Why am I still around?

Disclaimer:  Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.

At the time of writing this blog, it has been 3.5 years that I had been working with AdNovum Singapore. Those who are aware of Singapore trend of how quickly hop around companies, might feel something unusual here. In Singapore, on an average an employee sticks for nearly 11 months and has an annual resignation rate of 15.6% (source: https://data.gov.sg/).

I did an introspection and reflected on various aspects :

  • Why is it that I am still around with this company?
  • Have I entered my comfort zone and do not want to push myself?
  • Have I lost that knack of cracking the interviews?
  • Why not switch and earn more?
  • Most of my friends already switched multiple times, should I also?
  • And … many more questions like these.

These questions helped me achieve a clarity in my thoughts and gave me a sense of confidence that I am in the right direction. I have many reasons to stay with AdNovum but I would like to jot down the ones that are most important to me.

Reasons

Trust

This is one of the core principle of AdNovum. I have worked with several organizations in past few years and I have never experienced the sense of trust that is in DNA of AdNovum. To mention a few, no one monitors :

  • How many hours you have spent in office?
  • Are you booking your leaves correctly?
  • Did you return the books borrowed from the office library?
  • Are test mobile devices registered while borrowing?
  • …. the list goes long.

I was coming from an office culture where I was scanned from head to toe for each entry to office and a stats of my punch-in punch-out time was reported to my manager on weekly basis. When I joined AdNovum, I was just confused. How is it working so smooth here? How did the guys manage to foster such a strong trust culture? Are we supposed to be checked by someone?

Time passed and I realized that everyone trusts you so you also trust everyone. It just works!

Strong Engineering culture

Working for AdNovum, I have got an opportunity to work with some of the smartest guys I have ever met (some were insane) . Just to mention some points in support of this argument :

  • My CTO recently built a computer from scratch and even wrote applications for it. When I say ‘from scratch’, then I mean building of the AND/NAND gates and from the build memory and ALU and following by basic OS and application.
  • We had engineered dependency management system even before the inception of maven.
  • We have been using an in-house grown continuous integration tool from the time when ‘Continuous Integration’ term itself was not coined (in simple words from the time when Jenkins was not even a thing then).
  • Multiple opensource project maintainer within the company.
  • Almost all the managers code and code very well. I have witnessed some brilliant pieces of code during my code peer review sessions.

Engineering runs in our blood. Owing to the open culture, I just join the Hipchat of multiple engineering teams and silently listen to their discussion to learn more. Not everywhere would you enjoy such a thing.

Work gets recognized

Everyone here has more visibility of the work you do and no one tries to steal the credits of your work. That is so different than what happens in so many other organizations (at least in my experience).

There is no magic wand which would suddenly bring this culture within the organizations. It is a collective result of many small initiatives. One of such a initiative is appreciation culture. My manager conducts a weekly meeting in which all the team members spend a minute or two appreciating someone within the company, it could be anyone for anything. Just spending a minute also in gratitude for a person brings a sense of compassion and bonding that it just makes working together more fun and full of gratitude. Isn’t it beautiful?

Open feedback culture

We have an extremely open feedback culture in AdNovum. I do not say it is easy to give critical and honest feedbacks as we may think what if the person is offended. But then it is a mutual and collective responsibility of everyone to encourage this culture to make it easier for everyone. The ability to just walk two tables down to your colleague and tell him how much you appreciate his efforts for feature X, is simply amazing.

In a recent discussion, the M.D. of the company took me to tea and asked for my feedback about him. I am short of words to explain how easy he made it for me to give a simple and honest feedback. Can’t emphasize more, just loved it!

Get challenged regularly

Almost all the time that I spent in AdNovum I was surrounded with challenging work. It does not mean that I never dealt with boring and uninteresting code. It just means that whenever such situations use to arrive, I started to find new opportunities with AdNovum, talk to managers, ask for help, suggestions. To mitigate this, sometimes my challenge level was increased in the same project (by adding bigger responsibilities) while sometimes my project was changed to a new one and for all other times I used to create new work for myself in the form of knowledge spreading within the company. In any form, I almost never found myself short of opportunities for the things I can do here.

Monetary Satisfaction

This is a tricky one. I feel people generally miss the point for this one. Let me walk you over my thought process for this one. As per my philosophy, the purpose of our life is to be happy. Bob Marley said –

Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.

I can almost guarantee you that at any point of time there will be someone out there who is ready to pay you more (or much more) than you are current salary. So that makes one thing clear, there has to be some number in between this spectrum of high and low salaries which should make you happy (or else you will never be happy). So to decide, I consider following points during my monetary considerations :

  • Am I paid industry standard?
  • Am I able to bear my expenses comfortably?
  • Am I able to make some savings?

And these questions helped me set a reasonable expectation in mind. When I was offered by AdNovum, I shared my expectation and we had a consensus on a number which was agreeable by both of us. Similarly, I had even helped some of friends with the negotiations if I felt one of the above 3 criteria did not meet for them or they deserved more. However, in most of the cases I have seen that my colleagues were happy with what was offered. I must say that from monetary point of view I do not have complaints and I am satisfied here.

Gives back many folds

I was once having beer with my manager and we were already a couple of cans down ( and obviously that means whatever we were speaking was not made up ;-)).

Me : I feel that a company gives back different to each employee, some get more some get less. No?
Boss : Same goes with the employees also, right? Some give much more to the company than they are expected to while other just reach expectation.
Me : I agree. But it is amazing that higher management does look at each employee. It is not so common (with other organizations) I feel.
Boss : Oh definitely ! That is why we have the concepts of pools and pool-managers. Last year, when someone from family expired and you had to go on urgent leave for week or 10 days. Who was it?
Me : My grandmom.
Boss : At that time during our resource planning meeting we decided that we will not deduct your leaves for that week and planned to just offer you extra leaves. And so we did that. But you refused the offer, and instead offered to work over 4 weekends to compensate your absence. How many people would do that?
Me : I might have also not have done that but I felt already indebted with the support I got from AdNovum. And felt that project needed my time to meet the deadlines, so I did it.
Boss : Well, that is it. It is all about the intent.

There are lots of people around us who are ready to show a sense of commitment and ownership, but not all organizations appreciate and recognize it. AdNovum does it and does it very well. A video that you have to watch (but after reading this blog 😉 ). It deciphers the concept of giving & taking.

Awesome colleagues & friends

I have some of the most amazing colleagues ( + few friends) who could make anyone jealous. One could only know this by becoming one of us 😉 We eat together, code together, play lots of foosball/badminton, make fun of each other, play prank …. It is one of the factor that gives me a sense of excitement to be at office everyday. I cannot emphasize more, but I just love these people 🙂

It just feels right

I personally feel that this is above all. Even if every damn thing is in place, but if it does not feel right then nothing matters. This is more at the philosophical and emotional level. Reminds me of an anecdote. There was an entrepreneur who was known for his decision power. Whenever he needed to make tough decisions he would lock himself in a room and would always come out with an answer. No one knew what he did inside. On being asked about the secret by a very close friend, he revealed it to him.

Friend : So how do you decide in hard conditions?
Entrepreneur : I toss.
Friend : Oh come on! That can’t be true?
Entrepreneur : Yes, it is! I did not say that I decide from the result of the toss. But I decide from the toss.
Friend : Please enlighten.
Entrepreneur : When I have to make choice between A and B then I assign Head and Tail side to each of the choice. Then I flip the coin. During the time, the coin is in the air there is always a voice that comes from within which wishes – please Heads, please Heads …. I just search for that voice. It is then that I know for sure what should be done. Somehow your heart already knows the right answer. Always !

For real, I do take a lot of decisions direct from the heart. I just do it because I got a direct instruction from it. And it works (mostly) 😉

To sum it up

When I am spending most of my time (around 70%) of my week at work, then it is important to know if I am happy with it or not. This introspection not only asserted the premise but also helped me appreciate and felt grateful for what I have. I know so many people who are wishing for such a life, for such a work place. These are my reasons and you might also not agree to all the points or you may just think differently. But what is very important is to sit back in peace and think – Why am I still around?. You will either start to look for a new job or just feel grateful. Either of the ways it’s your win.