Crazy Year

The year 2010, was a crazy year for me. There were so many things that happened this year, that has never happened to me in the three decades prior. So, I felt that I should sum it up in a blog post for posterity. Since this is Christmas eve, it seemed a suitable time for reflection.

Graduation
My graduation day was, without argument, one of the most important days of my life. It was a long time coming. I am really happy to have achieved one of my life goals – to earn a PhD, and earn it I did. I had always known that I will do this at some point in my life. I just wasn’t sure if I would do it early, or at a later stage of my life. I am now glad that I did it early, while I still had the strength and stamina to go through the process. Now that it is done, I can focus on checking off the other items in my list.

There were many lessons learned through the process. Academically, I have become both more of a computer scientist and a physicist than I was before. This is because I had to learn a lot about semiconductor physics, and data-structures and algorithms for my research work. However, the biggest lessons were non-academic.

I like to stress that the PhD is a process. The process has given me the confidence to take on almost any challenge. It has pushed me to the edge of depression and driven me to near madness alone in the dark. It has actually forced me to my limits and I have lived to tell the tale. Some people jokingly call it a Permanent Head Damage, and I now understand why.

Travel
I got to travel quite a bit this year, both domestically and internationally. I finally got to visit Japan – checked off another life goal. It was an eye-opener and inspiration. I think that it was good for me to see how things were like in that country. Now, it is a target that I can aspire to in both my life and business. I think that there are a lot of good things that I took away from Japan, besides the good food and scenery.

The biggest lesson to take away from Japan was customer service. I do not think that there is a country anywhere else in the world, with a higher standard of customer service. I think that if my company has the budget, I will make it mandatory to send my sales staff to Japan just to experience what it is like there – a working holiday might be more easy to justify.

Traveling domestically has opened up my eyes to more beauty in Malaysia. It pains me that our country has so much to offer and is actually a paradise to live in, if not for the few kinks in the system. I would not trade Malaysia for any other place but will instead, try my best to change things from within, in whatever little way that I can, starting with myself and my company.

Recruiters
Now, this was some real crazy shit. There are only about two companies that I am interested to work for in this world, and I got approached by both their recruiters this year, amongst several others – I did not apply for any position with any of them. These companies that approached me are all leading multi-billion dollar multi-nationals in both Silicon Valley and Fen. One of them even came close to offering me a senior position.

Some of these companies are notoriously difficult to get into – they only hire the best engineers and technical people. Unfortunately, things did not work out with any of them due to various vagaries. Even then, this provided a much needed ego boost for me. Even if my previous employer may not have valued me much, I know that I am now in the radar of some major organisations and would unlikely starve. This gave me the confidence to resign.

Another lesson that I took away from all this is that – HR sucks. Therefore, I will structure my company in such a way as to reduce the need for a dedicated HR department. I have already taken away the need to process claims, bonuses, increments, and other forms of remuneration. I have also taken away the need to handle promotions, training and development. I guess that the only function left is hiring and firing. I got rid of those too.

Investors
Having heard that I intend to quit my job and go all out on my own business, I have also received a number of potential investment offers, both domestic and foreign. Without turning these potential investors down, I have highlighted to them that my biggest challenge at the moment is not cash-flow but staffing. I do not need investors as much as I need people who can contribute with technical work. I have lots of projects that I want to work on, but only two hands.

As I have always alluded to, any problem that can be solved with money is not a problem at all. I am in this for the long-haul and am not looking for a quick exit. Therefore, my ideal investor would be someone who can bring in something other than just money. I am looking for value investors, not cash ones. There are plenty of alternative sources for cash – including the local ah long if I am pressed.

However, I would likely accept some of these potential investors in the future, just not now. Picking an investor is a very delicate thing and I would like to take some time to consider things before jumping into bed with multiple partners. I have some ideas on how to grow the business without massive cash injections. There are many examples of successful boot-strapped companies. I am not greedy.

Opportunities
A number of potential business opportunities have also opened up to me this year. I am presently in talks with a number of very different people, everything from SMEs to PLCs, just no MNCs yet. In fact, this is a major factor that affected my decision to resign from my previous employ. I would like to start things on a right footing and decided against moon-lighting even if many others had advised me to do so.

I have worked up a number of proposals this year and while none of them have come to fruition yet, I am still in discussions on some of them. I know that while talk is cheap, and none of it means anything, I am humbled by the fact that some of these people are even talking to me – including people whom I would never have had dreamed of access to before.

Life is full of opportunities. All I need is one. I am not greedy.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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