After I left my first company, I chose to join a GLC (Government Linked Corporation) subsidiary. Till today, I can’t really say whether that’s a good or bad decision, but surely it’s an ill-informed one. During the interview, I was told that I will be in-charge of a certain large-scale project that involved a lot of GUI programming in Visual C++ & MFC (Microsoft Foundation Class), and a lot of graphics programming using DirectX.
I was thinking, “Wow, I would be in-charge of designing and developing a project of such considerable scale. That would be quite a breakthrough for me as I had been assuming a team player role in my previous company.”
But it turned out that, their understanding of “in-charge” was quite different from mine. I was tasked to “maintain” the software that was already developed and delivered by an Israel company. If there was any minor modification required, I would be expected to do it. If the manager or customers wanted to know anything about the software, I would be expected to answer it. But no design and development was needed from me. They just needed a software engineer to understand the codes written by the Israel company. And that was not what I really wanted.
In my first few months in the GLC, the pace was incredibly slow compared to my first company. I spent my days reading documentations and codes and playing around with the system I was supposed to “maintain”. The job was too boring for me, so I started to write my own codes and libraries. I created some GUI (Graphical User Interface) components, a wrapper class for RS232/422 communication, a Winsock based class for inter-process communication with auto-reconnection abilities.
Anyway, throughout my stint in the GLC, I did eventually get my chance to do software development in about a year later. And since the company frequently worked with foreign companies, I did have the opportunities to interact with developers of other nationalities and learned the various software designs and programming techniques from the source codes that I had access to. And one thing I realised about the difference between foreign companies and local/GLC companies, is that foreign companies tend to invest a lot into their R&D and had genuine concerns about building up their own technological assets and capabilities, while local/GLC firms are normally more business-oriented and concerned more about short term gains. Well, of course there are exceptions and that’s just my own little observations.
There was one incident that really triggered me into thinking about my future in that company. There was a mass promotion and several of my colleagues were promoted to senior engineers. But I wasn’t in the list. I realized that although I had been doing a lot of programming and software designing work, I wasn’t being “seen” by the top management. I was too “low profile”. I didn’t bother to claim credits and I wasn’t active in any social events organized by the company (in fact, I spent most of my time in my own laboratory). I started to realize that in a big company it wasn’t totally about how good you are in your job. It was about how the others (especially top management) perceived you.
Although I was promoted half a year later, I felt that it was time to get out of my comfort zone and seriously think about my future. I was able to foresee that I would meet with a bottle-neck few years later, if I continued to stay in the company. I would have to choose between going into junior project management position, or remained as a
condemned senior engineer.
So eventually, I decided that I shall set up my own company. I came to realize that there isn’t exactly a perfect company, other than the one you set up yourself. Since I do not agree with the way the company is run, I shall set up my own company and run it the way I deemed correct. Since I do not agree with the company culture, I shall set my own company culture. Since I felt that my effort wasn’t adequately recognized, I shall create my own series of products and let the market recognized me. I wanted to take on the world and was ready to take on the world. The decision was made and I started planning. That was August 2003.