Career Transition Experience: From A Big Prominent Company To A Small Tech Startup
I left my job at a big semiconductor company in the Philippines as a test engineer. Speaking about the job, what I mostly do is code, debug, solve problems, stick to it and every two weeks you get your paycheck. The job was purely technical, nothing innovative whatsoever eventhough, the company’s human resource manager speaks of 3 things all in her speeches, “innovation”, “innovation” and “innovation”. What the management say doesn’t sum up with what we really do.
My creativity inside me is dying and I would want to be satisfied with a career that speaks both languages about being technical and being creative. Though I love the people around me in that company, the nature of the work didn’t equate with my core values. Without hesitation, I left the company without any backup work to keep my stomach filled.
I just followed my instincts. I jumped through the chasm and took the leap of faith. Leaving my job without a parachute might not be the best decisions anyone would think of but it is one of the best moves I’ve made so far. I went back to my home province and stayed with my parents. I wanted to freshen up and think thoroughly about my next big move. But it was never easy as I thought it was. I was afraid I might not be able to support my finances with the little money I have left. But yes, I still did make it!
Being unemployed helped me get to know myself even better. I was able to learn about the things I’m good at and my interests. I also learned about what kind of work would motivate me to wake up everyday as if it feels like I’m not working at all. I’ve got inspired by a Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk “Don’t find a job, find a mission”. Because of it, I was able to establish my core values and my life mission. I tried to reflect back about all the things that I’ve been doing in the past:
I want to create, design and develop something that people love to interact with.
This may sound cheesy but this is me. Whether building hardware products, developing visualizations or designing infographics, my skillsets and interests always coincides with my core values. Whatever job may be given to me, as long as it fulfill and doesn’t violate my core values, I think I’ll be fine with it. This core life mission just sticked with me and it helped guiding me ever since without trying to look at the job title.
I searched for online jobs while I was unemployed. I applied for core-value-friendly jobs, even in the fields of IT and other fields. I chose Cebu City for the job hunt where IT and other tech industries are booming and the traffic is lesser than Metro Manila. A few days after, I got 3 calls from different companies inviting me for an interview. So a week after, I was off to Cebu.
One of the jobs I applied for was for a Software Developer position. I believe it was not my niche skillset but I applied anyway. During that time I was not very focused on knowing more about what the company does but I researched more on the job descriptions and and if I’m qualified. Anyway, I got invited for an interview for this job position. I got curious and researched more about what the company does. I was amazed about the amazing things the company is doing. They develop IoT (Internet of Things) solutions for other companies, which I thought this company would only exist in Silicon Valley, China or India. How cool is that for a tech startup company being in a tech-startup-don’t-care-country such as the Philippines.
On my interview day, they gave me a coding exam which I didn’t expect. It was not indicated on the invite. Well, I just have to take it anyway. Even if I get zero, at least I’ve tried right? The coding exam was actually meant to be coded in Java or Objective C using pen and paper. The HR cleared out that it can be in any language, so I coded in C++ which I’m comfortable with. I submitted the paper and after a few minutes, their CEO wants to interview me. CEO!? Can I just talk to the HR head or operations head first. I feel shooked.
This is one of the first noticeable difference between a huge traditional company and a startup. You can directly interface with the founder or president without any bureacracy whatsoever.
A man in his forties entered the interview room and greeted me. I can feel his very strong persona as he stood before me. He introduced himself as the CEO of the company. Suddenly, he told me something that made me dissapointed. He told me that I got ZERO on the exam. What!? ZERO? I was thinking, should there be some points for any effort? What’s the point of interviewing me if I’m a no brainer for your company? Besides, I’m sure I got points on number 3 question which I’m not sure if I was tricked though. The CEO mentioned that he was not interested in my coding scores but actually he is interested with my other skills when he checked my resumé. He have seen that I have experience in hardware and software development. He asked me a lot of questions about my previous experiences and interests. He said that they have an open position for hardware engineer and he’d be interested to place me in that position. My ears began to enlarge. Hardware engineer doing cool IoT stuff? This role is 1000x way better than what I applied for. He don’t know how passionate I am with hardware and product development.
Back during my college days, developing the hardware for our final project was the part of the development stage I realized I enjoyed it the most. Creating schematic, designing the layout for the board, building the prototype from scratch and make it come to life was really enjoyable. I even did some small product development projects at side while I work at my previous company!
I felt like this job would be a job that would feel like a hobby for me, but more of a serious hobby since the developed hardware will be used by real companies and its real serious. Exciting as it seems, there’s still a bigger risk attached to this responsibility as well.
Coding exam, CEO interview, Operations Manager interview and the job offer consecutively happened in just 4 hours, and by accident. It seems that they really need a hardware engineer so bad. Well, I didn’t signed the contract immediately because I have other interviews to dazzle on the next days. Yet, in the end, I still took their offer with a little price cut (startup price) but to think that the skills, knowledge and experience you’ll get compared to the price cut is invaluable.
I have not yet started working in this company but I can feel the emotions of excitement, pressure and doubt all mixed together. I am imagining about what great things I could do for the company but sometimes doubts takeover. I also start to imagine unfulfilled and failed projects. Dissappointment really dissappoints us. Despite that, I tell myself, hey, I think that shit really happens and you’ve experienced a lot of dissappointments already and as long as you can handle it, no one can stop you from doing things you love. It’s all in our minds. Just keep swimming!
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