It was 2019 when I moved out of my home, packed my bags, and took the plane ticket from the Philippines to Singapore to work as a product designer in a decacorn startup.
It was a dream come true.
I can still remember gazing at Singapore from the skies above as we landed at its airport. I remember myself beaming with a smile as I walked past the immigration, knowing that this is real. I’m in! And I won’t forget that first day at work, where I came 5 minutes late for I got lost in the streets of Singapore’s CBD 😂
Those were the exciting and glorious days.
But things changed when June 2020 came.
The company has to go retrenchment due to a pandemic.
I was part of it.
When I received the email, I felt the world just crumbled down before me. The reason that brought me here will also be the reason for me to leave. And so the thoughts of “should I just go back to my country? maybe this isn’t it for me?” came into my mind. Maybe, I’m just not really for this. I’m not good enough.
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.— Michael Jordan
But I have to climb the wall, and so I started applying and preparing myself for possible interviews, as my days to stay in Singapore as a tourist is flying fast. And since I’ve worked in a decacorn startup, I had this mindset that I deserve to be in the same environment, or at least, in a product company that is well known in Singapore, SEA, or across the globe. I got a few interviews from these companies, but it always turns out to be a.) I didn’t get through the final round or b.) I got through the final round but they didn’t come back.
All hope was lost, as I see the expiration of my visa coming to an end and I still got no job. Until a small 5-man team startup opened up and accepted me. But even though I got the job security, I still had the thoughts of “why am I here? shouldn’t I be in the big leagues?”.
I was full of pride and arrogance back then. I felt, why do I have to be in square one if I’ve already achieved the big ones? But then the Lord made me realize why it all happened, and the life lesson He’s teaching me — it’s not about getting into the big leagues. It is being contented.
As a product designer working in a competitive environment, I had the idea of what success should look like, and it is getting into companies like FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) or companies similar or close to them. And when I got into a company similar to theirs, it feels so f*ckin great! You know the feeling when someone asks you about something, and you know that once you give them your answer, they’ll be surprised and praise you? That’s what I felt every time my friends asks me “where do you work?” and I’ll drop the name and I’ll see them surprised. But even before they react, I already know what their reaction would be and I would be like, yea I know 🤷🏻♀️
Was I contented during those times? No, I wasn’t. My goal was to stay, get promoted, and move to a bigger company. And I realized, if I get to achieve that, then what’s next?
I remember this episode in Soul, where Joe Gardner asked Dorothea Williams what’s next after their first gig:
That season of my life taught me what success is as a product designer, and that is to be in the present, living each day, and being contented. I’m now working in a 7-man team startup (we’ve grown by 2!) where I’m the only designer. The people are amazing and a week doesn’t pass by without having good laughs and great conversations. The product is still small and only has less than a thousand users on a monthly basis.
Yes, I don’t get the chance to work with 3–5 product managers and 20 engineers at the same time.
Yes, I don’t get to collaborate and share my ideas with 20+ designers to see if I’m doing it right or I’m doing a stupid one.
And yes, I wasn’t designing and making an impact for hundreds and millions of users.
But now, I’m more at peace and happy. I don’t need millions of users to say that my design has helped them (well, def that would be awesome!) But, what matters to me now is, as long as I’m making an impact for one human being, just one, then I know I’m successful. I’m contented.
And maybe, I’m not for the big leagues but I’m for making one 😉
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
― Lao Tzu
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