Musings

How I choose to Work

I’ve worked with customers who cover different fields of industry, and range in size from one-person operations to listed companies since 1999. For customers large or small, I offer the same customer orientated approach.

Most people choose to work for a company.

I choose to work with a customer and walk away when the time is right or it’s no longer the right environment.

I’m not getting paid a salary, I’m getting paid for the service (hopefully good in their eyes) of improving processes and solving their problems.

This is why OT & Appraisals are a foreign concept to me since I don’t generally care about them. I also find the concept of “my boss” strange which might make it odd to work with me for some people. Technically you are my customer whom I don’t always think is right ;)

This approach has a great positive benefit of finding better customers to work with over the past 14 years.

The downside? Some customers are better than others and it can get hard to walk away when you make new friends and get into new areas of responsibility. My current customer is a 2.5 year long project that I originally thought would be 4-5 years long so it’s definitely tough to leave.

For those asking me when is my last day at iProperty, it happened already for me on 1st May but I just so happen to have a 3 months notice period. I guess you’ll know when the day is when I stop posting stuff on Yammer.

It’s kinda nice to have only ONE project to focus on now. The odd thing is I find myself holding back on comments on most things now coz “stepping on people’s toes” isn’t so nice when you are leaving and can’t repair the damage if the person is actually ok out of work context.

My next customer is going to be in an industry which is foreign to me (for now) but the concepts are not. E-commerce, Logistics, Analytics & Subscription Service, it’s going to be a great place to practice what I believe in and teach me the important parts about running such a business.

I’m also finally starting up company #4 at the same time (4th time the charm?).
3 companies and many _what not to do_ lessons should (I hope) make this an interesting challenge at the same time.

My goal at 25 year mark (just 10+ years to go) is to create a few more companies, meet new friends, find a few more great customers and hopefully teach some folks along the way some of the stuff I’ve learnt.

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Development, Musings

Lot of time flying these days and more time to read

Past 3 months have gone by rather quickly. With a new opportunity and managing a new team in KL, lots of challenges are encountered with the remote meetings and daily scrums.

Attend Certified ScrumMaster conducted by Jesse Fewell in KL from 8th to 10th November. The great part? I’m now a Certified ScrumMaster! With one year or more of practice, I’ll be applying to be a Certified Scrum Professional.

Scrum is a relatively common sense approach to project management, I’ve enjoyed learning about the process and how it reacts to dynamic business needs. For teams who are new to process (as in my team), it’s definitely challenging as it requires a high level of transparency to daily work and significant openness to embrace change. There are many barriers to bring a team to such a level ranging from old attitudes and behavior and tendency for most people to be very reserved with their opinions.

Couple of books have helped open my mind to how a business can benefit from having a sense of urgency and not being complacent about their success.

Leading Change

A Sense of Urgency

Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions

Managed to read this in an hour or so while waiting for RT to start. Good book to read after you’ve read the previous two. Found myself laughing at some parallels to real life. They may be penguins in the story but lots of people behave a lot like that.

Managing Virtual Teams: Getting the Most from Wikis, Blogs, and Other Collaborative Tools

Currently we’re using Pivotal Tracker (coincidently met JB Steadman from Pivotal Labs Singapore during a networking session) with Google Docs for most real-time collaboration of documents.

Skype has been tremendous in helping bridge communications but I think Mumble or Ventrilo might be better to maintain better comms. Video might also be necessary soon as a lot of times, facial cues are an important part to communication

The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise

There are a lot of interesting lessons to learn from this book, still 1/3 of the way through it but the topics on hiring, capacity planning and team dynamics is a good read.

Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition

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Musings

Places I’ve worked in (and had a desk)

Walked past the old office in Chinatown yesterday and realised that over the years, I’ve had a desk in various parts of Singapore and tried to recall where they were.

The list so far in chronological order

  • American Express – The Concourse, Beach Road
  • RBR Networks – KA Centre, 150 Kampong Ampat
  • JuzPC – Kallang Place and Circular Road
  • EdLabs – Chinatown (South Bridge Road)
  • Societe Generale – 80 Robinson Road
  • Asis-T Solutions – Choa Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio
  • Cornet Technologies – Purvis Street and Chinatown (New Bridge Road)
  • VISA – Caltex (Chevron) House, 30 Raffles Place (Highlight was the Aeron chair!)
  • IConnectE – Circular Road
  • SPH – 1000 Toa Payoh North News Centre
  • iProperty – United Square, Singapore and The Boulevard, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Other places which I’ve had to frequent (almost felt like second office at one point!)

  • KC Dat – Lok Yang Way
  • Nippon Express – Alps Avenue and Toh Guan Road East

Offices I’ve visited and really liked the view/environment

  • NTUC and Microsoft – One Marina Boulevard (had the pleasure of being there when building was being built)
  • Google – Temasek Tower, 8 Shenton Way
  • Pivotal Labs Singapore – Tras Street

Map

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Musings

Rebooting

It‘s been 9 days since I got back to the corporate life. Why after so many years of avoiding it? Hard reality was that running the business while enjoyable for its freedom meant a rather tiring schedule. Keeping everything juggling in the air without good support meant that inevitably things came crashing down when I faltered.

So after taking a good LONG break from work and taking stock of what I could achieve, I interviewed for a job at ST701 doing something I love (actual development versus lots of sales calls/meetings). Most folks probably do it differently, joining a large corporation when they start their first jobs and some might leave to realise their dreams.

I started by freelancing, joining a small firm and eventually learning about management, interacting with large firms and developing solutions along the way. The opportunity throughout the years to gain experience in design patterns, architecture, infrastructure, communicating with customers and solutions has been invaluable. While I won’t get to apply this experience within the current job scope, I’m sure it’ll come in useful down the road. It’ll take some time to get used to life in a large corporate entity but at least it’ll be a fresh journey to learn from.

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Musings

A year into the future

Had a pretty interesting casual meetup with a fellow business owner doing pretty much what I’ve been doing for the past few years. T is a year older than me and has been running his own firm with a small staff allowing him to do what he likes (programming and more programming!).

Interestingly, T observed during our meeting that programmer’s think alike and even dress alike! We had a good laugh and came to agreement that programmers (those who freelance only) these days are a rare breed.

  • Biege shirts – tucked out
  • Khaki Pants
  • Loafers w/o socks

Having a team really helps one focus on what needs to be done. For the past year, I’ve had trouble with that as being essentially a small outfit for so long meant juggling a lot on the plate while trying to achieve goals. I felt burnt-out and tired having to manage sales, development and maintenance. Moving forward, this partnership should free up more time to do what I love, essentially to program and reduce the day-to-day overhead of sales process.

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