dev career]U.S.: fish out of water in SG

Nowadays I feel in-demand on 1) Wall St, 2) with the web2.0 shops. I also feel welcome by 3) the U.S. startups. In Singapore, this feeling of in-demand was sadly missing. Even the bank hiring managers considered me a bit too old.

Singapore banks only has perm jobs for me, which feel unsuitable, unattractive and stressful.

In every Singapore bank I worked, I felt visibly old and left behind. Guys at my age were all managers… painful.

effectiveness: OCBC motto: overrated

See also .. ##what U r good@: U often perceive as important2everyone with valuable details about this motto.

OCBC training on performance-guage has a motto — effectiveness through other people (influence, cooperation or leadership) is more /valued/ than individual effectiveness.

Other employers follow a similar reward+promotion criteria but implicitly. This explicit motto from OCBC cast a long shadow /over/ me. In the shadow, I became effectively a second-class citizen.

However, most of my competitive advantages, strengths .. fall into Personal effectiveness, such as but not limited to

  • wellness,
  • cash flow — burn rate, nonwork income
  • demonstrable expertise and knowledge
  • dev-till-70 (career longevity)
  • absorbency

I am increasingly convinced that, as factors of life chances, life-span satisfaction,,, my brand of effectiveness is more valuable than interpersonal effectiveness. The latter is overrated. My personal effectiveness provides me the parachute, the cushion, the safety net.

[16] Fwd: techies’ common complaints about jobs

We complain about high churn, but why the hell none of us go teach math?

We complain low $ROTI but how many percent of techies get any $ROTI from personal investment or self-learning?

We complain about low (if any) lasting social value in our work, but why the hell none of us chooses an RnD career?

Hi friends,

Most techies (including developers) probably feel undervalued, and have a lot of potential not utilized on the current job.

We blame our company or our team or our job. Maybe it’s not challenging enough; maybe too repetitive; maybe too niche.

We look up at some high flyer and ask “what if I’m given that role… I may not do better than that person, but surely I will be competent and up to the job.  It may be boring and stressful but Hey I will earn so much more!”

In many over-staffed IT departments, about 20% of the roles are critical and some 20% of the roles are dedicated to “peripheral”systems that no business users care about. Perhaps that system is lightly used, and users don’t trust the output anyway.……

Well, my current (devops) job gives me a lot of opportunities to push myself higher. It’s not too niche (like Quartz/Athena/SecDB). It offers complexity and depth. Not mindless and repetitive. Not something I feel already too familiar with (and jaded). I can see the impact quickly. The impact is on many people. The impact is on front office.

Still I’m not fired-up. I guess there are always better roles out there.

We had better condition our mind not to think that way. Instead make the best use of the current role. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

##techies’workload stress when Not slower than teammates

I won’t put on “t_gzPain” or t_stress as these factors are not stressors in my career! The opinions below are valid based on “their” personal experiences not my experience. As such, I should  NOT overthink about these.

  • Daniel Yan of RTS cited the effect of imposed deadline by exchange
  • Several IT friends cited the fire-fighting mode
  • CSDoctor said in some companies like Huawei, there was an unhealthy culture of long office hours, eroding family time, but i think this is rare nowadays.

2 heaviest work stressors  provides a incisive introduction to the same topic.

I tend to believe that “high performance” teams tend to emphasize GTD, intensity (“productivity” and “efficiency”) … remember Macq’s Kevin. He is highly efficient and he feels’ I’m not productive enough even though there’s no one else to compare.

However, my Barcap workload was not so heavy but high-impact 🙂

My conclusion at beginning and end of this analysis — figure-things-out faster than team colleagues is still the primary determinant of stress/respect/stigma.

q[visible progress]=Unreasonable expectations

See also my sample list in the sms twister blog visible progress # very rare therefore to be celebrated

Contrast with the views in [[reconciliation]]. Beware empty [g=] glorifications that don’t mean much when I look back 20Y later.

Every week, I actually make more progress than my fellow daddies with kids and commute etc. However, Once a while, in retrospect I would fall apart and cast serious doubt on (and belittle) my progress and point out the unfortunately invisible long-term effect.

I think many people implicitly follow a harsh and simplistic criteria like earning capacity, kids’ grades or absolute return, to dismiss and discredit all the “progresses”. This can become irrational, counterproductive, and /demotivating/ — engine loss of power. Such criteria are unfair to the self. If you are a teacher or coach, would you be so harsh on your student?

It can be a punishment, like a flogging whip.

Putting on a critical thinker’s hat, I feel that for most guys in my situation, it’s no mean achievements to maintain current condition and make small progress, with invisible long-term effect. Anything more is asking too much, and requires luck, talent, determination, contexx etc.

  • –ranked by …? I want to highlight the unsung heroes…
  • cholesterol, dental, belly and weight? maintaining is no mean achievement
  • loving relationship with wife? maintained, even strengthened
  • knowledge (and first hand experience) with diet, fitness, aging? building up slowly
  • more blood donation, done for my kids.
  • semi-retirement planning? improving through 5 discussions/year
  • more familiar with Bayonne residential market
  • relationship with in-laws? improved, as visible long term progress. More important — relationship with my own parents maintained
  • boy’s renzi and Chinese reading? improved slightly. Not really long term visible progress but at least he maintained
  • physical flexibility? maintained .. yes! Improvement? yes a bit of visible progress, with huge effortstamina? maintained … no mean achievement
  • [g] financial domain knowledge? I expanded to FX; market data; low-latency equity; FIX exchange trading…. Visible progress but shallow.
  • algo and coding test performance? I tend to belittle the improvement
  • bonding with kids? constantly building, deepening… Not by default, but by effort.
  • c++/c# conquered as a visible long term progress. Rather hard and long mileage, which probably means high entry barrier for the new entrants.
    • Probably more important — java skill level maintained.
  • credit score
  • financial assets (mostly holding well against inflation)? yes visible progress but I tend to belittle it. Building this portfolio actually required persistent effort, years of analysis, experiments, ..

##OK,%%spare time had low ROTI..how about Theirs@@

I often feel bad that all of my efforts in my spare time had no tangible ROTI, but look around, who fared better?

Note this post is more about peer comparison (recrec blog), less about my spare time usage (open blog)

For the record my spare time effort did produce some tangible outcomes

  • coding drill in github and wordpress. I think most of my friends didn’t bother to record. Their practice is short-term.
  • yoga, jogging
  • blogging on housing (and school districts) — our real needs. The time spent convinced me to live in Bayonne
  • blogging on personal investment — complex. The time spent directly affected my investment decisions
  • blogging, discussion on boy. The time spent directly influenced my views, decisions and communications with family members
  • helping friends (Deepak,Ashish,YH) with job hunting
  • helping my kids with sports, piano, renzi
  • –less tangible:
  • studying risk systems, data science, crypto-currency? Helps way-finding and navigating the job market

fixation@ROTI@tech-xx : too result-oriented; disengaged

fixation@ROTI/payoff/success/result/accu … dampens job satisfaction+joy@learning.

This affects my “engagement”. Granted, we should not Ignore these ROTI factors, or those “smells” … instead we should evaluate our direction and take stock, but let’s not overdo it.

  • +ve Eg: Barcap option math
  • +ve Eg: Barcap swing learning
  • +ve Eg: RTS socket programming
  • -ve Eg: git
  • -ve Eg: curve building
  • -ve Eg: WCF

Consider a tour guide aiming for the tip at the end.
Consider Grandpa in his research career.
Consider a singer like 王杰 or the last few years of 邓丽君。
Consider Einstein’s violin

Q: has that increased your income or benchmark score? # more time in office, shorter commute, MSFM, c# ….

  1. This question can be posed to grandpa.
  2. This question can be posed to any education institute including the “top schools 名校”. Ironically the same questioners seem to be /fixated/ on these top schools for their kids. So for these people, this question is self-contradictory.
  3. This question can be posed to my friends engaged in quantitative investment analysis.

This question is harmful, misleading, derogatory, discriminatory, browbeating, pessimistic/fatalistic, myopic, … This question tosses aside many important things to our lives, our joys, and satisfaction —

  • career safety net
  • exploration of personal talents and personal interests
  • “in-demand” satisfaction
  • market depth
  • mobility between firms
  • freedom — I don’t want to feel “trapped”
  • observation (even conviction) on various topics, based on in-depth personal research

self-help industry: your life is stuck in a rut

A “rut” — is a groove in the earth. The self-help industry’s messages (SMS) resonates with me.

  • burn or rot
  • I often feel a lack of direction
  • i often feel my spare time is not productive
  • I often feel left behind on the slow track, but most of us are, anywhere I look, including the managers.
  • I often feel I’m not living life to the full
  • I often feel I’m not growing, learning anything new, but it’s the norm
  • When I feel my life is “not that bad”, the self-help industry would question me “Really?”
    • marketable skill — i feel lucky that I moved into finance tech, but a non-finance job like telecom would be fine too.
    • marketable skill — I feel it’s good that I moved out perl into java with MktDepth…
    • marketable skill — I feel lucky to discovery personal strengths in lowLevel java/c++/threading/unix…
    • I feel good about the father’s job I’m doing
    • I feel good about my investments
    • I feel good about my Singapore home and my commute
    • I feel 80% good about my healthy lifestyle
    • (just a brief subset relevant to this topic)

[17] widely in-use, no longer quizzed #spring,SOAP.

I see a pattern — a new technology is getting adopted and quizzed in-depth at interviews. After 5 years, it is still a favorite, perhaps dominant solution, but 1) the know-how has become common knowledge and candidates are assumed to know it and 2) usage is now standardized and simplified, so the “bar” is lower, and candidates without the knowledge can easily pick it up.

No more in-depth questions needed. Therefore, time previously invested here is wasted, since only superficial knowledge is required now.

  1. Eg: spring/hibernate
  2. Eg: java servlets and JSP — From 1999 to 2008 these topics were heavily quizzed. Still widely in use but often invisible.
  3. Eg: Apache web server — In 2000 I was asked a lot on Apache details. Apache is still very popular. See https://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/web_server/all
  4. Eg: php — still widely used, but I feel not asked a lot. See https://w3techs.com/technologies/history_overview/programming_language/ms/y
  5. Eg: xml parsing — I used to get in-depth questions about DOM or SAX etc. Now I believe xml is still widely used
  6. Eg: web services, SOA, SOAP — Still very much in use
  7. Eg: HTTP protocol details like GET/POST, status codes
  8. Eg: Maven and Ant

Most of my examples are in the high-churn domains like Internet, mobile. I believe the same will happen to interview questions on big data, javascript, Android, iOS , blockchain, ..

The opposite list — some essential technologies underlying multiple technology waves were never heavily quizzed, but, after the waves subsided, remain rather relevant to many niche interviews.

  • TCP/UDP
  • SQL query — joins, subquery, case, ..
  • SQL and DB tuning
  • Unix automation — It can take years to become reasonably competent with all of bash, piping, subshells, trap, shell functions, string operators, file manipulation, and top 30 Unix commands
  • Unix system administration
  • Pthreads, a POSIX standard C library
  • http client programming
  • regular expression
  • Inter-Process-Communication
  • Java servlet session management
  • Java serialization
  • Java reflection

— You write —
There are still many projects using Spring. My current project is also using Spring, but it’s modified by internal team to create an internal framework. When people discuss in meeting, they say “Spring” to refer to this framework. But there are many pitfalls when I use it. To name a few:

  1. a) restful service is easy to implement in spring, ust add related annotations, but it doesn’t work, and after I spent a few days of research, I gave up and choose to use a internally created annotation.
  2. b) some configurations doesn’t work, parameters couldn’t be passed in. I still don’t know what’s the reason. The internal framework code is not accessible for other teams developers, so I don’t think it worth to spent more time to try to figure out.

For this project using Spring, the interview only mentioned this project is using Spring, but didn’t ask any questions about Spring.

For last year, I went through 5 interviews, 2 mentioned the projects are using Spring, and only one client asked some Spring questions.

I recall 5 years ago, 8/10 will ask spring and hibernate questions. Now, still a few clients asked Spring questions, but none asked Hibernate questions.

 

##[17] long^short-term stressors

Short-term stressors

  • best examples: temporary sickness; quarrel; deadlines; tools broken
  • relocation stress
  • investment foes

medium-horizon concerns (roughly 1Y++ horizon)

  • PIP — mgr’s assessment; stigma vs respect from team; figure-things-out speed benchmark; coworker benchmark
  • immigration issues — #1 concern of Deepak CM
  • FOLB — peer comparison
  • kids’ academic competitiveness
  • BMI
  • stagnation, wasting my “potential” — no longer a major stressor

5Y++ long-horizon concerns

  • retirement planning
  • kids’ well-being beyond benchmarks
  • employability and income stability
    • competence in job^interview; beat-fronts
  • Some peers at my age worry about own health but I’m free from that worry.

 

0%ROTI:php,mysql,javascript..really@@

2000 – 2002 are the first few years I spent in IT and had a deep impact on my outlook. However, there are many overstatements:

  • Too early to say — javascript had a surprise revival, even on Wall St! I have not decided to go back there.
  • Too early to say — perl was widely used on Wall St and was a key factor to my survival in GS.
  • SQL — skills I acquired in GS is not completely irrelevant. Many (financial etc) systems still use it. Perhaps less used on west coast in web 2.0 shops.
  • php — investment was not 100% lost. It did provide me a job at NBC. I think this is still a valuable skill on west coast. My php confidence is an asset.
  • mysql — investment was not completely lost. I would say my mysql experience gave me enough confidence and competence to take on other database systems.
  • apache — investment gave me valuable insight into network servers. I think apache is still widely used outside Wall St.
  • weblogic — investment was 90% lost but luckily I didn’t invest too much

 

techies do quit finance

I have seen several cases, for various reasons I may not know so well. I would say not every likes/tolerates the higher pressure, high workload or the lack of creativity in the typical Wall St tech job. Some can get things done but don’t like it.

  • Many Wall St move “higher” to pure tech firms.
  • Y Li moved from M1 (or another telecom firm) to BofA and left after 2 or 3 years.
  • J Ji went to Murex, then some software vendor, then BofA but left after just 1 or 2 years.
  • Park (GS PWM CPDB team) went from Bloomberg to GS, but lasted just 1 year plus. I think he left for some university. He might return to finance.
  • Q Li moved from OC to UOB but didn’t feel good. I think she may join another bank soon.

WallSt productivity + risk@losing job

label: threat,
Productivity issue is usually in the first 6 months. (i feel OC was not too hard. I was learning fast, though not superfast.) Some say “2 months”? I tend to feel that I form an opinion of a tech colleague within a month, but it's not always fair. If someone is fast learning, he may lose interest quickly.
I guess boss assesses how much value you add to his promotion prospect. Staff is seldom let go primarily due to productivity. Exceptions:

1) contractors — even if you are good
2) head count pressure — someone must go
Even thought it's probably not life or death, it's not good to be considered unproductive. Poor image, poor rapport, low self-esteem, ..

Here's a positive story — in GS I took more than a year to come up to speed.

teach your kid – interest in finance subjects, !! just salary

If we focus on the salary, interviews .. then the learning interest won’t last. In addition, it’s worthwhile to develop interest in the subjects….

Some subjects in finance are dirty, shallow, pointless, superfluous (same in technology ;-). Some subjects are about gambling. I won’t elaborate further. Instead, Identify those areas with depth and worth studying.

Financial math subjects have depth. However, some of those stochastic subjects feel like too theoretical and ivory tower, and too removed from reality to be relevant. I feel the statistics subjects are more practical.

There are many books …

return to sg as a West Coast programmer@@ too niche

Upshot: I feel the dev (coding) experience in West Coast would be even less relevant in Singapore.

Financial domain tech skills are considered niche. West coast is even more so.

A realistic scenario — what if I specialize in php or big data? Extremely rare tech roles to match the US salary. I think the 2016 Zaobao article  interviewed some of these techies.

The type of tech skill considered in-demand and “upstream” in the US (c++, quant dev, core java not non-J2EE..) is probably too niche in the Singapore context…

In terms of technical expertise (not management expertise) I think SG needs system integration “specialists” (I consider them generalists) in large government projects.

haunted by negative workplace relations #YH

Hi YH,

I too get haunted by criticism, failed relationships (but not those sexual types;) with past coworkers, or my poor  judgement and decisions in past projects.

Q: Was I really as bad as accused?
Q: Did I make such an embarrassing mistake?
Q: Was I more than 50% responsible or there’s another person equally responsible? It takes 2 hard objects to have a clash.
In many cases, I find it tricky to answer these questions objectively, and identify where and how much of blame I deserve. I’m lucky to have a simplistic view —
      “I have always enjoyed good relationships with all my team members under the same manager. Everyone is friendly, nice or at least OK with me. Similarly, all my users liked me. Some colleagues and users even treat me as the best guy in my team.
In reality, if I examine every relationship maybe this is not 100% true, but i’m too lazy, so I never challenge this view. I keep repeating this view to myself and to everyone who asks. This loose view is a rather powerful protection when I feel “haunted”. This view may be naive but it’s an example of a healthy self-image IMO.
Note in this view I don’t single out my boss.  I don’t have such a perfect thing to say about relationships with my past bosses. Still I have another simplistic view that
         “Those managers I had problem with is an unpopular guy. Each has lost more than 1 team member due to the harsh mistreatment he gives. Each is hated by some team members and not respected by many. Basically, each is a difficult boss, but I actually managed to survive and adapt to them for longer than many fellow sufferers.
These simplistic views tend to protect my self-image. It’s important to me. They are like Guardian Angles. I hope they could work for you as well.