If you ask me before I started university on what I wanted to do with my life, I would respond something along the lines of "work at a big-ass company then contribute to a startup." To the typical asian household, this mindset seems very flawed. One would argue that an Asian family would only be proud when their son/daughter ends up working at a huge firm in some growing field. But all this boils down to earning a shitton of wealth.
Growing up in the Philippines, I started joining hackathons at the age of 15. Through these "master-cramming competitions", I'd get exposed to how entrepreneurship is slowly changing the Philippines to be innovators and leaders. Likewise, I've slowly seen new startups grow in this space. In the past few years, we got some South East Asian startups such as Shopee, Angkas, Grab, and many more -- all using technology to help people.
I dreamt that I want to work in such a culture like that. I wanted to work at smaller companies because they focus on 21st century problems using 21st century solutions. I wanted to be in a place where I can explore and build shit on my own.
Fast forward in 2020. We got hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, this was an opportunity to develop myself further and to explore.
Through friends, we slowly built systems in helping Filipinos who are struggling in the pandemic. We built what is effectively the COVID-19 Platform powering majority of the Philippines and we built a startup out of it.
But part of me still wants to achieve the first 50% of my goal -- to work in a big-ass company. I wanted to experience what its like to go corporate for a bit all in an effort to find my place.
The co-op experience of my university pretty much allowed me to find an internship for a few months all in an effort to build real-world experience. After a month of searching for a company, I got hired as a DevOps Engineer for 8 months.
At first, the experience was nice. I was able to understand what I'm doing and I was able to quickly learn some new concepts which was of my interest. I was purely interested in deploying secure applications at scale. I definitely couldn't learn such skill just from the education system alone so a co-op experience allowed me to learn a bit more than what I self-taught a year ago.
Over time, signs started showing in my life telling me that corporate wasn't the life for me. For one, I realized that I fucking hated Java and SpringBoot. These two technologies were built back in the 90's era. Being a "hands-on" learner, it was just enough for me to become frustrated in learning the technologies especially with the lack of hands-on learning experience. Even my Java knowledge from school wasn't enough to cover the things I actually needed for this job.
Another sign that sparked was having to learn many different technologies in my position. On day one I end up using SpringBoot and Java for my first ticket. Next thing you know I get dumped with another ticket on ArgoCD and jsonnet. Having to learn a shitton of tech alleviates growth personally. Its as if I am being forced to lay eggs in many baskets — preventing me from excelling in one skill.
To top it all off, over time I started feeling toxic against my team. I felt as if I wasn't learning enough or I was struggling with their culture. To be fair the company is an old 90's company filled with old people. I assume thats why I never really vibed with anyone there over time and I slowly just lost hope.
After being called out by my manager several times and deciding to end my co-op experience early, I could say that I left happier. I never felt a bit more alive. If anything, I felt miserable during the experience by overworking and suffering in an environment where I don't want to stay long-term.
People may judge me for my decision especially because this job ends up paying me more than the startup I'm doing. But I realized that in life, its not always about the fucking money. After realizing that money is just there to help us grow further, its not worth it to just continue staying there for the greed. I'd rather invest in my happiness than continue on a toxic road.
Leaving my co-op, I realized that some people actually thrive in big-ass companies and some thrive in startups. The two kinds of people are as follows: