Archive for the ‘career’ Category

Aging
December 15, 2007

There are plenty of side projects that I can work on while here on my foreign assignment. I can do them after working at our client. I can do them on weekends, which are quite idle.

But I barely do them, Research & Development that used to be my lifeblood. Am I losing it as a techie?

Or, is it I’m becoming older. Physically, I’m less willing and capable of working 12 to 16 hours a day like I did ten years ago. Back then, I was very motivated and obsessed that I was working on something that would make it big. Did I succeed? Sadly no, not in my opinion. I guess I gained in a few small things but what I lost out on is enough to make me go thinking all the time, what could have been?

Part of what could have been would be: what if I spent more time in being a more artistic and cultured person? That is what I am trying to catch up on – the reason I make efforts at writing. But part of me says, I have to try a second time at success, I’m never too old, and aging is a good thing as it leads to maturity.

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Silicon Valley Envy
December 8, 2007

Some time ago I was writing on the “Silicon Valley in the Philippines” theme. I was going through a “Silicon Valley Envy” phase. I wished I were part of the culture – not just the tech, but hanging out with people I read in tech blogs.

Time passed and I did not magically get transplanted to Silicon Valley. So I guess I need to work on it and not just wish. Can I work there as an employee? Probably, with some life changes of course. Can I start up? Now that’s tough, and the subject of another discussion.

One source of angst is that I had a startup before – in what I called my previous career – and it didn’t work out. It’s not a failure on my part, and it’s not viewed as such, but I still tend to think “what could have been.” On the other hand, if I had continued along that path, I won’t be doing software development and the rest of the things I do.

The Multiple Intelligences of Tech
November 2, 2007

In my previous post about product and technology innovation, I complained that I lacked the skill or opportunity to create my own product. Instead, I implement plans made by others.

Now I’m thinking this is a similar to the theory of multiple intelligences: intelligence is not one-dimensional. While there are tech people like me who can design and implement a product, there are other people who can identity problems and think about the needed solutions. Product development skill – and marketing the idea – uses a different intelligence than making the idea a reality. Programming is basically problem solving, and is pointless when there is no identifiable problem.

The single person who can do both has an awesome combination.

This reminds me of a career advice post by Scott Adams, which I found through Marc Andreesen’s own career posts. To be extraordinary, being very good at two or more things is more achievable than being the best in one. Making use of the multiple intelligences of tech will help one become extraordinary.

Needless to say, that is what I want to do.

Career Guidance for Today’s Pinoy Tech Graduates
October 13, 2007

Marc Andreesen’s guide to career planning is interesting:

part 0, part 1, part 2, and part 3

How does it apply to the Philippines situation, which is obviously different from what Andreesen describes? One way would be to look at the future of Web startups in the Philippines. In the original article which I quote, Paul Graham says that there should be a means of fresh graduates to put up startups instead of join existing companies.

I think putting up startups – at least on the technical part for web startups- is easier now. It costs much less to reuse open source components, and get cheap hosting. Now that PayPal Philippines is open for receiving money, it should be easier to build a revenue model. Or, for those who favor the advertising-based model, Google Adsense has been present for a while and it has done well for probloggers. (Yes one could probably be a problogger right out of school, instead of getting a job, but that’s a different story.)

Back when I was starting up in 1994-1995, there wasn’t much of an Internet to speak of, so the opportunity was in putting up access. It may be relatively cheap now, but it was very expensive back then. Much of the cost of providing Internet access was paying a lot for international connectivity. Today, the infrastructure is pretty well set up, and it just takes a Pinoy with a grand idea plus the skills to put up that web startup. Now, to make it big… is another issue that I tackled in my previous post.

I hope the youth of today follow it. For instance, the Ateneo programmers to watch as posted by Dr. Pablo Manalastas. (Aside: This post is heavily focused on programming contests – something I am jealous of because we never had a culture of contests back in my university days. I for one would like to know if I were “among the best.”)

Product and Technology Innovation
October 3, 2007

One great frustration I have with myself is that I can’t think of an original product to build.

So while I urge people to build “the next hot product,” and put up “the next hot Pinoy startup” (a topic I’ve discussed in the past), I find myself unable to follow my own advice. To this end I’ve studied different technologies that could help me “build something better,” but to this day all that’s done for me is getting to know more technologies in a deeper way. Which is what has interested me ever since I got into tech.

It’s fortunate that I get employed and make a career out of building things for people who have either: the product ideas, or the relationships with those who have got the ideas and those who need them. And permutations thereof.

I’ve been working in tech for a long enough time, so I think I’m OK with the technology innovation. I need to be content with my own lack of product innovation. I must stop thinking that I am a failure for not having accomplished what I set out to do. Perhaps I can build products in a vicarious way – by helping those who have the bright idea plus the interest and means to execute it.

Startups and Geek Job Satisfaction
June 6, 2007

Joel (a software developer) wrote about
criteria for geek job satisfaction. I noted that he left out work-life balance, to which he replied, he never had a problem with that.

That’s good for him, since work-life balance is a common – even stereotypical – tech working problem. I myself have always had a balance, but it’s mostly out of choice. Since I started my career in my own startup, even after I left and got employed (by other startups!) I still had that startup mentality. I guess startups seek to employ people who are willing to imbalance their life versus work, for some greater reward (hopefully for real.)

I can see another geek criterion in action. I’m now working abroad – onshore outsourcing – in a more “advanced” country. Here they can give away some things for free, and have a better physical working environment than the typical Pinoy IT firm. Not the computers, but the floor space and desks, and private offices for many. Needless to say, this is something I’d like to look at when I get home.

How come more Pinoy companies don’t spend more on these? One thing would be the lack of cash, from the lack of capital for companies. Another is that for the typical company who is not outsourcing, they earn less money per person in absolute terms, compared to their foreign counterparts. Nevertheless, I have read experiences where benefits are cheaper to provide than a higher cash salary, especially when recruiting.

Making Fresh Software Developers Productive
June 1, 2007

How to make fresh software developers productive has long been a concern of mine, through various jobs in my career. At my current job, the concern is how to make tool-oriented Computer Science graduates productive. These are people that by the choice of their school or their own decision, orient their education on certain tools or technologies.

This is not good. We need them to think logically and clearly, regardless of what they studied.

They could start in school. I received this email from my alma mater, the Ateneo Department of Information Science and Computer Science (DISCS):

DISCS will have its annual planning session soon and we are trying to gather some data for this meeting. We were thinking you might have some answers/thoughts on the following questions.

1. What are the current technologies that IT students (CS and MIS) should learn?

2. What are industry trends that IT students (CS and MIS) should be aware of?

3. What do you think are the important skill sets IT students (CS and MIS) should have?

4. DISCS is exploring the idea of offering Minor concentration, currently we have something like ‘Games Development’ in mind (i.e. BS CS Minor in Games Development). What do you think of this idea? Do you think there are other areas we could consider developing a Minor in?

Notice that the questions pertain to skills and knowledge of both CS and MIS students. You may specify unique requirements for CS and/or MIS students as well.

Now this makes me feel, “the kids of today have it so much better” – they have the Internet, faster PC’s, better languages (Java, not Pascal!) But of course that will always be the case.

This is related to Winston Damarillo’s (Exist Software) lecture on global opportunities in software development – as covered by Sacha Chua. His ideas are good, but how can Philippine software companies be competitive if the talent is lacking?

Time and again, industry/academe cooperation has been full of wasted opportunities. The cause may be related to what a colleague of mine believes: that academic institutions in the Philippines are profit-making institutions. In the Western world, universities do not make enough money from tuition but get their needs from grants.

The result is that the fresh software developers need to be trained by their hiring companies. That is, if they make the grade at all. User groups can help as well. For Java developers, there’s the Pinoy Java Users Group which I help with.

This is a serious situation, but there’s still room for fun.
Jayvee has coverage of the Exist “geek cocktails”, an event I missed.

Problogging and Quitting your Job
May 12, 2007

Jayvee – one of the original Pinoy probloggers – asks bloggers if they can get time off from their job to attend a presscon.

My reply in his comments: No. This is conflict of interest with your day job. You can argue all day whether bloggers are media people or not, the fourth medium after print, radio and TV. But if you attend press events, then you’re not just a “‘writer” who writes about what you see and hear. Even if you can honestly say that you are writing without bias, still the direction of what you write about is shaped by the event.

So, quit your day job. Or work on something where you don’t have to commit your time.

The definition of “problogger” has been debated in the past, but I think it’s becoming clear to me. I posted earlier on why I’m not a problogger, but now I see it’s less about the money and more about the effort. If I put Adsense on this blog, earn from it, but continue to post like I do, I don’t think I’m a problogger.

Obviously, I’m not quitting my job. I came across Steve Pavlina’s 10 Reasons You Should Never Get A Job, thanks to Stellify. This guy has weird posts and many people in the blogosphere think so as well. But, it’s still food for thought.

While it’s not for me, or not for everyone, those who made the decision (or the leap!) should be commended. Like Marc Villanueva. For the rest of us, we need to balance our day-job career and our other activities like problogging and earning Adsense money on the side.

12 year old Pinoy starts a startup!
May 11, 2007

Luke Rivera, a 12 year old Pinoy in New Jersey, starts a startup! It’s called Switcheroony.

What’s Switcheroony about? Luke explains it.

I got to chat with his dad, my colleague in the old days. The dad invested the money but Luke did the work. No joking.

Now, where’s the next Pinoy startup in the Philippines?

Founders at Work
May 3, 2007

I finished reading Founders at Work. Very interesting. If you have built a startup (me), plan to (me again, in the future) or even if you are employed by one (me right now), you can relate.

Someone told me in reaction to Paul Graham’s Why to Not Not Start a Startup that one requirement missing was “passion close to absolute obsession.” Graham does have a chapter in Founders at Work. The other featured entrepreneurs have that passion, of course.

What can employees learn? The obvious thing is: work better and earn more, so you could go start up! Think how you can plan for your startup years in advance. What if you don’t want to? Then, how to get the startup attitude and apply it to your job. What if your job conspires against you to do that? Then perhaps the startup attitude is something you can apply to something else in your life.

What can managers learn? How to encourage their team to work like a startup. Of course, they can’t offer as much reward, and don’t put as much at risk. But even without the financial risks and rewards, startup thinking can lead to better performance. The challenge to the manager, management and the stakeholders is how to cultivate the environment that will drive that level of performance.