I feel like, as bloggers, it’s on some level our duty to write about going through life like dreamy-eyed teenagers, We write about the the bright and the exciting (“ooh look at all the Ayis I saw around the West Lake in Hangzhou!”), but at the same time, that’s not always how things go in real life. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been having a really hard time forming coherent thoughts and I think the only way to process them is by writing them down and putting them out here, no matter how vulnerable I think it makes me seem, because after all, failure is also a part of life, right?
And so here goes: after eight months, I am leaving my start-up, thus entering my first month of funemployment which comes coupled with a trip back home (scheduled far in advance of when this nonsense went down).
First the big news. This Friday, I am going to Seattle-San Francisco-Wisconsin-Chicago for 10 days with D to visit his family and see new parts of the U.S. It will be our first time flying home like this together, because let’s face it, the first time didn’t really count (unless you count falling asleep at 7pm during a dinner spending time together. I did a lot of that). On the grand scale of things, D and I haven’t been together for that long, but something about this just feels.. right? Is that the mot juste? I’m not sure what the proper timeline for moving in together, meeting each others’ parents, sharing socks (okay, we haven’t actually done that, because that would be weird) is, but you know what? I don’t really care, because for once, it feels like this is the way things should be. I’ll come back this again, when D finds out that on airplanes, I get up to pee approximately 2.54 times every hour. That’ll make for an interesting Trans-Pacific flight.
But yes, moving on to more important things. I’ve been working as a web-developer full-time for about eight month, at a company I helped found in Shanghai. But now, after two weeks of constant agony, we have parted ways and I am no longer working there. At the moment, I’m in talks with potentially joining another team, but I don’t have anything definitely lined up. Under the circumstances and given our next push, it just made sense that this was the right time to leave. Working within a start-up, in an environment like Shanghai, is exhausting for many reasons:
- People seem to be set in their own ways, which makes them unwilling to correct mistakes before they turn into huge errors. I may be wrong on this, but I don’t think any app with social functions should be programmed without a SQL database, because having relational tables makes searching so much easier without doubling records.
- There was simply no business model. We fought to figure out ways to make money because the upper management told us to focus on the outreach first. And yes, having a product is essential, but it is also essential to talk to service providers with concrete figures and profit margins
- Having a fancy office doesn’t make your office legitimate in China.
- There is a distinct lack of transparency in the business culture here, which really eliminates the typical pathways of start-up culture. I had never done a project before without using SCRUM or Agile methodologies, and without a program manager, I often had to roll out features in days rather than weeks.
So yes, on some levels, I do think we failed. But if there’s anything I’ve learned the past two years is that I should not only embrace, but welcome failure. Because I think in the end it makes us better people.
But also, I feel like, after five years, I have finally started thinking like a programmer. I used to get upset at Casey’s desire to ‘optimize everything’, but now I think I understand where he is coming from. I’m not the best coder. Really, I’m not. But I think there’s something to optimizing a process through automatization that is not embraced here.
In China, it’s so easy to pay minions a salary that barely flies over the human-rights-violation radar to do mindless data-mining. But that is not a sustainable business models. Websites change, standards change, but minions keep minioning. What I mean by that, is that a lot of places are not prepared to adapt to the change. But change is inherent in a tech company, or even in China. Either way the answer is somewhere in between.
But here I am: 23, unemployed, and finally free.