What I learned from GFC

The move

I grew up in a “developing” country, a place that sees a lot of its professionals leaving for somewhere else in pursuit of a better life. Before leaving, myself, I worked there for a few years during and after uni. At one time, I was finishing my bachelor’s in software engineering, and working in three different part time jobs at the same time. Eventually, I settled in and ended up as a full time employee of a single company, working on some cool projects, one of which was a country-first Internet banking system. However, I don’t think I wrote any resume for any of those jobs, ever!

This all changed when I encountered the “western” world, after moving to Australia in late 2008. The global recession hadn’t traveled across the ocean yet, people were optimistic, and companies were hiring. Still, I had to write a resume and a cover-letter, follow up with recruiters, and convince them that I am worth a chance. Anyway, I ended up getting two offers within three weeks and landed a job at NEC Australia, in an eastern suburb of Melbourne, just a few days before Christmas.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

The GFC

It turned out I was their last hire, before the trouble. After a while the companies sobered up from all that Christmas festivities, froze hiring, and started laying people off. We were not an exception. One day, the manager of our department calls a few people, one by one, into his office. On return, they pack up and leave, one of them swearing very loudly, a scene I can’t forget. During lunch that day I asked him whether he is going to have a chat with me as well in the afternoon, and he reassured me that I was one of those who got to stay.

Anyways, a few months passed by and the company announced a new round of voluntary redundancies. Some long-timers who were itching to get the generous payout and get out of there applied instantly. I did too. I would get a decent severance payment, find my next job (just like this one) in a few weeks, and I keep the rest. For someone who has recently moved countries, some extra cash would be really useful. Soon I realized that, for someone who is new here, having a job would be really nice too! For the first time in my life I didn’t have a job, and I couldn’t find one, no matter how many resumes I sent and how many interviews I went to. After spending all that redundancy payout, I gave up on the local market, took a decent cut for my next job, and moved the family to Sydney. We were saved, but this experience changed me forever.

The rest

Later I learned more about the job market, and understood how companies hire. I figured out the interview process after doing a lot of them and being on the other side of the table for a few years. I did some freelancing and worked on ideas of of my in order to fill some of the gaps I couldn’t fill in my day job. I read some books to understand how to grow my career and where to put my focus. I found Corporate Confidential eye opening and essential for navigating the political landscape at work, especially for someone who is coming from a different culture.

All of this helped me land a software engineering job in Atlassian after jumping a few companies. Recently I transitioned into engineering management, and it looks like an unknown world to me. It calls for a different mindset and adopting different values. In the future posts I will write more about my experience as a new manager, what I learn, and how I find my way around. I am hoping it is useful for someone somewhere.

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