Today, I left my job of 7+ years at Enovax. When I started working here, we were a tiny bespoke software shop, and I cut my teeth working on small web applications. 7 years is a pretty long period of time, as well as a long time to spend in one place... well, relative to today's gig economy.
7 years ago, I had just quit my very first job in Manila, and after a month of rest, flew to Singapore, and decided to try working and living abroad. I took a pretty organised approach to the whole job hunt thing (good job, past-Me!). Referring to my spreadsheet back then, I was able to:
- Go through 6 job sites (Monster, JobsDB, JobsCentral, LinkedIn, STJobs, eFC- surprisingly, all 6 sites still seem to be active today!);
- Identify 46 job leads in 2 weeks;
- Send my CV to 36 of them;
- Achieve initial contact with 8 of those;
- Get invited to face-to-face interview with 3 that were interested; and
- Get job offers from 2 of those.
I also spent an average of SGD 3.3 a meal during that period, and my one major splurge was for SGD 25 museum tickets (it may have been for the Andy Warhol exhibit at ArtScience Museum). Side note: I wish I could've continued being as budget-conscious as I was back then.
Enovax was my first job in Singapore. To be honest, I always thought of it as a stepping-stone. One of the main factors for my decision-making was the office's proximity to my rental flat. Now that's a short-term decision if I've ever seen one. We actually moved out of that office after a couple of years. To be fair though, this was also a permanent position (I believe the other one was through one of those job agencies), so it did work out in the end.
Enovax kept evolving during the 7+ years I've been working here, and I think that was one of the main reasons I stuck around. As I mentioned before, we were a software shop delivering projects for other companies. From those micro-sites I first worked on, I started dealing with larger projects from big clients. I got the opportunity to work on e-commerce and payments projects for Sentosa and Golden Village, and I got a real sense of accomplishment when those projects went live. One of my goals then was to build something used by a lot of people, and it was (and still is) gratifying to see how those sites are still being used up to today.
Things weren't rosy all the time, however. I also had what I consider my biggest professional failure during my tenure here, with a project that I realised I just wasn't equipped to handle at that point in time. I was also going through some personal stuff at the same time, resulting in probably the worst year of my life. I'm grateful for my colleagues' and boss's support during that time, as I was able to take the time to recover from it. Ultimately, I did learn a lot from the experience, though for my mental well-being's sake I never hope to go through that ordeal again.
We still work on projects these days, but back in 2017, we were acquired by a company in Malaysia that wanted to build its own product. It just so happened that I was also semi-worn out from projects, and when I jumped on the opportunity to do product development instead. This pivot helped extend my stay at Enovax, as now I was dealing with a whole new beast, with different motivations and challenges.
And it was been a wild ride these past 2 years building Presto- at times bewildering, exciting, frustrating, rewarding, or all of the above. We were a fledgling product team who had to learn on-the-job. We had to navigate through the uncharted waters of product development, a number of major pivots, and a whole bunch of challenges. We celebrated victories and learned from defeats. We welcomed new joiners to our team and toasted valued colleagues who were moving on. But we built something good, something we could be proud of.
We have had many milestones. The Presto of today is a far cry from the Presto of yesteryear, and that's because of hard-fought battles and even harder-won lessons. I'll probably write a separate post on this product I spent 2-and-a-half years on, but suffice to say it. has. been. real.
Which leads me to the other main reason I've stayed so long here- the people. It's such a cliche, I know. But I guess it would be if it's true often enough. You come into a job for the opportunity, but a lot of the time, you stay because of the people. And it's not just the culture of friendliness and openness, but also the culture of growth, of challenging each other.
In my time here, I've been a team member, a solo contributor, and eventually, a tech lead and manager. We were never a big team, but everyone I've worked with has challenged me to be the best I can be, whether it's from a technical, professional, or personal angle. Though I may be the one leading a team now, I also seem to be learning the biggest lessons from everyone else.
Being in the trenches together for a not-insignificant amount of time does a lot to build those bonds and rapport among each other. I'll miss my teammates a lot. I hope I've also been able to help them grow as much as they've impacted me.
It also occurred to me that 7 years ago, I had never even shot a gig or concert. Some people already know this, but I do music photography on the side. While it wasn't a cushy job, and we still had to crunch for a lot of things (unavoidable in IT), working at Enovax did afford me the time, energy, and funds to pursue this passion of mine.
It's an indirect benefit, but not a lightly-considered one. I've been able to put a decent amount of focus into music photography in the last 5 years, and that's thanks in part to the work-life balance I've had here.
During one of my interview rounds for the company I now find myself moving to, I mentioned to the interviewer that this was my first interview in 7 years. I'd forgotten how nerve-wracking it could be, although I've talked to enough clients and stakeholders to not feel as intimidated as before.
This has been in many ways, my ideal interview process. I think the predominant concern among developers looking for work are the coding interviews that consist of programming puzzles that rarely test anything that might come up in the real world. While I understand the reality that forces companies to keep relying on them, it does make for a very "school exam"-ish approach to interviewing.
I wasn't actually planning to switch jobs at this time, given other life events that were happening- though I had already thought about it for a while and put in place groundwork that would enable me to quickly start looking. But opportunities come a-knocking when you least expect it.
What I can say is that through the interview process, it felt like a mutual conversation and getting to know each other's fit, and through it I found a place where I could potentially make a big contribution. But if the approach was otherwise, if they'd thrown me any random programming puzzle, or didn't spend the time to talk to me about what they're trying to achieve, I probably wouldn't have seriously considered the offer. And that's the value of such an approach for interviewing.
It's been a formative 7+ years at Enovax, running the gamut of experience from solo to team, from junior to lead, from projects to products, and with the perspective of constant learning (and unlearning), I'm pretty excited for what's next.