My skills are currently in a huge demand right now that I was essentially a seller in a seller’s market. Essentially, as a programmer, especially one who is relatively well versed in mobile (iOS, Android, and to some limited extent, Windows Phone) and a decent exposure from Linkedin, I had this luxury to receive offers on a weekly basis instead of (desperately) sending out CVs to potential employers. I was privileged enough to be able to write a “thanks, but no thanks” reply to these offers, and I often did. But of course, every once in a while, there’s bound to be offers that sparked my curiosity that would prompt me to arrange an interview. The latest case was an offer I received last month from a certain Japanese company with whom I had agreed to meet last Wednesday at a certain coffee shop in Central Jakarta.
Doesn’t really matter how the interview went (it went well), or whether I scored the job (I probably didn’t) but just like any interviews that I have attended since I started receiving offers instead of sending resumes, I came to this interview not really trying to sell myself to get hired, but was rather to gauge about the guys on the other side of the table, their perception on me, and what sort of challenges they really had in mind. And — this is my favourite part — when all is said and done, to reflect upon my answers because sometimes, the interviewer would ask me a very good question that most of the times, I would well, stunned with my own answer.
I had taken an interest with this company because during my short trip to Japan, I’ve heard about this company (and had mistakenly thought that one of their product was made by Square Enix), and word is, this company was big in Japan, and also, had gone public. So I was wondering what was their plan in trying to tap the Indonesian market. During the interview, my interviewer (the CEO himself) had wondered what I’ve been doing on a certain employment listed on my Linkedin profile that had lasted for almost four years (the longest I had worked in a single company, so far). I surprised myself by swiftly answering, “It was the biggest mistake of my life.” Now I have probably felt that way but never really said it out loud that when I heard myself saying those words, “biggest mistake,” I was slightly taken aback by how severe I had — subconsciously — thought about those years. But, for bad or worse, it is true. I had only been employed in my current company for about ten months, yet I could easily told you about what I’ve been doing so far, in a far more verbose language than what I could squeeze out from my brain about those four years. In fact, I would probably throws out “achievements” that for lack of better words, is a flat out lie because it would left a bitter after-taste in my mouth and makes me feel bad. But as I’ve said, I’m doing an interview not because I want to sell myself to get hired, so I tend to loose with my answers and quite likely, those answers would actually be the real truth. And the truth is, those years are my “lost” years.
The thing is, I got too comfortable during those “lost” years. I was literally getting paid for just showing up! I mean, when I thought about it, it was a cause for an embarrassment whenever I had to reminisce about those “lost” years. My interviewer then asked me, “but you had lasted for almost four years.” And I said to him, “which is why it was a mistake.” But hindsight is always twenty-twenty. It seems like a good idea at the time because I thought I would have an easy job, one that I could do in my sleep, and therefore would left me with virtually endless hours to do something else on the side. I was right, though, about the job being easy and left me with lots of free time, but I didn’t quite anticipate that leisure pace and free time are also a double-edged sword. I felt more exhausted than before because turns out that for me, doing virtually nothing is mentally exhausting. Therefore, paradoxically, with a day job that amounts to “doing nothing but sit on the desk for eight hours,” instead of having more time to do something else on the side, I was having a far less productive time. It should be a sign of bad things to come and I should be cutting my losses early on. But like I’ve said, it was a mistake. The biggest one I’ve made so far.
At the time, I have no confidence in my skill, not realising where my true passion is, and spoiled by the easy and certain life of a semi-governmental employees. Oh, the illusion of safety. On top of that, I met this girl at the office with whom I felt so comfortable to be around with and makes it that much harder for me to leave. In fact, when I finally left, she is the only one that I missed. And no, she’s not my wife, but yes, my wife knows about her and my infatuation with her. But then, three things happened. iPhone release, Android swift rose to stardom, and mreunionlabs.
Probably the reason I had small confidence in my true skill was, that I used to kept thinking about corporate clients when it comes to software products. I was relatively proficient in building an enterprise scale software but when it comes to selling, the actual code writing comprises only a small, if not a tiny fraction from the whole process that would put money on the table. It was an overwhelming process that requires more social skill than I could ever give. Therefore, because venturing out and starting out again from the bottom is a task I found to be too daunting and too scary, I had shelved the idea, and try to “suck it up” even though I absolutely cannot say that I love my job. Gradually, but surely, the reason I came to office was more and more because I would meet my friends and less and less because I want to do an awesome job.
The paradigm shift then came when iPhone and Android swept the world. With the advent of ubiquitous smartphone apps, it is now easier than ever to build a software and distribute (or sell) it. You could just pick up an idea, develop it, and publish it for the world to see in just a few mouse clicks. Easy, fast, very few needs to an actual human contact, if there’s even any, and potentially huge. I was immediately picking up the APIs to learn about the frameworks with the goal of making a name for myself as an independent software developer which may not sounds like much to you, but sounds incredibly sexy to me. But even with that incentive, I’m not progressing much beyond putting a text and a button that says “Hello World” on the screen. Worse, at that time, I was already at the state of acceptance, and already feeling too safe and too comfortable that taking another risk is a too far fetched. Imagine Homer Simpson, intoxicated with too many beers, slouching on his sofa, in front of TV, trying to reach for remote control, failed on his first attempt and simply gave up, and you wouldn’t be too far off. But then came mreunionlabs.
I can’t remember exactly why mreunionlabs had approached me, but he is still one of a very few people I respected the most in relation to career and software craftsmanship. I was offered to build an Android application, any Android application, and he manages to convince me to do it. I am sort of turned him into my authoritative figure which helped me a great deal to kick myself out of laziness and stagnation, and my own Android application, one that not just putting a text and a button that says “Hello World,” eventually gets a release under mreunionlabs banner. Now this is a topic for another story. One that I had saved up for a “Retrospective: 2012” actually, but with this, I am forever indebted to him that although I’m currently not under mreunionlabs anymore, I intend to pay my debt (with interests) in the hopefully, not too distant future. He is after all, the one who is responsible to shove me a push down the cliff, bruised and bloodied me to get me into where I am right now. Still not at the top though, but I assure you that I’m going up there. At the very least, I would enjoy my climb up. Doing it with a spark in my eyes, a spark that my wife had said had gone missing during my “lost” years and only just recently resurfaced.
Now I’m not saying that the company where I was during my “lost” years is a bad place or anything like that. It was actually a total opposite for most people. In fact, I would put a bet on saying that a great significant percentage of workforce would willing to switch their job immediately given the chance. A very safe and comfortable working environment, pension guaranteed, full coverage health benefit, free lunch, etc. Especially true if you’re into networking and had a certain fondness in climbing a career ladder with nothing but social skill. But I was interested in neither, and I don’t feel alive at all when doing it. I’m now work way harder than I used to, constantly thinking about work 24/7, yet I’ve never felt so alive and for me, it’s all that really matters. So, other than she who I chose to sit next to when I’m still employed there, I had only one regret. Not cutting my losses sooner than I did.
I’m turning 31 today, but in term of my work, or my career advancement, I think I’ll shave off the four years I had lost during those “lost” years. Therefore, I’m turning 27 now, still in my prime, and ready to go to once again, try to take on the world.
P.S. Speaking of four, there is now exactly four years left before I reached one of my lifelong dream.