2014

The past year has been one of great learning for me. Both my wonderful girlfriend and great job combined have taught me many lessons and etched more than a year’s worth of maturity onto me. I have also become a mess of contradictions: while feeling young and invincible (still), I also sense the rapid approach of both cynicism and wisdom that often accompany old(er) age.

I know this year will be one of great change. I’m officially in the latter half of my twenties, I’ll have had 4 years of industry work experience under my belt, and big decisions to make, such as buy or rent when my lease is up (and all the associated implications that would have).

Part of the reason for my internal confusion is because I’ve been blessed with a job that has given me visibility and influence at a scope I couldn’t have begun to imagine as a relative whipper-snapper in the company. It’s been like a lanky kid going through puberty. The physical reality is there, but the mind hasn’t  grasped the entirety of what’s happened. The feeling of invincibility to have almost no fear in meetings, discussing problems and solutions with some seriously smart and senior people, while also beginning to develop the maturity to frame discussions in the right manner to achieve the best outcome. At the same time, ignorance truly can be bliss, and unfortunately, I haven’t had the luck to be spared any detail when it comes to the business or the organization.

It’s also within that context that I’ve seen my work experience drift more towards the strategic, the higher levels. I find myself missing the deep and intimate work on technically challenging problems and seeing it through to the end. In a somewhat idyllic way, I sometimes long for the all nighters in the engineering labs at university, ploughing through the latest calc assignment or FPGA design project. The goals were straightforward and little in the way of convoluted scheming was needed to accomplish them. It’s rarely that simple to do anything these days.

So, it’s with these thoughts that I enter 2014.

Switch

As I trawled my posts from the last few months, I was a bit surprised I hadn’t written about this already. Then, I see a few posts back that I was just on the cusp of “Exciting news incoming in the next week or two!”, then silence. Well, then, that exciting news?

I’ve moved teams (and sort of roles) at Microsoft.

I spent just over 11 months in my first real job, as a feature Program Manager in the Office group. As with any first job, it was an interesting learning experience. Having glided into that role from the prior internship, it was an easy fit. I knew the people, I knew the product, and I was very eager to build my core PM skills.

Compacted and condensed, almost a year later, I emerged from a very different team, without many of those original coworkers, working on an unfamiliar product, and longing for something that fit better with my interest and (minimal) expertise in design and computing hardware. However, without a bit of fate, I’d probably still be there. The person I interviewed with for an internship was now a group manager and had an open position. “Hey Charlie, are you interested?”

Now, I’m a partner-facing Program Manager in the Windows group, working with one of our three ARM silicon partners. My commitment? Ensure Windows has the right engagement with that partner to succeed in delivering Windows on their platform. Scope is almost anything I want to make it, from greasing the engineering cogs by defining an appropriate legal framework, to diving deep into a feature to help resolve technical challenges. As an engineer at heart, it’s stupendously exciting to get to ramp up rapidly on things from security feature set details to how one could address an engineering requirement with a button’s electrical implementation.

And I think it’s that last piece that makes me enjoy the role so much. I have the opportunity to learn and dive deep into nearly any aspect of Windows and the hardware it runs and will run on. As a role with broad scope, I’m surrounded by smart and immensely experienced people, off of whom I’ve been feeding for the past 4 months. I can feel myself bulging at the sames with learnings and growing rapidly. It’s been a crazy time since I’ve joined, with some of the toughest challenges I’ve ever faced. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Back

After an absolutely hectic half year or so, the neglect here should finally be at an end. I’ve missed writing.

Exciting news incoming in the next week or two! I may finally have something worthwhile to write about. 🙂

The Best

A guy, whom I’d not seen since first year, gave a talk today in my Entrepreneurship class about the company he started a year ago. He’s my age and already off doing great things with kik. It was an inspirational talk, and got me thinking about my life goals.

I think this ties back to my rant/rambling on New Years Day 2010. I have this begrudging sense of dissatisfaction. I feel like I’m taking the easy way, the boring way out by accepting a full time position after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time at Microsoft last semester and it is a fantastic place to work. But perhaps that’s the issue? It’s just a job? It’s not living life (however you want to determine what that really means) and doing something I’m super passionate about.

I grew up being at the top of my class, and while there was a setback at the beginning of my university career, I regained the top spot again this past semester. Being the best I can be is a great goal, but there’s also a part of me that simply wants to be the best, full stop. Sounds ultra jealous and perhaps selfish, but I’m competitive. There’s no reason to deny that. It’s part of what defines me and drives me to overcome challenges I’ve faced throughout my life. But there’s always someone better. The other day, I was reading Wikipedia articles on the Ivy League schools and their prestigious alumni. Glancing at the University of Waterloo page only made me feel small, insignificant.

I need to find my own direction. I need to make the best of my situation. Enough with reading about others’ successes. There comes a time when one needs to find their own success and be the best in some other way. All I’ve done is try to emulate others, but that needs to stop. Time to drive.

Goals For a New Decade

I’ve determined that I’m a thinker-drunk. Last night, as I gulped down drinks with close friends in anticipation of the new year and decade, I contemplated my life and the direction it’s taken in the last few years. I’m close to completing my engineering degree, have a full time position waiting for me upon graduation, and will be moving onto the next phase of my life. Things seem pretty good, but they aren’t.

Fulfillment. I believe it’s missing.

I came back to Prince Edward Island for a week during the holidays, and immediately slipped back into the group of friends I went to school with for upwards of 12 years in several cases. These were friendships developed through a near lifetime of classes, competition, hanging out, and numerous other experiences. I put a lot of effort into my personal relationships and was rewarded with a very close group of genuine friends. Short of my parents, I feel like these are the people I can rely on in any emergency.

Back when my life was on Prince Edward Island, I participated in numerous extracurricular activities and derived fulfillment from the caring of others, of friends. I knew that network was worth working for and despite some tough life lessons, those people brought meaning to my life. For the past four years in university, there has been little that I would consider meaningful to that extent.

My parents told me before university that I could have two of three things there: friends, sleep, and a good degree. I scoffed at the thought. I valued friendships so much after my experiences on PEI. I couldn’t imagine not continuing that through university. Now that I’m looking at my last semester at the University of Waterloo, I can conclude that friends and a bit of sleep were dropped from the list. The people I spend the majority of time with in classes simply aren’t the type of people I’ve become accustomed to from my time on PEI. The time and effort needed to strike out to meet more people was spent on work and studies. Despite my dismissal of my parents’ comment, it proved accurate. Perhaps the issue is that I’ve been spoiled by my friends from PEI. I’m not sure you can find that kind of friendship without going through 12 years of common life experiences day in, day out.

For many years, even into my university career, I thought I was going to end up doing something great, something unique. Now with graduation so near and a full time position locked up, I feel like I’m giving up on that and entering the drudgery of the rest of my normal life. This is it? I look to friends in psychology or arts or education and wonder if they won’t be more fulfilled by the paths they’ve chosen. Many still don’t know what they will be doing in 4 or 6 months, but it almost seems like that would be better than plotting out the rest of my life in corporate America. I’ve become so… typical. They’re the ones striking out, ready to do crazy, exciting things. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Microsoft. If I end up taking the offer, I hope I can find meaning in the work I do there. My greatest fear is not that I won’t perform – I am willing to give more than everything I have, as evidenced this last semester – it’s that I will question what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m having these thoughts earlier than most. Chasing promotions and money already seems a bit boring, and, sorry to use the word so many times, meaningless. This past semester, I didn’t have much outside of work to live for, so I lived for work. My friend commented that towards the end of high school, I became much more balanced in my work-life balance, but over the past several years, I’ve slipped back into a work > all mindset. I cannot disagree with his assessment. Back in high school those friends were a big part of my life. I’ve since filled the void with work and study.

My friends hoped I wouldn’t engross myself with work and turn into one of those awkward computer science people. I need to find something that brings me joy and fulfillment in the new decade, outside of my job. This is the decade that will likely shape the rest of my life. I will make difficult decisions in my career and, who knows, perhaps even find that girl that I’ll settle down with.

I’ve always been extremely goal-oriented, so it seems appropriate to set out some measurable ones today. For the 2010’s, my goal is to apply my skills in the computer and business fields to aid NGO’s that I feel strongly about. I will give time in order to be more involved than simply donating financial aid. I will make an effort to meet people through these organizations, and see if I can’t find meaningful relationships outside of Prince Edward Island.

This is the decade I stop emphasizing work over all else and try to find some meaning in my life. Welcome 2010.