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.

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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.

Memorial Day Weekend On A Plane

So recently I haven’t really found the inspiration to write. All of my recent ideas feel incomplete or not good enough to post. As I’m writing this post I’m actually on a flight to Seattle for the weekend for business.

I’ve sacrificed my birthday weekend in order to take one for the team, collect on an opportunity to gain more insight as to how my mistakes(in this case not my mistakes) waterfall down to the people who have no other choice but to troubleshoot and give up their weekend to fix, and also prepare myself for my own delivery at the end of this year.In  In a sense I had no choice but to take this assignment. In another sense, I did have a choice.

In the past month I’ve witnessed in person the complexity of workplace drama internally and externally. One of the reasons why I accepted this weekend is due to the realization that internal promises mean absolutely nothing if the customer doesn’t care. In the likely event that I am unable to go to my own delivery and witness the fruits of my labor, this experience will allow me to be more aware of what to ensure works well so that no one ends up paying for my mistakes. Hopefully this weekend goes smoothly so that I can at least work in a less stressful environment. Unfortunately for me, I won’t have the opportunity to unwind this weekend and reset for the next month of no vacation days.

 

Thanks for reading. Feel  free to comment .For those of you drinking this weekend, please take a shot :).

Life One Year After College

So it’s been about 13 months since I graduated from college as a computer engineering major. After seven months working as a software test engineer, I wanted to summarize what college has done or hasn’t done for me. Before I start, please keep in mind that everyone’s experience is different.

Computer engineering is a mix of electrical engineering and computer science. We learn a lot about circuits components, design, and theory from the electrical engineering side. At the same time we learn various programming languages, algorithms, and applications from the computer science side. During my job hunt, this lack of true specialization and focus led to a hard time landing certain jobs, but ultimately it has helped me in my ability to see the big picture of a product and piece things together. How much of what I have learned do I use day to day?

I think the most important things I learned in college that I use everyday are Linux usage, computer networking concepts, and how to read circuit diagrams. These three skills are from three out of 53 classes in my time in college. Of course I still use some concepts from time to time that I learned in college, but the take away from this article is that no matter what you’re studying, there’s no way your college will be able to teach you everything you need to know. College can only teach you how to learn on your own, prioritize time, and cope with stress. At the end of the day, what you need to realize is learning doesn’t stop once you’re done with school, learning continues for the rest of your life.

 

Thanks for reading. 

Donuts.

So this morning I went out and got a mixed dozen box of donuts for my family to eat for breakfast. These days, donuts don’t seem like a big deal to me, but 15 years ago donuts were a luxury for my family. When I look back and think about how different life is for me and my family now, it’s still pretty hard to believe.

My family is the first generation to move to America and we’re the only ones here out of everyone in our family. That means that there’s no one else out here that we can fall back on if times ever get bad. Growing up, my dad saved every penny he made so that he could buy our family a house, the two cars that we had, and whatever else we absolutely needed. For most of my life, my dad worked as an architect for a Chinese company that dealt with restaurant and warehouse development. My mom was a free lance translator that worked at home so that she could watch over me and my brother. Neither one of them made too much, but we were considered lower middle class.

As a child when you hear or see about new toys, snacks, or events, you naturally ask for them because you don’t understand how much work goes into bringing home a dollar. As a child, I heard no for just about 99% of my requests. The only exception to this was when my brother and I got A’s on our tests and report cards. Back then my mom would give us a dollar for each A. Most of the time my brother and I would end up using this money on junk food like chips and soda. 15 years ago, a dollar could buy you a gallon of gas, a large bag of chips, and a 2 liter of soda. 15 years ago a mixed dozen of donuts was 5 dollars. Now a mixed dozen costs about 7 dollars, but a mixed dozen will always remind me of the tough times my family went through as well as the true value of a dollar.

I just hope 15 to 20 years from now, my future kids will understand the difference in the quality of life I went through versus what they will go through. Hopefully 30 years from now, my future child will look back on their childhood and appreciate the hard work that my wife and I will put in to raise them. In no way will I spoil my kids and allow them to underestimate the value of a dollar, but it still won’t be the same. Right now I make as much as both my parents make when I was growing up. Simply put, I hope my future children and family will never go through the hardships that my grandparents, uncles, and parents went through. It’s amazing how a box of donuts can remind me of the steps it took for me to get where I am.

Thanks for reading.

Your Pain Is My Pain, My Pain is My Pain

So we’ve all heard that saying that labels people, “some people are takers and some people are givers.” In a sense, I believe that applies to our daily conversations with the people we interact with. Some of us have a lot to say, while some of us have a lot to listen to. In my case, I’m a mixture of both, but I know when and what mode I’m needed. More to the point of this post, I know when the people around me need someone to vent to.

What separates a giver and a taker in this case? A taker will always end up steering the conversation in the direction of their own interests. Have you ever had a conversation with your friend where they start off asking you about your day/life/dilemma, and suddenly the conversation ends up all about them? That’s the classic example of a taker. Takers in general are focused on themselves. As much as they try not to do it, it still ends up the same way. Why? It’s simple, we are all individuals. Individuals walk separate paths, have separate interests, and separate goals. At the end of the day, each and every interaction you have with someone else can be summed up as how did that end for you.

What’s a giver then? A giver is that person who patiently listens to you as you talk about your life, vent about your problems, and helps you figure out your dilemma. Why do we have givers if everyone is an individual? Givers tend to be the more passive types. People that are a little less selfish about their needs. I think givers tend to understand that if the people around them are happy, it’ll surround them with a more happy environment. So at the end of the day, givers balance out the takers.

So what’s the point of this post? The idea behind this post is for you, the reader, to take a brief moment and think about this. Which one are you, a giver or a taker? Keep in mind, being labeled as either one or both isn’t a bad thing. We all have moments where we need to be a taker, and we all have moments where we are givers. There is however a tendency to be a more dominant giver or a more dominant taker. So which one are you?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.

Motivation, Drive, and Knowing What You Want.

So the other day, as my coworker was driving me and another one of our coworkers to a lunch, we listened to one of her motivational speaker recordings. One of the ramblings the guy talked about struck me because I never really thought about it much when I was young. The topic was how some people go through life accepting what others tell them to do, while other people go on through life doing what they want to do.

The reason why I have never really thought about this is because growing up, I always had an idea what I wanted to be. It started out with being a lawyer, computer engineer, or a programmer. As I grew older, I realized that being a lawyer wasn’t for me. The billable hours and the possibility of putting my ideals aside to represent a client didn’t appeal to me. So from there, I went with the goal of getting into a college program revolving around computer technology. In the end, I graduated with a computer engineering degree with the goal of being a programmer. Presently I’m not a programmer, but at least I had a self decided goal that I ultimately accomplished.

Some of my friends however didn’t grow up with the same drive as I did. By the time we were high school seniors, many of them didn’t know what they wanted to study or what they wanted to do in life. In a sense, I don’t blame them. To have to decide by the time you’re 17 or 18 is tough, especially when you’re not old enough or exposed to the world enough to understand all the challenges you will have to face for the rest of your life. This lack of direction however results in a slight delay in life. For many of my friends, their college choices and career paths turned out fine. For some of them, the path twisted and turned, resulting in a more difficult or less direct path to their goal.

So what’s the point of this post? This post is meant to raise awareness to this lack of direction some people have. Rather than listen to other people and let them decide your future, why not decide it yourself? At the end of the day, the person who has to go through the challenges of life for their particular life path is you, not the people telling you what to do. All of us walk our own individual paths. The people we’re exposed to day to day merely have paths that intersect with ours.Very few of these advisers. friends, and family will have a path that runs in parallel with yours for long. All you can do is take their advice into mind as you decide your own fate and figure out what you want. From there, you need the persistence and focus to finish what you set your mind to.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below.

Workplace Dating, Is It Acceptable?

So last night our program managers treated our customer as well as us testers to dinner at a local restaurant. Over the course of dessert, the subject of how each person met his/her wife/husband or girlfriend/boyfriend. One of my colleagues told him that she was dating someone in another department which led to some teasing by the customer. He had two rules, these rules are as follows:

1) No dating at work.
a) If you have to date at work, no dating a colleague you work/interact with at work.

The funny thing is, he admitted that he had actually met his wife at work, but he never broke rule 1a. So this leads to the question, is it or is it not acceptable to date someone at work? I know a few colleagues who are presently dating someone at work now, or is dating someone they used to work with. Just to be clear, I don’t mind other people dating at work. Personally I don’t have plans to date anyone at work but here’s the dilemma.

Many of us full time working professionals spend the majority of our weekly hours at work. At my company, most individuals average approximately 45 hours per week. In my lab, most of my co-workers average 50 hours per week. With that being said, most people wake up before the sun is up and end up leaving work after the sun is down. By the time we get home we have to cook dinner, clean, and with what little time we have, relax, go to the gym, or attempt to socialize. I’m not saying socializing after work isn’t possible, I’m just pointing out that there’s only so many hours to do so. So what do you do when you’re having a hard time getting out of the house/work to go out and meet people? Some people do so at work, others turn to online dating, and others turn to friend set ups.

But let’s get back to the topic of dating at work. I’ve listed some of the reasons why people do it. Here’s some of the reasons why people shouldn’t do it. Let’s start with the most obvious argument, dating doesn’t always work out. What happens if the person you were dating is someone that you need to work with on a frequent basis? Not only does this leave both of you in an awkward situation, it results in a tense work environment. Another argument against dating someone at work is that it mixes work and play environments. I’m not saying that you’ll be messing around at work the whole time, but in the time that you’re flirting with someone at work, you’re also not using that time to be productive. It’s like they say, “don’t shit where you eat.”

At the end of the day, I’m neither for or against it. I think sometimes things are beyond your control. I’m interested to read what you guys think about dating at work. Is it appropriate or not? If so, how should you go about it?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.

Moving On, Career Choices.

So recently I’ve been hearing a few of my coworkers say that they are thinking of leaving our company. Some of these coworkers have been at the company for a few years, while some for have only been here for a few months. At some point you will reach a point where you ask yourself if staying at your company and doing what you are paid to do is worth it.

For some of these coworkers, the reason why they are planning to look for another company is because they’re spouse/family live or work too far from where we work, making the daily commute too taxing or creates a gap between them. For other coworkers, they’re bored of the day to day tasks that we’re assigned, too stressed out, or just generally unhappy with what they thought the position entailed versus what it actually is.

So when and why is it safe to move on from a company? Well while I was interviewing, I actually asked multiple hiring managers what they consider red flags on a resume. A few of them responded, “when a candidate’s resume shows that they can’t stay at a company for a least a year.” The rest of them replied with, “duration doesn’t matter if the candidate can’t explain what their position’s responsibilities were.” What would the general rule of thumb for considering when to leave be?

The minimum most managers find to be acceptable is one year but to be safe, one year and six months. The reason behind this duration is the overhead that comes with training. Managers say it takes about three months to train a new hire, three months for them to ease the new hire into a more independent role, and three more months to make sure the new hire is full assimilated into the full day to day responsibilities that comes with their job. That comes to at least nine months where you’re slowly transitioning that new hire into the position. Once you have finished the climb, you hope for a return. If a new hire leaves before a year, then you end up having to spend time to fill that position and then you’re stuck where you were nine, ten, eleven, or twelve months ago.

This process also ties into being able to explain what your responsibilities and role within a project are/were. If you aren’t able to “defend” your resume in an interview, then odds are you won’t be hired. At the end of the day, an interview is really just a defense of your skills listed on your resume as well as your appearance. You can be the smartest bookworm in the world, but if you can’t impress the manager and leads that are interviews and convince them that you will fit in with their team, then you most likely won’t get an offer. When evaluating whether you should leave a company, you should take into account how much of a contribution you are to your team and project. If you’re a high impact player that many people depend on, then when the reference calls come into your manager, the more likely they’ll say something good about you. On top of that, you never know what the future will hold. Perhaps you’ll meet that manager for another company for another position. The more valuable to a project you are, the more likely you’ll be able to explain the project in a manner that will defend your resume as well as promote your abilities.

So for those of you thinking of leaving your jobs or those of you who are looking for jobs, consider these two points. Being able to show commitment on top of being able to defend/demonstrate your contribution prior to your future interview are two of the key things that hiring managers consider as they interview you. If you plan on leaving for a new position or venture, take time to evaluate how your timing affects how others perceive these factors. Also, don’t make the mistake of quitting your job before you have a new one lined up. The job market isn’t hot enough where unemployment will be short.

 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or share this post.