First paycheck today 😀 it’s amazing no matter how I tell myself not to be motivated by money that somehow having at least remunerated makes me feel better. First time I’m paid even though I started work for 6 weeks.
Even in such a short span of time, many things happened in SCS. The publicly announced ones include having a new CEO Tan Tong Hai, and his friends, while leaving a few board of directors yesterday, rebranded a bunch of stuff with the word Trusted, with the hope that our customers will switch their expectations from “cheap” to “oklar can trust..”, like Trusted Services, Trusted Solutions, and what I do now is thus affectionally known as Trusted Procurement. Do you trust me? 🙂
It was a pretty bad start for me though. Having no mentor (I was the most junior developer for 1 week, then the only guy left, I became the only one, then another joined, so I’m the most senior one in the team now – how’s that for extreme turnover?) to learn from, sitting across the entire building from my boss, programming in a totally new environment (Microsoft stuff instead of the rest of the world), and that’s if I get to write code at all, being bogged down with a plethora of operational issues, help scope new projects, generate random numbers to predict completion dates, and everything imaginable expected from a non-XP, non-agile, waterfall style development environment, with no remote access to production servers, thus having to stand for hours in the server room while figuring out operational hiccups, etc. And to be brave enough to confess this to as many people as possible, and to be persistent enough to bring change into the department if not company, and to be adamant about better practices, and to interview and bring in better and better people, to build documentation, defect tracking, and other systems for my own consumption, and still trying to calm myself every night, facing the Clavinova, setting the metronome to 105 and practice Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu at 20% volume. It was not what I was looking forward to.
But at least, life wasn’t as bad as I expected when I left US, at least the emptiness went away quicker than I thought. Last week we already manage to get our act together to have a house warming with our JC ASEAN gang. I also manage to grab a few ReCommers from NUS/NTU out for lunch/dinner, started rehearsing with Phil Winds. Meeting up with old friends is hard, everyone is working, all over Singapore, end at different time, have different commitments. Those attached are naturally even harder. But overall I manage to at least get one meal out of a dozen people. The people who sit around me at work are nice, although unfortunately since the job functions are so different (they oil the procurement process as manual fallbacks when the system doesn’t work, and does the accounts, helpdesk etc.) I only have lunch time to interact mostly.
Other than the emptiness, everything else was half expected. In year 2002 after I came back from an internship in Amazon, it wasn’t hard to tell what kind of environment I would choose to work for. In a technology driven company, where innovation is the key to business success, where everyone is encouraged to walk the blind alley, where hiring bars are high, where developers decide how to deal with the complexity of the system, it’s possible to move ahead of the curve, to anticipate what’s required next in the market, to be ahead of competition. However, in a technology backwater company, where innovation is the last thing they want to hear, while cost cutting measures are taken to the extreme, where social hierarchies dictates that the developers are at the receiving end of all negotiations, where hiring and firing are constant regardless of quality of people, as long as they agree to the low pay, where no innovation is allowed until the deal is done, after which promises always seem ridiculous in hindsight, and commitment drives us to engineer ourselves into a deadend, where business units fight amongst each other for customers, thus not leveraging any technology provided by one team from another. It’s a miracle that the company is still alive, if it were to be situated in the silicon valley, I think it’s probably gone. But still, all of these are expected, as I’ve learnt in year 2001. Nothing much have changed since, other than a few CEOs and the lost of all those Internet bubble money. I suspect it’s a local culture thing, you know..
So I have to work this machinery now. Milking this will be hard. I have no one with me who can take up a piece of software and say, look – this needs fixing and I’ll fix it now. Every communication channel in the company is stuck. There’s no mailing list conversations, there’s no bug tracking system, there’s no documentation system, basically there’s no resources poured in for change. All I have is two hands and eyes that hopefully don’t go blind looking at the computer for long hours.
And as I walked home today, it struck me again like it did 7 years ago in 1998 when I first came to Singapore, about what Liu Yong (刘庸) wrote in one of his motivational books. Underneath the picture of a huge mountain, he wrote, and I paraphrase:
But unlike 7 years ago, when I felt how true this was, I felt cheated, because just 2 months back, I was standing on a mountain that I would have given anything to stay there for a while, to return to a smaller mountain that I’ve once ascended but found no sense of achievement. And now that I feel that I’ve completely descended one hill to reach the foot of the other, I look up and see no road, no beautiful meadows, the bareness brace upon me like the sun upon the rock. To journey this is a fool, say the others under the shade of the mountain. To be a hero, a chance as slim as flowers growing out of the rock. With no turning back, a wretched soul seeks his destiny.