##[18]realistic 2-10Y career plann`guidelines #300w

Background: not easy to have a solid plan that survives more than 3Y. Instead of a detailed plan, I will try to manage using a few guidelines.

  • — top 3 “guidelines” [1]
  • respect/appreciation/appraisal(esp. by manager) — PIP/stigma/trauma/damagagedGood. Let’s accept: may not be easy to get
  • Singapore — much fewer choices. Better consider market-depth^elite domain
  • Expertise accu (for dev-till-70) or sustained focus — holy grail
  • ——– secondary:
  • dev-till-70
  • family time — how2get more family time #a top3 priority4Sg job. Some usage is optional (play time) while others are a matter of responsibility.
  • personal time — short commute, flexible time, low workload, freedom to blog]office… is proving to be so addictive that I have forgotten the other guidelines.
  • interviews — Let’s accept : extremely important to me but much harder in Singapore. Even in the U.S. I may need to cut down.
  • distractions — Let’s accept and try to contain it.
  • Entry-barrier — could be too high for me in the popular domains like algo trading
  • Entry-barrier — could be too low for some young guys — the popular domains will have many young guys breaking in
  • FOLB Peer pressures — and slow-track… Let’s accept.
  • trySomethingNew — may/not be justifiable
    • stagnation — could be the norm
    • engaging — keep yourself engaged, challenged, learning, despite the stagnation
  • Shrinking Choices — many employers implicitly prefer younger programmers
  • Churn — Avoid
  • non-lead dev role — Let’s embrace. Don’t feel you must move out or move up. Hands-on coding is gr8 for me. Feel good about it

[1] I didn’t say “priorities”

##xp staying-on after PIP, with dignity

  • +xp GS: informal, unofficial PIP, before I went to Kansas City for July 4th. After it, I stayed for close to a year.
  • +xp Stirt: I overcame the setback at end of 2014 and scored Meet/Meet albeit without a bonus.

Now I think it is possible to stay on with dignity, even pride. I didn’t do anything disgraceful.

I hope at my age now, I would grow older and wiser, less hyper-sensitive less vulnerable, more mellow more robust, or even more resilient.

That would be a key element of personal growth and enlightenment.

[20]what protects family livelihood: IV^GTD skill #AshS

Hi Ashish,

After talking to you about PIP (i.e. performance improvement process) in my past and in future scenarios, and considering my financial situation (wife not working, 2 young kids + 2 elderly grandparents) over the 20Y horizon , I came up with this question —

Q: Between two factors: AA) my competitive position on the tech hiring market, BB) job security at MLP, which factor has more impact on my family livelihood

Answer: I remain as convinced now as 10 years ago: AA is the dominant factor. I won’t allow myself to rely on some employer to provide my family a stable income for 20Y, even if I do a good job. There are countless stories among my peers who worked hard but lost jobs.

Answer (during covid19 mass layoff): I’m even more convinced that AA is the dominant factor. MLP is doing well, but MLP owner is not my dad. See my email to my sister sent on 19 Aug.

If I do a good job in the current team, what’s the chance of keeping this job for 10Y? 10%? There are individuals (like my manager) who stay in one team for 10+ years, but I think anyone like him has witnessed dozens of coworkers who have no choice but leave, for various reasons (not counting those who had a choice to stay but hopped higher elsewhere.)

That’s the basic answer to my opening question, but there are a few important sub-factors to point out.

Family livelihood includes housing, medical and education. In the U.S., I would incur $3k/M rental + 2k/M health insurance. Therefore, livelihood in the U.S. is more precarious, less secured.

My Health — is a big hidden factor. Stamina, mental capacity has a direct impact on our “performance” in the competition, both on job market and on-the-job. I think you probably need a lot of physical and mental energy, stamina,,, to deep dive into an unfamiliar local system or codebase, to become so confident, right?

company stability — is a sub-factor of BB. Some investment banks (GS, Barclays, MS) are known to aggressively cut headcount even in profitable years, to stay lean and mean.

Aging — is a factor affecting AA slightly more than BB. Age discrimination is something I seem to notice more as I grow older. So far I’m able to maintain my “cometptive fitness” on job market. If I rely on BB too much as I age, then I believe I would pay less attention to AA, and grow older and weaker. To strengthen the foundation of my family livelihood as I age, I tell myself to see the reality — as I age I would face a less friendly job market + instability on any job. Therefore I need to give priority to AA, by maintaining/improving my tech skills for competitive interviews.

Demand — for developers continue to grow in the job markets. This is a fundamental reason why AA is so valuable and reliable. This robust demand doesn’t help BB at all.

Overall, my view is biased in favor of AA. This is deliberate. With PIP or without PIP, any high-paying tech job (like yours or mine) comes with an expectation and risk of job loss. AA is the parachute.

3stressors: FOMO^PIP^ livelihood[def1]

  • PIP
  • FOMO/FOLB including brank envy
  • burn rate stress esp. the dreaded job-loss

jolt: FSM dividend has never delivered the de-stressor as /envisioned/. In contrast, my GRR has produced /substantial/ nonwork income, but still insufficient to /disarm/ or blunt the threat of PIP ! In my experience, Job-loss stressor is indeed alleviated by this income or the promise thereof 🙂

Excluding the unlucky (broken, sick,,) families, I feel most “ordinary” people’s stress primarily come from burn rate i.e. making ends meet, including job-loss fear. Remember the OCBC pandemic survey: 70%Singaporeans can’t last beyond 6M if jobless. I feel the middle class families around me could survive  at a much lower theoretical burn rate of SGD 3.5-4.5k (or USD 6k perhaps… no 1st-hand experience) …. but they choose the rat race of keeping up with the Jones’s (FOMO). Therefore, their burn rate becomes 10k. See also SG: bare-bones ffree=realistic #WBank^wife^Che^3k and covid19$$handout reflect`Realistic burn rate

For some, FOLB takes them to the next level — bench-marking against the high-flyers.

—– jolt: PIP^job-loss fear

Note Many blogposts (not this one) explore FOMO^livelihood.

For the middle class, any burn rate exceeding 3k is a real (albeit subconscious) stressor because the working adults now need to keep a job and build up a job-loss contingency reserve. Remember Davis Wei….3-month is tough for him? How about 30 years? In a well-publicized OCBC survey during covid19, most Singaporean workers can’t last 6M

With a full time job, salaried workers experience a full spectrum of stressors including PIP. PIP would be impotent/toothless if the job is like a hobby. I would say very few people have such a job.

Aha .. Contract career is free of PIP.

For me (only me), job loss is a lighter stressor than PIP fear. In fact, I don’t worry about end of contract [2] and bench time. I worry more about humiliating bonus. I’d rather lose a contract job than receiving a token bonus after PIP.

I think PIP is the least universal, shared stressor among the three stressors[1]. Even though some percentage of my fellow IT professionals have experienced PIP, they seem to shrug it off. In contrast, I lick my wound for years, even after it turns into a permanent scar. Most people assume that my PIP fear was fundamentally related to cashflow worry, but I am confident about job hunting. So my PIP fear is all about self-esteem and unrelated to cashflow.

[1] In the covid19 aftermath (ongoing), SG government worry mostly about job loss i.e. livelihood. Next, they worry about career longevity, in-demand skills, long-term competitiveness, housing, healthcare and education… all part of the broader “livelihood” concept. As parents, we too worry about our kids’ livelihood.

[2] Because I have a well-tested, strong parachute, I’m not afraid of falling out (job loss)

Q: imagine that after Y2, this job pays me zero bonus, and boss gives some explicit but mild message of “partial meet”. Do I want to avoid further emotional suffering and forgo the excellent commute + flexible hours + comfortable workload + hassel-free medical benefit?
A: I think Khor Siang of Zed would stay on. I think ditto for Sanjay of OC/MLP. Looking at my OC experience, I think I would stay on.

— what are (not) part of “livelihood” concerns. These clarifications help define “livelihood/生计”

  • housing — smallish, but safe, clean home is part of livelihood
  • healthcare — polyclinic, TCM, public healthcare system in Malaysia … are important components of an adequate healthcare infrastructure, which is livelihood. Anything beyond is luxury healthcare
  • commute to work/school — 1.5H commute is still acceptable. in 1993 I had a 1.5 hour commute to HCJC. A desire for a shorter commute is kinda luxury, beyond livelihood.
  • job security for those of you aged 40-65 — is NOT a livelihood concern if you already have enough nonwork income to cover basic living expenses. Job is really a luxury, for joy, occupation, contribution. Consider grandpa.
    • job security above 65 — is clearly NOT livelihood, unless there’s insufficient retirement income.
  • Life-chances — are more about livelihood and less about FOMO.

— Deepak’s experience

Deepak converted form contractor to perm in mid 2014, but on 30 Oct 2014, lost his job in UK. He sat on the bench for thirteen months and started working in Nov 2015, in the U.S. This loss of income was a real blow, but in terms of the psychological scars, I think the biggest were 1) visa 2) job interviews difficulties. He didn’t have a PIP scar.


job losses across WallSt: 90% budget-related

In 99.9% of the involuntary job losses (not due to disciplinary action), the victim loses his (or her) job due to more than one reason, despite the single “official” reason such as performance or budget/redundancy. The individual is selected after passing through several approvals. Several protections must fail to protect him before he can loses his job. Remember, Lord Voldemort’s must lose all seven Horcruxes before he can be killed.

  1. protection: good performance — (with a vague criteria of “good”) This protection is effective to the extent that it helps the immediate manager look good.
  2. protection: threat of law suit for discriminatory hiring/firing
  3. protection: adequate budget is the biggest protection. When SIA suffers, every staff suddenly loses this big protection.
  4. protection: internal transfer opportunities
  5. protection: financial compensation — is a deterrent that protects perm staff. In contrast, ending a contractor is much easier. Not much approval.
  6. protection: a guardian angel. Immediate manager is one of your guardian angels, but there could be other powerful figures protecting you. They can veto the decision to get you laid off

I have seen many strong performers getting laid off, sometimes even without budget pressure. So good performance is not ironclad protection.

The pattern — managers put in lots of effort to identify, select, train a new hire. Sacking a person without budget constraint such as a (department-wide downsize) is too visible and dramatic, even humiliating, looking bad, too harsh, too impactful on the victim and the team morale. I feel most managers are reluctant to do that.

  • They would rather pay a doughnut bonus and wait for the person to leave
  • They can also offer internal transfer to the individual, as in OC/BAML/Macq
  • They can also lower performance expectation on the individual and close one eye. As Kyle Stewart said, “As long as you put in effort”.

Some examples:

  • eg: KhorSiang of Zed

Exceptions prove the rule. Some managers are trigger happy, without budget pressure — deMunk, Stephen of Macq

GTD fear-graph: delays^opacity^benchmark..

  • — manifestations first, fundamental, hidden factors last
  • PIP, stigma, damagedGood. Note I’m not worried about cashflow
  • [f] project delays
  • [f] long hours
  • [f] long commute
  • large codebase in brown field. Am slower than others at reading code.
  • [f] opacity — is worse than complexity or codebase size
  • figure-out speed benchmark — including impostor’s syndrome
  • [f = faced by every team member]
The connections among these “nodes” look complex but may not be really complex.
PIP is usually the most acute, harmful item among them. I usually freak out, though in hind sight I always feel I tried my best and should not feel ashamed. Josh is one manager who refuses to use PIP, so under Josh I had no real fear.

PIP@Macq: tough judge@%%design

If I were the judge, then Kevin’s solution may get rejected or rated mediocre.

I think the judgement can be unreasonably tough when the judge herself is a practitioner — consider Yang and Sundip Jangi.

On the other hand,

  • Yang liked my OO design in EOS
  • Sundip liked my personalization design

The outcome (PIP etc) doesn’t mean my work (i.e. output) is sub-standard. The outcome has many reasons and causes.

I need to be fair and impartial to myself. [[learned optimism]] uses the three P’s. One of them is Personal.

##robust^traumatized reactions #400w#cf kids,BGC..

See also ##[19] PIP hazard=worse than kids,BMI,BGC..

“Bad things happen to all of us. What counts is how we react to it.” — first heard from a PWM contractor (Indian).

I don’t want a big tabular analysis… Perhaps just focus on how fast I regained strength. Resilience and robust are big words in my vocabulary. Self-esteem is important too, but optimism is more important.

  • “C” is my self-rating of My reactions to PIP —- traumatized 惊弓之鸟. too long-lasting, too personal, too ruminative. It /cast too long a shadow/ over my long-term career planning and job choices.
    • 🙂 However, I am always courageous and resilient to take up the challenge right after the PIP, and focus on work.
  • ——- all other reactions are more calm, resilient or even robust ——-
  • “B     ” my reaction to high-flier classmates —- I continue to fight the irrational , illogical reaction.  The harm is much light than PIP reaction.
  • “BBB ” My reaction to U.S. and Singapore immigration issues —- a little drawn out. I worried for quite a long time, proportional to the level of complexity. But I was calm and focused on the problem.
  • “BBB ” My reaction to the trespass —- severe for the first few days but I managed to shrug it off after lots of research online.
  • “BB   ” My reaction to kids’ academic difficulties, weight problem, —- a bit Pessimistic, but much lighter in comparison to PIP. I managed to detach myself emotionally and grow my resilience.
  • “AAA ” My reaction to investment foes —- shows a sign of strength. Resilience. I shrugged it off most of the time and focused on work.
  • “A     ” My reaction to rejections by women —- not robust not positive. I kinda acknowledged that I have a high standard and I wasn’t so attractive on the ‘market’. I think that was fairly realistic.
  • “BBB+”My reaction to the underwhelming quant prospect, my poor ROI —- realistic and negative. I didn’t complain for long. I accepted it and put it aside.
  • “AA   ” My reaction to my c# ROI —- calm. I remain confident about my c#.
  • “AAA ” my reaction to the perceived gap behind coding test pros. I renew my effort without over-thinking
    “AAA ” my reaction to contract terminations at Citi —- positive. I wasted no time. No self-pity.
  • “AAA+”My reactions to repeated interview rejections — always robust and positive. I get right back on the horse after I fall.

##xp: enough localSys⇒GTD but respect≠guaranteed

I made localSys effort in each job below, but did it save me? See my rather surgical tabulation analysis of past PIP + survivals

Respect depends on your “performance” relative to team calibre.

  1. 🙂 RTS — yes but limited localSys
  2. 😦 GS — No, not a lot of respect, but I was able to hold my end of the log. With insufficient localSys I would get even less respect.
  3. 😦 Quest — No. The PIP was due to many factors. I feel my Quest GTD was adequate. With insufficient localSys, I would get even less respect.
  4. 😦 mvea — no
  5. 95G + volFitter — limited localSys .. nice green field projects for me.
  6. 😦 Macq — No. However, With insufficient localSys, I might have been kicked out within Y1

Macq? I now feel my localSys at Macq was deeper than at Quest or RTS

  • I put in lots of effort and was able to diagnose most build errors on MSVS and Linux.
  • I needed lots of localSys knowledge to modernize codebase for MSVS-2015 and c++14.
  • I needed localSys + innovative on-the-fly code gen + other skills to add the logging decorator into pymodels. This hack alone is worth a bonus. This hack is more effective more valuable than all my hacks in OC.

However, I feel the expectation was too high so in the end I got PIP and felt like damaged good.

I need to challenge that negative impression of the entire episode.

tsn: what if I fail due2capabilities #Okao

Yet another revisit. See also post on dare2fail.

My intern David Okao asked “What if the west coast workplaces are too demanding? Can you cope?” I replied

  • As an adventurer, I don’t mind the risk… robust, resilient confidence
  • As an adventurer, I see myself as adaptable, a survivor
  • I may have my secret weapons
  • I may find my strengths such as domain knowledge, data analysis, trouble-shooting, efficient design, math(yes)

I then went over a similar discussion about MLP with Ashish, when I said —

  • If similar to Macq, I put up a good fight but still fail due to personal “capabilities”, I ought to feel positive about the whole experience.
  • I’m good at the job-hunting game so no real worries.

##%% predictionS @prob(PIP)=unreliable

  • [o] RTS — I estimated 20->30-40% risk but actually zero
  • [o] OC — I felt I was doing nothing for months (20% risk) but they offered me a transfer
  • [o] citi — I wasn’t productive (30% risk) but they extended my contract for 6M
  • [u] Macq — I felt I was decent (2% risk), but expectation was way too high
  • [u] Stirt – I felt I was moving up (2% risk), but headcount pressure came as surprise
  • [u] barclays — I did superb job (0% risk) but head count pressure came as surprise
  • [u] 95G — I did superb job (0% risk) but head count pressure came as surprise
  • [o=overestimate of prob(PIP or layoff)]
  • [u=underestimate]

Bonus=one man’s appraisal: protect self-respect

Bonus is only one person’s appraisal of my value-add, attitude, competence, professional qualifications, … (but not my expertise)

Therefore, my own self-assessment can reference it, but only as a small factor. It’s extremely dangerous to tie my self-esteem to this single factor. People can and do care too much about this one factor.

In many places (Macq, GS, MLP,,, ) I actually cared to do a good job for the boss and for the firm, but still failed to impress the boss. In such a context, I have a duty as self-judge to contain the damage of that one man’s appraisal, or risk ruining my self-esteem and motivation at work.

real effort but below-bar@@ only Macq

Macq is probably the only job where I focused on localSys GTD but still fell below the bar.

The PIP cast a long shadow and left a deep scar. Am still recovering. This scar is deeper than Stirt …

Remember the abused children, who grew up traumatized? I was not traumatized as a kid. My traumatic experience is still /devastating/ but I can handle it. I have the maturity to handle it.

Adults are often traumatized by failed marriage, in-law conflicts,..

## Grandpa+AshS: 随遇而安@PIP #GS

grandpa’s advice is 随遇而安 — “Do your best. If they decide it’s a role mismatch then look for another job”. I will expand on his advice and add relevant tips and observations

  • academic self-image .. fragile — Ashish pointed out I was academically too successful and unable to cope with put-downs
  • best effort — I don’t need to bend over backward and sacrifice family
  • no shame
  • no fear of stigma — sounds impossible but it is possible !
  • no regret
  • guilt — the guilt should be on employer for making a wrong hire and creating hardship in my life.
  • stay positive — there’s a chance I can survive for 1-2 years
  • peer caliber — Ashish said those guys aren’t rock stars
  • Saurabh attitude — I believe at a high salary or as the first technology hire for Julian, expectation would be rather high. Can I withstand the pressure as Saurabh did?
  • GS pressure cooker — I survived there, so I should be able to survive anywhere else.
  • learning to cope — At GS/Qz/Macq, did I learn coping strategies to manage the pressure? I hope so.

The pressure to perform would likely create real stress in the family, as i’m not as ‘carefree’ as in Bayonne. I feel some of the past stigmas would come back to haunt me.

See also choose job for respect,stigma,benchmark


trauma creates knee-jerk reactions to PIP/bonus

Hi Deepak,

Your endured a traumatic episode without a job for months. I had, on a smaller scale, traumatic experiences under managers who don’t appreciate my effort and demanded improvement in performance. I felt like damaged goods.

I now believe these traumatic experiences shape an individual’s outlook, to put it mildly. In each individual’s career, there’s only one (or two) defining experience. These singular experiences tend to leave a long and deep scar in our psyche.

In my career, the biggest pain is not job loss. In fact, as I said last time, in hind sight my job loss was a positive turning point. My biggest pains were always negative performance reviews. I’m so scared and scarred that I now assign a disproportionate value to manager’s assessment, and basically ignore other people’s assessment, and ignore the level of difficulty of my role. What I ignore are crucial factors. Ignoring them is an irrational decision and leads to distorted perception of myself relative to coworkers.

I developed naive, knee-jerk reactions that as soon as I get a negative assessment from manager, such as a low bonus, I immediately see myself as damaged goods, of inferior quality and incompetent, when in reality the role expectation could be wholly unsuitable for me. Imagine you are expected to give salesy presentations to upper management and you are seen as not persuasive not technical enough.

I’m petrified by (extremely scared of) performance appraisals and bonus numbers. This is similar to my mom’s overreaction to random strangers saying “Are you above 80?”.

stigma^trauma^gzPIP ^esteem^1stAid^t_bonusStigma

  • I would say t_trauma is a form of t_stigma, but deeper, more impact
  • stigma — stems from PIP and bonus
  • bonusStigma — is better tag than stigma… more specific.
  • “esteem” and 1stAid are positive, but 1stAid items have immediate impact.

Many of these posts are a subset of PIP or Mgr^Contractor. My self-esteem crisis is invariably triggered by these two sources, but ..

…. in terms of severity PIP is 10x heavier than peer comparison.


G3 bitter setbacks]sg

  1. long service, moving-up attempts failed 3 times in SG. Self-esteem damaged each time due to damagedGood.
    • Next time I get into a perm job, I will not try so hard
  2. c++ visible progress was slow; c# visible progress was faster but abandoned
  3. .. minor setbacks
  4. MSFM poor ROI. See tabulation
  5. FSM and trading as a side project and new direction? Unwhelming exprience… didn’t realy bear fruits

Now I feel such failed attempts are part of life for everyone unless you don’t make any attempt. It’s irresponsible to avoid reviewing those unsuccessful attempts, but let’s not be too fixated on the negatives.

donut bonus often precedes job loss#XR

I won’t talk about my personal experiences (too painful) but in general, a donut bonus often means

You are free to go

You are the weakest member of the team

You are not qualified not competent for the role

You will be assigned some unimportant shitty work

You need to improve or get out of here

You are classified as “damaged goods”.

If you choose to remain, you may get increasingly harsh treatment, until you move on.

You may not have the option to stay here and remain an organization deadweight

However, if 1/3 of the team members get donut bonus, then it’s normal and not so bad.

## +ve keywords]%%annual appraisal

I really don’t want to care too much about manager’s comments. Those comments tend to hurt deeply. They often reflect the manager’s personal agenda, never a balanced/unbiased view. The keyword list is designed to counter some of the negative comments.

  • [zed, catcha] versatile, broad-based
  • [GS] ownership
  • [GS] client relationship
  • [GS, Chartered] attention to details
  • [GS] code quality. I was asked to present and publish
  • [GS, Mansion] technical strength
  • [GS, Barc] analytical
  • well-planned
  • [Barc, GS] knowledge sharing
  • [Barc, GS] personal sacrifices
  • [95G] architecture design
  • [Mac] good at team working across departments
  • [Mac] adaptive to new tech; fast learning