Sunday, July 12, 2020

Stepping up just to be back in square one.

Life comes in many forms and shapes to each one of us. This is the reason why we're bound to understand most of everyone's struggles but failed to live someone's else life.

I can still remember how my journey started trying to become a system engineer. The story is very sentimental that I considered it as a breakdown or breakthrough point of my career. And by simply looking back, it brings the same feeling of hustling and grinding -- so powerful, that it never failed to push me to become better in whatever I do.

Rather than sharing the entire story which might bore most, let's dissect the story instead. This way, readers can better examine each circumstance.

[LEVEL 1] - 2012, Technical Support Representative
You won't understand where you're heading

When I started my journey, even by just taking the first step, it already feels like I'm lost. The articles I've been reading doesn't make sense to me. The terms I have to deal with are somewhat so difficult to comprehend. The diagrams I have been looking at puzzled me. I don't even know where to start or if the first step I took was the right starting point to begin with. Being lost didn't stop me from exploring the unknown, it even sparked more of my curiosity to push through what I am doing in the hope that it'll lead me to the destination I'm trying to get -- even if I didn't understand where I was truly heading.

When you're at your level 1, all you need to bring with you is the dream alongside with your moral courage. Why courage? Because when you're at level 1, this is where you'll see yourself stumble into so many obstacles and mistakes. If you lack the courage go to on, it's easy for you to quit. Without courage, immediately, you'll see yourself as a failure. But in reality, that's just how it is.

[LEVEL 2] - 2013, System Administrator
You try to become the expert of your craft

After feeling dumb, I get to use of making mistakes and continuously improving myself -- learning my way through reading, watching video tutorials, and attending community meetups. The novice in me is starting to hone to become an apprentice. At this point, everything I had read started making sense, and everything I have to research brings so much excitement that I can't wait for another day to pass without learning its in-depths. Knowing things is no longer my objective but rather, learning more of those things became my focus. This is the time I have expanded my horizon in learning, trying to cover as many topics as possible.

When you're at your level 2, you have to bring with you, resilience and passion. In this level, it's where you gauge yourself's commitment. You have to ask yourself if what you're doing is something you're enjoying. Because if it's not, then, it'll be a struggle to find the passion within what you're doing. It'll be harder for you to answer, as to why you're even doing it. Resilience will be your fuel, as this time, the mental fatigue will be on another level. Mastery doesn't come fast and it's something no one cannot rush. Mastery comes over time.

Though you reached level 2, it doesn't mean that you won't be stumbling into obstacles and commit mistakes. You bring with you what you're experiencing in level 1, the problems, and the corresponding resolutions (your actions). Just that this time, you're expected to be wiser.

[LEVEL 3] - 2015, Snr. System Administrator
You become the cornerstone of your craft

I can now see myself as an expert in my domain, and the people I work with adds more weight to my feedback, thoughts, and inputs. I started getting more involved in technical communities, getting invited to speak in meetup sessions, and getting great job offers. This is also the time I started teaching people what I know, thinking that it'll help me improve learning towards my domain of expertise -- as they say "teaching is the ultimate form of learning". I consider myself an advocate of free-learning, as I am personally a by-product of the internet. 

When you're at your level 3, you have to bring with you, humility. Being an expert doesn't mean perfection. You have to be mindful of the fact that there are others who are still way better than you. You have to convince yourself to learn more, so you could teach more. From an objective of improving yourself, you now have to improve yourself as you improve others. This is the time where you hone others to reach a level you've achieved. This is no longer a matter of how many domains you know, it is now about how many people you've educated.

Reaching level 3, it doesn't mean you won't be stumbling into obstacles and commit mistakes. It also doesn't mean that since you've now become an expert, you stop learning and improving. You have to bring with you the learnings and experience from level 1 and level 2. This is also where the "success measurements" gets changed. From gauging how successful you are in your field, the measure now becomes, how many people you've helped to become successful. And remember, in a world where you can become anything, be humble.

[LEVEL 4] - 2017, Lead Engineer
You are now called to lead, your obligation is now towards your team

This is where the rules of the game changed. From being focused on learning by yourself to being focused mastering your craft, I am now on duty to make sure everyone in the team is at their best. From my experience, leadership comes in different style and no one can truly claim that there is a leadership approach that could work in all environments. My leadership approach was simple, somewhere along the lines of "be strict and be fair" -- that is my maxim. At first, it was hard as the maxim itself requires discipline, and being discipline is not easy. As being discipline is always a question of how long can a person stay disciplined and not how fast can he apply the discipline to himself. More to that, as a leader, I need to encourage my team to embrace such discipline in our day to day rundowns.

When you're at your level 4, you have to bring with you an ethical moral-compass. Remember, you're now a leader and your most vital work is decision making. Without an ethical moral-compass, you won't be able to make any sound judgment for your team. This moral-compass will vary and is subject to change, depending to the situation. So technically, the evaluation of your leadership vest goes into two points; being able to embrace a moral-compass, and knowing when to reassess the embraced moral-compass.

This point in your life will look overwhelming. Do not fall into the traps of complacency and authority. Though you are called to lead others, you should not forget to lead yourself. One common mistake most people encounter by the time they get to be entrusted to lead is thinking they are untouchable. Note that in the game field of leadership,  everyone becomes replaceable -- and that's the ultimate goal of every leader, to be replaced -- by the people they honed.

[LEVEL 5] - 2020, Director
You are now called to run a business, your obligation is now towards the entirety of the organization

I'm new in this role, and the game doesn't have any warm-up round per se. So by the time I signed up for it, I am expected to perform. Think of it as somewhat, plug and play. I find the work very challenging maybe because it's my first in running a business, and on top of that, I am now in-charge of the lives of the people working for the company. The burden of command at an amplified rate is not a joke to deal with -- as they always say "with great power comes with great responsibility". I am still paving my way into greatness and I can say that I am no expert in every matter I'm dealing with day by day. But to someone who's an advocate of learning, seeking knowledge seems to be my greatest edge.

When you're at your level 5, you have to bring with you curiosity and a sense of responsibility. I cannot highlight how hard it is to make decisions, judgments, and adhoc calls when you know it'll affect everyone working for the organization. It takes boldness to pull the trigger and make the call, it takes courage to stand by what it brings -- good or bad. Keep in mind that you have to take care of the people and the business at the same time, some aspects of the business are non-negotiable and it goes the same to the human elements. If you don't know which factor(s) to consider, and if you're not looking at both ends of the spectrum, everything you do will be catastrophic.

Reaching this level is really mind-blowing and I just cannot specifically pinpoint what aspect of my work brought me here. Maybe I was given the benefit of a doubt by the company, and the burden of proof is now for me to produce. So far, I am enjoying the journey and my goal is to improve my thought process and mental models to suit the environment I am at.

The story won't be complete if you, the readers don't know the following:
  • I have no formal education. I am a school dropout and only spent 1 semester in college.
  • I don't have any certification and haven't undergone formal training that can justify what I know about the field I'm working at.
  • I came from a family that doesn't have much of a resource.
  • A lot of people helped me strive, a ton helped me get started, and a few cheered me on my up.
The story has its own variable as well:
  • Timeline, my timeline might be slower compared to others. The timeline doesn't really make much of a difference as it's not a matter of how fast can you reach a certain level but how long can you stay in the game. So long as you're making progress, it doesn't matter at what pace you're moving -- so long as you're moving forward.
  • Title, my title corresponding to every level might be different compared to others. The title doesn't really make much of a difference as it's not a matter of what you are in the organization but who you've become as a person (while you're developing yourself). Titles alone won't mean any, it's the impact that you're bringing with you that counts.
  • Level, the level I reached is not the end. From what I know, the levels in this game of life is unlimited and the only limitation it has is the one you set yourself.

What is certain in my story is that the "courage" that I brought with me as I started my journey is still the main component I lean-on to as I step up and advance to the next levels.

I hope I am able to spark some fire in you to keep hustling and grinding in the things you're doing. If you're inspired and motivated by my story, share yours and write it down -- you don't know who you're lifting up!