Professional Progress Report – Milestone Review, Year 2 of 5

In one month, I’ll have been with my present company for two years as a software tester. Every year around this time I like to look back and see whether or not I’m on track in relation to my five-year plan. Having a five-year plan is important, not only do managers ask you this during your interview, but it’s a good thing to have to make sure you’re progressing towards a goal rather than just droning on day to day surviving the daily grind. For me, my five-year plan has always involved positioning myself such that I’m on the right path to getting into management.

In my first year at the company, my focus was mainly on proving my worth to my manager, lead, and the people who worked with me. In that regards I believe I was successful in accomplishing that. Not only did my manager recognize my hard work and dedication, but my colleagues also noticed my passion and drive to make sure things are done correctly. I built strong bonds with the people I work with daily and ultimately grew a lot in that first year. The project at the end of that first year carried shortly into my second year, as well as many new challenges.

My goal for year two was to be more involved and hopefully be recognized officially for my merit. This second year, I delivered my primary project, delivered a short flow project with a two month timeline, oversaw the stabilization of a program on fire, assisted in a high priority delivery, and was involved in two components of new development for my primary customer. During review season, I thought surely this increased workload, successful track record, and how hot the programs were would give me a good shot at receiving a promotion based on merit. Unfortunately, things don’t always happen the way we think they will. To be fair, my manager gave me a pretty solid review and I was recognized twice this year for performance, but not receiving what I felt I deserved stung a bit. I’m not going to compare myself to other people in the company because I don’t know their full contributions or what the other managers factored in, but I was left questioning what else they wanted to see out of me. All I got from my manager when I asked him what more I could have done was him saying to keep doing what I was doing and we’ll come back to this again next year.

So at the end of year two, I’m still stuck at level one. I’m a level one that spends half my day correcting  and guiding level twos, threes, fours, and fives with them wondering who the hell this level one is and why is he telling me what to do. I’m a level one with the passion that is lost on those above me. Ultimately I’m a level one wondering if maybe I should have been more vocal or demonstrative about my contributions to the company. At the end of the day, I’m the level one who isn’t going to give up due to a temporary road block.

How does this play into my five-year plan? I’m not the type to jump ship when something doesn’t go my way. Ultimately in this third year, my focus will be getting the other managers, not just in my department, to recognize what I have to offer as a leader. Luckily for me, I was tasked to be a subject matter expert for a part of our system. I’ve used that opportunity with the fact that our customer generally always buys the latest features we have to offer to show what I can do with new knowledge. With this title, I’m in charge of helping my colleagues when they have issues and teach them if they haven’t dabbled in this part of our system before. I’ve also started documentation to give them a reference point to use as a jump-start to understand the system rather than have to learn by fire, one of the biggest challenges of black box testing. Outside of my responsibilities, I’ve been organizing priorities for the developers in terms of which programs are hot, a task they were doing over word of mouth rather than via a calendar. I’ve been synchronizing the communications between project managers of various programs and engineering so that everyone is on the same page and less time is wasted with repetitive questions to the developers and testers who need to focus on what they’re doing.

Who knows? Maybe this year I’ll open more eyes and cement a path leading to a management position. Personally, I think I have a lot to contribute given the opportunity. My biggest obstacles right now are probably my youth, the company culture, and my impatience.

My Foray Into Yoga – An Attempt To Exercise Keeping An Open Mind

As I was saying in my last post, one of my goals for this year is to be more social and open to trying new things. One of my regrets after graduating college was not exploring more and being more open to things. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to knowing what I do and don’t like. As such, trying yoga was a challenge for me to practice keeping an open mind because in the past, I had already flagged it as something that I wouldn’t like.

Why yoga? One of my coworkers and I spend a lot of time after work hanging out. Most of what she and I do are fitness related, i.e, gym, running, basketball, etc. I noticed most of the time what we do is mainly things that are either convenient for both of us, or something I initiate. As such, I decided to take one for the team since she kept saying she wanted to get back into yoga. Along with this, I’d heard stories of professional athletes that said yoga helped them with their balance and flexibility. Due to how much I had been lifting and an ill-timed shoulder strain that restricted me from doing anything lifting related, I decided to give yoga a try so that I could restore some flexibility and give my shoulder a break.

After talking it over with my coworker and ordering what I needed, we decided on doing hot yoga at Purple Yoga in Tustin because they have a two-week, unlimited classes intro package for $29. Instead of easing into it, I jumped right into their red classes, which is the advanced class conducted in a room set to 100 degrees. In the course of two weeks I attended four classes with three different instructors. Instructor one was Melody, probably a bad instructor to go to if you’re brand new and not sure of what you’re doing. Her class was the most challenging out of all the classes I tried because it incorporated a lot of hand plants/upper body stability/head stands. Instructor two was Alex.  Alex’s classes seem to be focused a lot on stretching out your back, shoulders, and lower body. Instructor three was Ace who focused a lot on balance, lower body, and hip stretching. All three instructors are nice and patient, but Melody’s class is definitely not a beginner friendly class.

I remember going into these classes with an open mind. The greatest challenge was keeping an open mind as my body was struggling to keep the poses. One of my most hated things to do during high school was to stretch before and after cross-country and track practices. Yoga reminded me of why I dreaded it so much. Mentally I don’t have an endurance type mentality. I thrive on my competitive personality. In races I had a chaser mentality, if I had people to target, I would be able to push harder. If I was left alone, it’d be harder to kick it into the next gear. Yoga requires a lot of endurance as you hold poses for periods of time while focusing on form, balance, and extension. It isn’t competitive, there’s nothing to chase, and for me, each second felt like an eternity in that 100 degree room.

So what did I learn after the last two weeks? First off and unfortunately, I was right about not liking yoga. There’s nothing wrong with yoga itself. Yoga just doesn’t cater to what I would rather do for an hour-long workout. Secondly, if you were an athlete in high school or college, many of the common poses are things you’ve done before or based on things you’ve done for stretches or conditioning training. Lastly, yoga isn’t for everyone, but if you end up liking it, it seems like a lifestyle choice. I agree with the professional athletes when it comes to some of the benefits of yoga. The poses definitely can help you work on your flexibility, fix your posture, and help work on your balance.

If you’ve never tried it and you’re in the OC area, give Purple Yoga a shot. They have a friendly staff and they allow you to go at your own pace. Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.

Lost At 25? So Am I.

It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog. To be honest I should’ve posted more this past year as this blog helped give me time to sit down and sift through my thoughts. I think because things were so hectic at work over the last year, I lost sight of some of the things I wanted to accomplish at 24. At the same time due to the experiences of the last year, some of what I wanted in life has been put in a new perspective, a perspective which at 25 is somewhat confusing.

2014 revolved around one thing, work. I put work above all else in 2014, believing that the fast track to being recognized at work was to give it my all. I gave up my birthday to go on a business trip which resulted in my first stay in the hospital with internal bleeding. My summer, fall, and winter revolved around delivering my second and third projects which resulted in an average of 55+ hour work weeks, no social life, and not much time to do what I enjoy. 2015 started off with the only fruit of my labor in 2014, a trip to Seattle to catch the ferry flight of my second project to Abu Dhabi. I stayed there for two weeks supporting the installation and certification of my third project averaging 78 hours of work per week, three hours of sleep a night,  and two all-nighters. After I got back from the trip, we finished integrating and delivering the last phase of our promised functionality. I ended up with a two month gap in my schedule which foolishly enough resulted in me volunteering to help other programs that were in need of help. By the time it was review season, I thought surely, all of my contributions in the last year would result in a merit based promotion. Sadly, I learned that isn’t the case.

So here I am on a Saturday night reflecting on 24 and how it’s changing how I prioritize my life at 25. I think a lot of my friends around my age feel the same as I do currently. At 25 you’re either in the early stages of your career or finishing up graduate school and about to start your career. Some of my friends have started getting married or are moving towards that direction, while others are still looking for that special someone. There’s so much uncertainty and opportunity at this point, which is both a blessing and a curse.

So what will 25 be for me? This year my focus will be set on personal growth. I’m emphasizing putting more effort and energy to get out and be more social and getting back into dating. Not only do I want to be more social, but I want to experience new things. With all the overtime I worked last year, I have enough savings to comfortably take vacations and travel when I want and where I want. Professionally, I still need to figure out if I want to stay in test. If I do, I need to position myself so that my managers and peers see me as a leader so I can progress up the chain towards management. If I move out of test, I need to figure out if I want to stay with the company but take on a different role or take a pay cut to see if I have what it takes to work as a software engineer at a different company.

At the end of the day, I’m 25 and unsure of what I want to do. For me change is hard. I like consistency and security, but consistency and security is boring and I’m somewhat fed up with boring. All I can do for now is set my goals and move towards them.