She's hilarious. =)
She's hilarious. =)
I sometimes forget that I've only been here for a year and that it's perfectly normal for me to feel homesick from time to time. Sometimes it can be almost paralyzing.
We spent Labour Day weekend with Simon's parents. The conversation turned to the Philippines. I told them about the idea of a barkada - the close, mutually supportive group of friends that I often hung out with. I told them stories from my grandmother's colorful past. I told them about my parents, about the new house, about these little facets of life—and I found myself silently crying, wondering once again what I was doing in Canada, wondering whether I couldn't have just stayed home and made a difference anyway.
Simon stood up, walked over, and held me until I felt better. He promised that we'd talk afterwards. His dad looked at me with compassion and quietly asked me if I was feeling homesick. I nodded, and then joined Simon's mom in feeding peanuts to the raccoons that come to their deck - a little bit of serenity as I cleared my thoughts.
On the drive back, Simon helped me sort through not only what I was feeling but also how I might make the most of my talents and skills. I hurt because I care, Simon said, and that's a good thing. It's particularly difficult because my homesickness is also bound up in a sense of responsibility and a desire to help. Sometimes I get paralyzed by the thought that if I'm going to be away, I need to be doing something absolutely spectacular.
Yeah, sometimes that can be really scary.
I need to make sure that what I'm doing here is worth the sacrifice. Most of the time, I can see that. Most of the time, I remember that through luck or circumstance or work, I have more opportunities than most people would, and I can share those opportunities with other people. I have a good-karma file of the changes I've made to people's lives and the encouraging messages I've received. I sometimes need help remembering, though.
To all the people who remind me when I forget why I'm here: thank you.
The song "Bayan Ko" never fails to move me, and it is to this song and other traditional songs that I turn to whenever I feel homesick. I wish I knew the first stanza better, and I wish I could sing well enough to help even my non-Tagalog-speaking friends appreciate the beauty of the song.
Lyrics by Jose Corazon de Jesus, melody by Constancio de Guzman
Ang bayan kong Pilipinas
Lupain ng ginto't bulaklak
Pag-ibig ang sa kanyang palad
Nag-alay ng ganda't dilag.
At sa kanyang yumi at ganda
Dayuhan ay nahalina
Bayan ko, binihag ka
Nasadlak sa dusa.
Ibon mang may layang lumipad
Kulungin mo at umiiyak
Bayan pa kayang sakdal dilag
Ang di magnasang makaalpas!
Pilipinas kong minumutya
Pugad ng luha ko't dalita
Makita kang sakdal laya!
The Labour Day weekend gave me an excellent opportunity to reflect on what I can do with my life, and I really appreciated being able to bounce ideas off Simon.
I have a lot of options ahead of me, and I want to think about this carefully. My first job doesn't have to be perfect, but it would be good to understand what my values and priorities are. I want to be extraordinary. I know, I'm 23 and my direction in life will change as I discover more about myself and about others. =) But it's good to think about it every now and then...
So here's where I stand, so far:Technical: Social systems: Improving a social system such as LinkedIn or OpenBC would probably be the best fit for me in terms of technical work. I would enjoy listening to users and figuring out things that can make the tools easier to use or more powerful. I'm more interested in systems that help people connect in real life or in one-to-one relationships than in things like social bookmarking, where the social aspect is often secondary. I'm also more interested in facilitating introductions than I am in supporting groupware, although I can do that as well. I would love to help build systems that make it easier for people to keep in touch with lots and lots of people (attention-based aggregators, etc?), introduce people to others, move online connections into the real world and vice versa, and so on. Management: Outsourcing: The Philippines has a lot of talent, and there are plenty of opportunities to outsource. I want to learn how to help people set up outsourcing relationships, specify and manage projects, and manage and train people.
These are the two prospects I feel most passionate about, and I may be able to pursue them both. I don't want to be so heads-down in tech that I serve a narrow audience—only the users of my system—nor do I want to be so heads-down in management that I lose touch with my technical side. I think I can make this happen, though.
So, how can I go about doing that?
For social systems, there are all sorts of little things that I would like to build for myself or suggest to other people. I can learn good design through exposure and experience. I can write about features and systems I would like to see. I can even prototype them. I should spend some time learning how to make better user interfaces (a proper mouse may help!) and prototyping things on Rails or some other quick platform. Easy enough for me to get into.
For outsourcing, there might be a good opportunity to help set up a relationship between Direct Leap and either QSR or Exist. I know a few people who want to help me learn how to do this. I'm all for it!
My master's degree can help me with both. My research is related to the former, and my coursework is related to the latter.
Hmm. Sounds like a good plan. I've got other plans, just in case, but these are the two best plans at the moment.
I deserved that public finger-wagging for my two-line reply to one of my sister's long stories. Which reminds me, I still have a stack of letters and cards to go through. In the future, I should never let myself get so busy that I flub my personal correspondence.
Joel Spolsky writes about finding great developers. Internships are a terrific way to scope out a candidate and also get them passionate about your company. Previous blog post about career aside, I do really like IBM and I *am* really curious to see how far we can take social software - and one of the reasons why I'm crazy about that company and all the cool people in it is because I've seen it from the inside, thanks to the IBM Toronto Centre for Advanced Studies.
Check out the essay.
More thoughts: One of the things that frustrates me about the Philippines is that we've got this entire chicken-and-egg problem in the schools. Few companies do on-campus recruitment for challenging internships, so students don't get motivation or experience - which is why few companies bother to do on-campus recruitment or R&D. Programming competitions help, I guess, and we do still manage to find a couple of geeks who learn about open source and end up teaching themselves. Still...