Craig,

    thanks again for your comment.

    Jb

  8. Hello Jean-Baptiste,

    I found your blog a bit accidently to be honest but I’m really glad that I did ! As I’m working in France and that you’re a Frenchman, I’m pretty happy to see people like you sharing their experiences of what work and life are like in foreign countries. If you don’t mind I’ll indulge into a bit of French :)

    J’ai à coeur de travailler à l’étranger dans un futur proche, de base je suis moi-même ingénieur mais dans le secteur de la R&D télécom (je développe, mais c’est surtout pour faire des études qui se basent sur des outils statistiques de traitement du signal). J’apprécie beaucoup la culture coréenne (j’y retrouve beaucoup d’éléments similaires à la culture indienne, puisque mes parents sont indiens, de base) et à force de regarder des dramas coréens je commence même à comprendre les phrases simples de la vie courante, vivre et travailler là-bas pour un petit bout de temps m’interpelle mais je ne me vois pas vivre là-bas éternellement non plus.

    De base, Samsung étant un super-géant des télécoms, l’idée qui m’attire c’est de passer 2 ou 3 ans chez SE mais genre plutôt dans une division R&D télécoms ou une division faisant les équipements réseaux. Maintenant : ce qui me motive au moins autant que de sortir dehors, c’est de gagner plus qu’en France, parce que niveau salaire je commence à être assez déçu. J’aurais pensé que les salaires en Corée sont plus importants qu’ici mais il faut croire que non, après lecture de ton blog >_<. La culture coréenne étant ce qu'elle est, je ne suis plus vraiment étonné de lire les remarques (juste d'ailleurs) de Craig : chacun à un rôle est de là se forme le besoin d'avoir quelqu'un en haut de la pyramide, contrôlant le tout.

    J'aurais juste une question : bouger à Samsung Electronics pour se faire plus d'argent (même temporairement) est un mauvais plan, au bout du compte (sans prendre en compte ce que l'on gagnerait en termes d'enrichissement culturel dans un premier temps) ?

    Jongmal gamsa hamnida

    AJ

  9. I am working at SAMSUNG in Germany.

    I regret having joining the company. Salary is good (the minimum they could do). But, the lack of flexibility in working hours (No home office, you MUST be in office at 8:30! And be there until 17:30! It doesn’t matter if you had worked loads last week!), communication (a few colleagues speak English), lack of pro-active and creative colleagues (samsung is a follower not a driver in any segment). No structure while in projects. There is nothing to learn at Samsung – you can help them, but you have nothing back, just the money.

    In summary, they pay well because they maybe draining your professional soul.
    I will pay may sins and leave ASAP. SAMSUNG may be a good company to work in Korea, but In Europe you have choices!

    Just join Samsung if you have no choice.

  10. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  11. @ Suffer

    Hi there! I’ ve been working in large multi-nationals in Greece for 10 years. Working 9 hours/ day is the norm around here and the vast majority of people work MUCH longer than this (my colleague came to office 6:30 and left at 21:00 last week), so 1 hour plus is really not a case around here. However, this shouldn’t be a surprise because according to official statistics, Greeks are among the hardest working in Europe anyway.

  12. Greeks are among the hardest working in Europe???????

  13. Actually, yes, they are. They have the longest working hours in Europe.

    However, this requires you to know economics. In economics, productivity is the amount you produce during a unit of time.

    In other words, if you have a low productivity, like Greece, you need to work more than, say, a German who needs to work much less to get the same amount done. This doesn’t mean that the Greek is lazy, far from it, just a lot more inefficient.

  14. Don’t they have a very secure job in South Korea, so? In most countries, commoditized engineers (Take n’ Throw) are the norm since a while.

  15. Thank you!

  16. i want to work samasung mobile stores because it is my belive

  17. Here’s a bit of info on Korean corporate culture: (true with any corporation, not just Samsung)

    The office culture is more ‘emotion-driven’ then what Westerners typically expect from corporate leadership. That means directions/tasks generally are driven not by the efficacy nor the logic of it, but rather the « need » for those directions/tasks to be completed. Therefore, expect last minute demands/task deadlines, lack of effective communication until the very last minute, and generally a linguistic alienation (if you can’t speak Korean, everything will feel even more last minute).

    In terms of corporate leadership, we assume it should be like a ‘meritocracy’ which is prevalent in most Western corporate cultures. However, leadership is considered very hierarchical (especially with seniority) and the authority rests in the « position, » not necessarily the « individual. » *

    To counter-balance, however, Korea has some perks. Low cost of living and an easy life makes it feel like a paid vacation sometimes. Others really are into the financial benefits and low taxes. Lastly, for a not-as-demanding job**, it might feel like college again without the homework. Really depends on life priorities and tolerance levels.

    *Think like how the Catholics view the Pope: ‘infallible’ because of the authority of the position, not necessarily the person.
    **In comparison to a lot of Western jobs

  18. Hello,

    Here is a Korean who totally agree with the blog =). I had grown up in Korea 26 yrs and moved to India 4 yrs back. Just to be honest, my salary is less comparing to the salary I would get in Korea. However, I really don’t like to work in Korea after experiencing other work condition like freedom from less hierarchical structure and transparent my goal in office.

    In Korea, as a engineer, I remember one day that my boss printed out and he asked me to get it to him. His cubicle is just next to me though. And one of the problem in the hierarchical structure of a company in Korea is, that you have multiple bosses not just one(technically one but in real world multiple). Above your positions are all of your boss. Koreans get used to the hierarchy system so not only juniors think in that way but also seniors consider them as boss of every junior. This is where multiple pressures and bugging begin and why it is so inefficient.

  19. Thank you so much Jaekwan for your feedback. It’s the image we have here: inefficient yet very common hierachical pressure.

  20. Hi all,
    I am a foreigner. My experience with Samsung has been the worst professional experience in my life. So what makes me so negative about Samsung. I feel that samsung is doing human experiment by bringing foreigners to korean. Before this, i only watched the human experiment in movies on animals.
    Never thought that i could be another victim of it. you might wonder what is human experi i am talking about.
    there are many ways to do experiment on human/animal…especially when one is not sure about the outcome. Samsung is quite special on mental experiment.
    when you join Samsung , mostly you will be working with the Koreans in a team. So lets say you might be a single foreigner working in a team of 10 Koreans. This itself is the first sign on human experiment which you will never feel until 1 year or 2 has passed.
    so first year, everything goes good….free housing, less tax , more money in bank account, some work assigned to you so you feel like a part of great product..
    next year, if you are lucky, there might be no issues in your work which you have done in first year at Samsung.
    But if there is a issue by any chance, the next human experiment begins on you.
    a: Team will stop talking to you.
    b: they will put all the blames on you since you are the only outlier.
    c: you might be asked to fix the problem in a day or two and if you dont do it, the samsung product will be out of the market :) (thats what your boss is going to say, its a big problem , you need to solve it now).
    d: All the related problem will be reported to you in the evening when you are about to leave the office.
    e:you are on your own to solve the problem.There is no documentation. everything is in head of your team members .
    f: You literally need to beg for any help. The upper limit for the begging is « Cost of your self respect ».
    g: In their shitty dinner party, your colleague will ask you to lick the a** of your korean boss so that your are forgiven for your mistake.

    so if you pass the second year with courage. you enter in third year.
    you realize that every morning your colleagues are involved in technical discussion and you are out of it.
    And you are still doing the same work most of the time..
    you ask for new work and you realize all of a sudden that you didnt grow technically in last 2 years
    so your are out of race for new work..

    you keep doing the same support/maintenance work..
    you start loosing interest in work..
    you start applying for job

    few luck get it because either they are self motivating studying out of their office time..
    few things that let the life go like this…good salary, free housing etc…so they stick for next 5 years..
    few become totally out of tech business …all they left with money so they write gmat, do executive mba which they even dont know how its going to help in samsung (probably, with this degree, they can switch job to other company )
    few move to samsung subsidiary in their native place, with a hope that they are coming out of a prison and once they are in their native place, they will find another better job..

    So if you wanna be victim of human experiment with koreans, welcome to korea , welcome to samsung.
    if you wanna start a shop but no money, come and work here for few years leaving your respect, self dignity at home, make money and start a shop..
    but if you are smart engg especially on the software side and you think that you have capability, dont just join samsung for money…

    There might be people who are out of this shit (I personally never meet anyone so far) but if one take mean of people experience, it is bound to what i just mentioned..

  21. That’s a very informative point of view. Thanks for sharing your story here !

  22. xyy@samsung and David Green nailed the many short comings of working at Sam Sung or any other large Korean conglomerate, for that matter.
    Yes lack of creativity and yes lack of individual initiative are the very points Sam Sung chairman Lee Gun Hee extols on his management. on daily basis.
    Yes Sam Sung is at a very crucial juncture, in developing software to go with their great machines. And they are looking for such talents globally.
    Now ,, why do Sam Sung hire foreigners? For your remarkable MIT and Stanford honors education and Nobel prize winning talents? We have enough Korean talents, from both domestic and foreign educated pool to perform duties that are asked of you. Reason that Sam Sung hires foreign workers is to invest in globalization and to exchange one’s good will,, Yes you are also hired to train fellow Korean workers ,, be it if it was just for the technical jargon or simple conversation in English. You are both using each other. Take the best of the situation is what I can recommend.
    Another aspect of working for Korean companies that are different from western corporate culture. You are forgiven more often for infractions, such as tardiness, personal problems and lack of productivity, as long as you show motivation and humane approach to your work and colleagues. Yes knowledge of Confuscious and Korean culture helps. So is occasional kiss ass of your bosses. I have worked in UK, Germany, France and USA. I always followed the rule of when in Rome ,, and I enjoyed it for I knew it wasn’t for forever. I gave it all.

    My daughter just graduated from George Washington, with honors and she can’t seem to find a decent job , and now working for a small company in Manhattan, for the amount that only covers her rent. She would love to work for Sam Sung and make kind of money you guys are making, in Korean economy. Sam Sung also has highest percentage of women in the management,, some of the things they are trying to do to become progressive.

    Two or three years ,, give it a chance with a positive outlook ,, use it as a great learning curve ,,a stepping stone to becoming a truly global engineer ,, business person etc,, write a book of your experience,,, learn to cook Korean food ,, it is hot now in New York and Paris.

    As for the young man in Germany, who bitched about 08:30 – 17:30 hours ,, get a grip ,, better than working 4 hours a day. Spend less time in knipe and become a buromeister for Sam Sung, Deutchland. You learn Korean , work hard ,, you can be one, You will never be Siemens chef in your life time.

    And if you get frustrated or alone,, call me ,, I will take you around on my Harley Davidson.
    Sincerely,
    Joe PARK

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