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!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

When trust becomes too expensive that not everyone can afford it anymore

The era of digital transformation came knocking in every company's door in a way that it does cost them their business when it's not entertained. This pandemic caused by covid-19 doesn't take no for an answer when it comes to innovation across all the industries. For a business to survive, business leaders are tasked to be more creative when it comes to relevance in their market's household needs.

The idea of bringing every business online is bold, though the convenience it brings is unparalleled, and efficiency can now be observed in different business sectors. While the promised outcome of digital transformation is very exciting, one might question -- what about security and privacy?

Lately, I have been thinking of what the future might look like to most of us. And this article aims to give everyone the bits and bytes as to what one should keep in mind as we advance into the future.


Beware of scams. Fake Gurus.
Just recently, I've bumped into this youtube channel named Coffeezilla and I just love how he's exposing all these fake internet gurus on his show. The mission of his channel is to bring awareness to the general audience how smart people try to outsmart everyone else and take their money. His way of journalism is evidence-based and the formality of his show uncovering these fake persona is one of a kind. There is a big difference between trolling and criticizing, exposing his own identity as he whistle-blows these scammers requires skin in the game. Him putting his face and name into what he's doing (calling those big names) earned my respect! 


Beware of scams. Fake Tech-Support.
I have been following Kitboga's youtube channel for a while. Kitboga's approach in exposing these scammers is very technical -- if you're into information technology and cybersecurity, I'm sure you'll love what he's doing. While the enemy Kitboga's trying to corner hides in being the screen, his way of bringing justice is to make sure scammers will be wasting their time of the day dealing with his plotted scene. Kitboga's videos show how these criminals move, think, and loot.


Beware of scams. Fake Rental Properties.
In the business we're in, we've seen the good, bad, and the ugly. Rental scams are rampant and it's everywhere! This is the reason why Onerent Inc. launched scamlord.ai that aims to combat fake landlords ("scamlords") that's been doing these crimes for how many decades now. The main objective of this ai-driven platform is to raise awareness to every prospective renter the probability of a property listing being a scam before they even make contact with the listed "property owner (scammer)" and fall into their traps.


Beware of fraud. Fake Recruiter/Agency/Applicant.
With the unemployment rate caused by the pandemic, every business now has the edge to properly capitalized on the huge talent market. While this could help companies expand and hire great talents, this also opens an opportunity for bad actors to capitalize on society. I've seen people who desperately need a job wasting time going through interviews and filtering process just to know the people/agency they are dealing with is not the one directly hiring for the post nor legitly affiliated to companies that have job openings. These bad actors are just simply playing with the "supply and demand" with the hopes of getting a referral/commission. Note that today, it's easier to start a so-called company by just simply buying a domain name. Getting a landing page from free-template sites, getting an email service and associate it with the domain -- and one now has a bootstrapped business. 

Don't get me wrong. There are legit head-hunters out there, hired by big names to scout for great talents. There are also legit recruitment agencies out there, hired by big names to supply manpower resources for them. And to be fair, recruitment agencies also deal with candidates who falsify their resume and declare that they know-this and know-that, ending wasting recruiter's time for doing the interview.

What I'm saying is, in a world where anyone can make a "claim", one should be more careful who they deal with. Though lately, it has been flooded by internet marketers and promoters, LinkedIn is still a good place to go when it comes to building professional networks.


Beware of fraud. Fake you.
Even before this covid-19 outbreak, hacking company databases, leaking personal information, and exposing the most sensitive data to the black market is already happening. As we move most of our transactions online, it could be that our identity and privilege are already hijacked by these bad actors. As the government adapts this approach to innovation, make sure no one is acting on your behalf, and claim what is for you and your family. 

As most online platform is associated with an email address (for the login), check if your email has been compromised via Have I Been Pawned.




cebuserver.com
Data Privacy and Security


As we embrace the future of every business, let's put privacy and security on the top of our priority. These two realms work hand-and-hand and is a shared responsibility amongst every one of us. Let's apply "thinking" and "researching" to our online mantra so we don't fall as a victim of these online crimes. Also, if you don't know what you're doing (online), ask -- and make sure to ask someone with credibility. Find someone you can trust.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The courage to decide to do what is necessary

Just about a month ago, we made the call to safety for everyone in the company. A month past, we have to make another tough decision that will greatly affect the business and the workforce.

The US economy is at the moment in bad shape and unemployment rates have been increasing in all states. While our main market, California, reached over 1,058,325 claims as of March 28, 2020.


The COVID-19 pandemic brought havoc to most companies, including Onerent. And as it badly damaged the business' cashflow, our leaders were put into a situation where they have to decide how to stay afloat amidst the economic recession.

This week is a tough week. We have benched more than a quarter of our workforce to be able to squeeze our operational cost to the revenue we are generating throughout this crisis. While this left most of our people in shock, there just wasn't any other option left. The blueprint for growth that we were so focused on for the past months (pre-covid19 days), has been changed to a plan for survival.

It's painful to see people undergo such circumstance, especially during these trying times. But we just have to look at the big picture with the aim to address the greater good.

Considerations are as follows:

  • We ultimately believe that as a company, we'll be able to bounce back once the pandemic ends, and once the global market resumes its normal operation.
  • There are people who is solid with their belief about the future of Onerent. From the investors, the board members, the co-founders, the executive management, the middle management, and those who are working on every scope within the entire operations.
  • We pledge an oath to serve our homeowners and renters, throughout their stay in Onerent.
  • We believe that the services we offer are essential these days. During these times of crisis and in dealing with the aftermath.
  • We believe that our business model will play a vital role as the economy gets back in shape.

Knowing all these, we just can't close down the business and call it quits. We got to do what is necessary in order for the business to survive in the hopes that it can open more job opportunities in the upcoming months, throughout its existence.

As we always value our people's welfare, the company vows for the following terms to bring aid to the families of those who are on floating status.
  • The company allowed those that are on floating status to keep the computer units and broadband modems that were brought home. Thinking that at least, by these resources, they'll be able to work on side-gigs that will temporarily generate cash to sustain their family's need.
  • The company allowed those that are on floating status to do freelancing.
  • The company allowed those that are on floating status to still avail of the medical services we have in-house, extending it to those who were given end-of-contract for the month.

Facing the harsh reality thought me a lot and brought great realizations.

The greatness of the leaders aren't seen in good times but are tested in the unwanted ones. The unprepared will become paranoid, the one who trains will be put under pressure. If you want to take the helm, you always have to decide -- regardless of the situation and circumstance, good or bad. And you have to accept the truth, that not everyone will rejoice with your decision(s) -- especially those who don't have the visibility of the big picture. Even if how much you explain the thought behind your acts, it's not going to catch people's attention -- especially those who are now selective with their thinking.

The corporate setup isn't like a startup. Yesterday was so glorious that no one thought today would come, in fire and chaos. While it's true that every day in the startup scene, it's always about life and death -- not everyone is well aware of it. In a snap, the job(s) that might be there for people to work-on might no longer be available at all. Working in a startup means, high rewards, high growth, and high risks. It's how it is, the nature of startup.

The leadership principle(s) matters most in times of crisis. When you're given the ability to decide on behalf of everyone, having a clear basis of your decisions will help you be more rational about your selection. Though this will differ in every individual, it's always good to have a solid core of your own.




PS: What makes me more proud is that, for a company that is badly wounded by the pandemic, it still stayed true to its mission towards its customers and towards its people. The promise of hope is still there.

Monday, April 6, 2020

My experience in taking AWS certification online

This write-up is timely as most tech-professionals are now stationed, working from home.
If you are into web programming, engineering, and tinkering -- you might have heard of AWS (Amazon Web Services).

As I look back to my previous self, I can still remember how I try to avoid the path of certifications. As someone who didn't have any formal education, the least I want to collect for myself is a bunch of papers, containing my name and the expertise I would tell myself, I know. Instead, I was eyeing more on the objective of earning experience and battle scars as I go onto my journey in the tech-engineering industry.

You see, I was once a good Devops Engineer, some say I am great but I'll stick to what I know and let everyone else believe what they think is true. As you work for organizations that invite you to have growth, within a short period of time, you'll see yourself working on something else. The servers that were once your battleground now shifts to people-leadership. The terminal that was once your best tool now shifts to the workforce/project management platform. The thought-process that was once only applied to yourself now shifts to influencing others to grasp the mindset.

Back to the present time, I am more appreciative of certifications and exams. Not because I find it advantageous in today's talent search world but because it gives me the cornerstone to test my know-hows over time, especially that I am no longer that hands-on to the realms of AWS.

There's a ton of resources you can utilize that enables you to prepare for any AWS exam, and this article isn't one of those. My focus in writing this article is for me to provide anyone who eyes the path of certification, the knowledge to not stumble on the same roadblocks I've encountered. Most especially to those who are planning to take the exams online.

The pitfalls:
  • DO NOT BE OVER-CONFIDENT. You might tell yourself that you already know what you need to know to be able to answer and pass the exam. Well, think twice. It would be a disgrace for someone to fail the test, especially to the one who thinks he already knows it all. Use confidence to your advantage, be confident. We all need that to boost our self-esteem so we can keep moving forward in achieving our desire, which in this case, to pass the certification exam. Here's a good resource to check out: JOCKO PODCAST - SHORT CLIP.
  • DO NOT STICK TO A SINGLE RESOURCE. While there is a course, might it be paid or free, that covers a great number of topics to prepare yourself for the exam, the context and the way things are interpreted (by the authors) might not be the same. Always cross-check, always have cross-references and make sure the source of truth is verified by others. 
    • Some of the best individuals I personally know in the field now run their own firm. If you and your team are interested in in-person teaching, focus-group learning, check out APPER PH. Often, our very own AWS HERO, Raphael Quisumbing runs a study group for free.
    • If you want more flexibility, go for online courses. Udemy, ACLOUDGURU, and LINUXACADEMY are some of the best platforms for learning. Take note that the idea of online courses is not about how fast you can finish each track but how fast you've understood and how much you've retained what is taught.
    • The resources that triumph it all are the ones that come from AWS. Check out the AWS Whitepaper and AWS Blog. You can also subscribe to the official Youtube Channel of AWS.
    • Ask questions to the official Facebook Group of AWS-User Group Philippines. Note that everyone in this group is working, so when you ask questions, you have to be as articulate as possible. Do not waste people's time by letting them probe more what you're trying to find out, instead, over-emphasize the things that confuse you.
  • DO NOT TAKE THE EXAM WITHOUT TAKING THE PRACTICE TEST. You might think, but why?. If you are really prepared for the exam, you should be able to pass the practice test. Though taking the practice test incur more cost, it's worth it. This is essential for you to determine whether you are ready or not. An additional $20/$40 USD for the practice test will serve its purpose, trust me.

The exam know-how:
  • Assuming you're ready and you've passed the practice test. You're good to proceed to the next steps.
  • Make sure you already have an account with AWS. If not, create one.
  • Visit https://aws.amazon.com/certification/


  • Note that only Pearson Vue offers the exams online with an online proctor checking on you as you answer each questionnaire.

  • As you schedule your exam, read each dialog carefully and make sure you understand every instruction.
  • As you go through the application process, upon you select the date of your exam, please make sure to change the timezone so you won't have any confusion with your schedule.

  • You need a credit card to pay for the exam cost.
  • Prior to your scheduled date, you will get an exam reminder as to what to prepare and what to do. Make sure to go through those steps ahead of time to avoid hassle on your exam date.
    • A software will have to be installed on your machine. This software will be tracking your activities, from the applications running on your host, to the motion recorded from your webcam, to keyboard activities.
    • You will also be asked to take photos of your table. (1) Front, (2) Back, (3) Left, and (4) Right
    • Make sure your room is quiet, closed doors if possible.
  • On your exam date, here's what you need to prepare:
    • You might be asked to redo the steps above. If so, redo.
    • Make sure your webcam, microphone, and speakers are working
    • Make sure your table (where you'll be taking the exam) is clean. No extra peripherals like a paper, notebook and other writing materials.
    • Make sure your mobile phone is not within your reach.
    • You'll be receiving a call, via an application that they'll ask you to install and you'll be welcomed by your proctor.
    • Then, you can proceed with the test.
  • Additional note. The proctor allows you to have drinking water be stationed on your table. It's always good to have a bottle handy, in case you'll be tense and get dehydrated.


I wish you luck on your upcoming exam(s).
As you acquire more knowledge and specialties, pay it forward. Teach. 



*** Bonus Track ***
The good problems:

  • I am living in Davao City. And one challenge for all AWS Professionals is that there aren't any testing centers in Mindanao. More so, there isn't any company (at least that I know of) that is offering training for AWS that are officially accredited to the organization.
  • Not like any other metro city, Davao City is still on its way of booming. Digital footprints for cloud-service oriented professionals aren't that big.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The courage to decide to do what is right

Last March 16, 2020, the company made a tough but fulfilling decision.

As the case for COVID-19 gets more alarming in the city of Davao and the rest of the Philippines, Onerent Inc., who built a fort in the land of promise, offered work-from-home to all its employees. Not only giving the opportunity to work from home, the company is also offering its employees to bring their computer units with them and at the same time allocate funds for internet connectivity.

Most companies operating as BPOs in places affected by the virus are still on "business as usual". While everyone could be a suspect in the spread of the disease, not all company sees it as a threat -- at least to their business need.

There is really nothing to brag about. We just want to state the obvious and set example that there are still a few great companies, run by good caring individuals, that are out there, that stayed true to its mission. Everyone's safety and welfare will always be a priority, here at Onerent Philippines.

I am thankful for the leaders, for they've shown how much they really care. I am thankful for the people, for they've shown how grateful they really are. I am thankful to be a part of this family. Indeed, a great place to be.



Out from our decision, what do we tell our people?

  • We will show no mercy to your excuses. The last thing we wanted to hear from you all is your excuse for not being able to report to work, not being able to follow the usage of TimeDoctor and not being able to meet the break schedules. You are in your most comfortable spot, use it on your own advantage. Don't get tempted by your commodities at home if you don't want to lose your job.
  • Communication and coordination are key. To be able to work well especially in this kind of setup requires you to make sure that people are aware of what you're doing and what help you need. Over-communicate, give emphasis and be articulate as possible.
  • Trust and Commitment. Remember that the company trusted everyone to stay committed amidst the situation we're at. Let's make sure everyone's effort won't be put to waste. Let's not fall into the traps of comfort. Let's stay true to our mission.


Out of our decision, what do we remind our people?

  • Discipline. It's as important as food. If you really care for those who are around you, make sure to take care of yourself.
  • Awareness. It's as important as alcohol. Keep distance. Observe cleanliness and hygiene. Avoid roaming to areas where you think people from different points of origin go.
  • Faith. It's as important as medicine. Overthinking, over-reacting, and spreading of fake alarming news doesn't help the nation. Stay positive with precautions in mind. Help drive hope. That's what we need most during these times of chaos.

PS: Most solutions being offered by other BPOs to their people are what we consider fair between every employee and the company. On Onerent's case, it did is what is right.