(After Victor published his blog post, I forced myself to finish writing this, too. Thanks Victor!! :P)
This post is a bit late, but I feel that 2014 deserves a dedicated post to help me recount where I am in life now; what my previous goals were for the last year, and what I have achieved.
2014 is a bit of a murky year. I moved jobs thrice, and I have failed and succeeded in different things. I moved out, but not only from my parents’ house, but also to a different (but familiar) country.
Career / Work
The most confident I was with regard to my career path was right before my first year of college. I was barely eighteen, but was sure of what I wanted to pursue (design) and what I wanted to specialize in (web). Things have changed a lot since then (2007!). Web and mobile apps became more prominent, and eventually became a more interesting topic for me. Luckily, I have been doing things that I ‘liked’ since graduating in 2011. But at that point I hadn’t realised yet that finding that career path I truly enjoy wasn’t going to be so simple. The confidence I had have dwindled a bit while I tried exploring design, front-end development, user experience, and basically trying out all these roles to find what I want to specialize in. I’ve jumped from my first job as a UI designer in a corporate company to being an all-around designer in different start-ups, to being a multi-skilled designer/front-end dev for a small agency, then back to the start-up world. It feels like I have been soul-searching for a long time because ‘design’ is a wide umbrella of specialties, even though I have had a general idea of what I want to achieve in the next few years. I wanted (1) growth (in my skills), (2) a purpose (with my work), and (3) independence (financial).
At the start of 2014, I was still working at that small digital agency where we had more than enough clients but it only fulfilled part of my goals. It was a convenient job, but it could not afford me focus. I had to do freelance work to still be able to fulfill my needs for independence, and even that wasn’t enough. I started to miss focusing on a product as well. If at first I doubted that I wasn’t learning enough as a designer/developer because of my previous start-up job, I realised that working in an agency, although small, wasn’t really helping me achieve my goals. However, I learned how to deal with clients and make them happy (which, as a designer, is still important) and the ability to compromise in design that don’t make me hate myself. I really felt that I have grown from a few years ago where I was more stubborn and arrogant when it came to design and my work.
Around March I decided to gamble and join a startup that was trying to launch a new product. It was very different from my experience with the first start-up I have joined in the past. We were a very small team but the product had lofty goals. A solid vision to anchor our work as a team was lacking and in the end the product failed. I wanted to be able to contribute into the planning of the product itself, to go behond visual design and development. And I tried. I did branding, but I also did marketing. I did my best to give advice about the product based on user experience, but it never became a product that I felt I owned. I felt lost trying to build a product with a weak vision. Nevertheless, I met a lot of talented people during my time with the company. Developers, engineers, people of different backgrounds all working with a passion. I was lucky to work with Chris, from the agency branch of the company, who was a great Creative Director. In the past few years that I’ve been working, it has always been a desire of mine to be able to work in a team lead by a true creative thinker. I can honestly say that I still feel lucky I was able to work with him, brief as it was. For the first time, I experienced being part of a design team of different specialties when doing agency projects.
At the end of it though, working in my 2nd job of 2014 wasn’t fulfilling all my goals. I had growth but no purpose, and still not enough to be truly independent.
At the last quarter of the year, I left my job to join Carousell. Because of health reasons, it took me a while before I was able to move from the Philippines to Singapore. Coincidence or blessing, I was introduced to one of the co-founders during my visit to Singapore in July by Allan, one of the great guys I used to work with in my first start-up. He also introduced me to his friend who was renting a room so moving wasn’t too difficult either. My cousin and his wife were there to make sure I was properly settled in. Everyone in the company was friendly and helpful; it was easy to feel welcomed.
It has taken me a while to return to Singapore, where I experienced my first taste of ‘independence’ when I did my student exchange at NUS back in 2010. My memories of my student exchange months there were full of friends and happiness. I was lucky enough to not experience any discrimination despite my nationality. This time was no different. Joining Carousell felt like I was moving only to a second home. As a designer for a quickly growing company (and product), I felt very, very rusty at first. I haven’t designed a mobile app in a long time (since all my projects in 2014 were web-based), but it was a weakness that I was determined to overcome. I am still learning a lot, but I’m working with the best kind of people who are truly dedicated to making a life-changing product: it is the type of pressure which, I belive, makes diamonds out of rocks. It didn’t take long before I was able to adjust to the culture of hard work and fun. From the sprints to the stand-ups, product meetings to doing all kinds of design work — it was familiar and challenging. I love, love my job and I am constantly being driven to do more, to do my best. I’m looking forward to working with more designers in the team this year. I have a lot of things I know I need to work on and improve, but there’s nothing better than to learn with a group of passionate people. I’ve always preferred to be a team player, and I believe I’m working with the best people. :)
Right now, I feel that I am right on track again with my personal goals. The end of 2014 merely fueled my excitement for the challenges of the year ahead. Carousell is quickly growing, and I’m very eager to work on all the plans to make a better Carousell this year! It’s not just an app; it’s a buying and selling, life-changing experience. Being in Singapore affords me the kind of focus that leads to productivity: something that I couldn’t feel when I was in Manila. It may be because I get too affected by all the stupidity, inefficency, and chaos in the city that it is hard for me to focus on creating things. It’s made a huge difference in my life, and the kind of independence that I could achieve in a country like Singapore makes me feel very happy. Happiness, inspiration, and focus are things that I am able to enjoy since moving and I am determined to make the best of it this year.
Love / Life
I’ve been with Charlie for almost four years now. We’ve been very lucky to be able to see each other almost every day while in Manila, to regularly do things as a couple and experience so many things together. We’ve grown and changed together since the first time we dated. My moving has disrupted those daily dates, and Charlie moving to a different continent is going to bring other difficulties as well. It’s going to be an even longer distance relationship for a while and while it’s not without little bumps on the road, I know we’re just off on different adventures to become the best in our careers. More than anything, I’m just excited for the possibilities that will open up for Charlie while he does his film studies abroad. He’s been very supportive with the career path that I wanted to take too, and never tried to stop me from doing what I love. <3 2015 will be another year for us to grow together, even if we’re continents apart.