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Mid-Year Update |

Mid-Year Update

I just got two notices from Apple. One was letting me know that my blog was back up on Apple News, and then that if I didn’t post anything new, it would get taken down from Apple News.

It was at this moment that I remembered I had a blog. 😅

So, it’s been a while! I hope everyone’s been doing really well. As well as is possible in the circumstances. A lot’s happened this year, hasn’t it.

My last post on this thing was at the start of this year. Back before the craziness started. It feels like I wrote that post in another life at this point. I figured I’d do a quick update on where I’m at and what I’m up to. Things certainly didn’t go the way I had planned this year. Not at all.

If you want a TL;DR: Nothing went to plan this year lol. As such, I didn’t get anywhere as much work on iComics 2 done as I wanted. But things are finally back on track, and I couldn’t be happier. 😀

It’s probably worth a blog post on its own, but long story short, late last year, I received hiring approval by Google to join their Tokyo office as a senior UX engineer of iOS. The concept behind this job sounded amazing, as it wasn’t directly related to any specific Google products, but more involved work with designers and UX researchers to prototype new UI concepts. Given how much I absolutely love simply tinkering with the UI on iOS, this position sounded like an absolute dream. Sadly, I was told I had just missed the cut-off for 2019, so I would need to wait until 2020 when the hiring head-counts for next year were decided.

I had more or less finished up with everything else I wanted to do at my current company at the time, and so I made the decision that I would resign at the end of 2019, and herald in the start of the new decade with a completely clean slate. This also meant I could have some time resetting from that company, and some time to work on iComics 2. Sounded perfect.

And then COVID-19 happened.

For all of January and February, my friends and I in Japan didn’t pay much attention to it. We saw SARS in the early 2000’s and assumed it would play out the same way. We’d hear about it on the news, and not pay it much mind.

And then the Diamond Princess happened. Extremely close to where myself and some friends were working out of Yokohama at the time. And suddenly the virus became very very real.

To Japan’s credit, the people started taking it extremely seriously, before even the government did. Even as early as February, immediately, all of the meetup events I was attending started to hand out free masks and sanitiser. Certain conferences that were already locked in for Feb continued, however all of the social parts were canceled, and they mandated a mask. Starting in March, every conference (including try! Swift Tokyo; one I was personally involved with) was promptly canceled. (At the time, it could have been argued it was premature, but looking back, that was 100% the right call.)

At that point, seeing that the virus had reached my doorstep that quickly, it suddenly became a lot more serious than I had ever expected. And so with the urging of my parents, I made the decision to return to Perth temporarily at the start of March. With Perth being far smaller than Tokyo, I figured it would be a wise move to stop there for a little while, where social distancing is far easier, and I could plan my next moves based on what happened.

It’s probably worth another blog post on its own, but the plane ride home from Japan was very interesting. I had seen Japan was taking COVID-19 extremely seriously for over a month at that point, but when I arrived in Sydney, it was absolutely normal. The sheer differences in the responsiveness by the people between these two countries was astonishing. In any case, when I got home, while it wasn’t mandatory at that time yet, I voluntarily self-isolated for 2 weeks away from my parents. I managed to completely 100% Death Stranding in that time. Worth it. XD

Sadly, right after I finished my quarantine, Australia enacted a travel ban preventing Australians leaving. And then right after that, Japan enacted their own travel ban preventing Australians from entering.

So before I even realised it, I had became stuck in Australia a little longer than I was expecting.

In any case, I brought enough of my tech back from Japan with me to let me continue to work on a lot of cool projects throughout the year.

  1. I helped contribute to osu!framework, including researching and implementing a variety of compatibility fixes for iPhone and iPad.
  2. I laid the groundwork for iComics 2 and managed to start getting specific portions (like the thumbnails engine) working.
  3. I spent a lot of time considering the design of iComics 2. I did a LOT of sketching and several mockups in Photoshop.
  4. I ran several workshops for try! Swift World, and MC’d one of their social hour events.
  5. I produced a blog on behalf some of my SF startup buddies and their crazy awesome new product.
  6. I got back into Destiny 2, and have been having a fantastic time playing on it with my Perth buddies.

Throughout the first half of the year, I kept in regular touch with Google. They told me that the pandemic had indeed affected their hiring headcount for the year, and would let me know more once they knew more.

Sadly, in May, I finally received some terrible news from them. Due to the pandemic and their subsequent economic downturn, the headcount for my role at Google Tokyo was rescinded, basically finalising that my job at Google straight up wasn’t going to happen in 2020. They said they would still keep me on the list in the long term for when the role might potentially come back, but could neither promise when, or even if that would happen.

Obviously it’s hard to overstate how disappointing that was. I had already overcome all of the hardest parts of applying to Google, but then something no one could have anticipated came out of nowhere and completely derailed it. And granted, given how deadly this pandemic has tragically turned out worldwide, if that’s the worst I personally get affected by it, then that’s okay. On the bright side, I’ll always be proud of the fact I managed to make it that far, and I’ve already re-purposed the code I wrote in that code exam for iComics 2. 😀

That all being said though, the fact remained that in the middle of this year, suddenly I was staring down the barrel of having to look for new work in Japan in the middle of a pandemic, remotely from Perth. No pressure at all, right? XD

After a long chat with my parents, the topic of relocating permanently back from Japan to Australia came up. I certainly felt like I hadn’t fully gotten to enjoy my time in Japan just yet, and was hoping to avoid that if possible. But at the same time, given all the current circumstances, performing a “strategic retreat” to Australia to regroup and recharge for a year also didn’t seem so bad either.

So I set myself a deadline. I’d put out the feelers on LinkedIn, and if a position that looked really appealing appeared before mid-September, I’d stay on in Japan. But if that didn’t happen, then at least I could head back to Australia content that I gave it my best shot.

A lot of people have told me they’d never trust finding a job via LinkedIn. But LinkedIn is where I’ve been approached by recruiters from Google, Facebook, Apple and a lot of other high profile companies before. It is the place to be for recruiting on a global scale. It’s a good place, as long as you’re patient. 🙂

I spent most of June, and July talking to many different recruiters, and trying out for a few companies. Sometimes, depending on the company and how far you get, getting rejected can be pretty demoralizing. In one instance, I spent a week building a fully fleshed app as a code challenge, only to have the company respond with “We’ve decided to reject you” with no reason given, and then promptly cutting off all ties. I wasn’t disappointed with that one. More as just really confused as to what I could have done that caused that rejection. 😅

Towards the end, an amazing recruiter named Hiroyuki Komiya reached out to me and said he’d heard there’s a company called Drivemode looking for a senior engineer capable of working in Tokyo. I’d heard of Drivemode previously in the year, and both the role and company looked incredibly appealing to me. The company culture on the website reminded me of my time at Realm in SF, and the fact I had just finished doing a deep dive into Bluetooth for my friend’s blog post meant that my qualifications seemed to line up with what they were looking for in an almost serendipitous way! But I’d been told by another recruiter that Drivemode was probably a no-go since they were really hoping to find someone physically in Tokyo. When I told this to Hiro, he suggested we try anyway, just to see if that really was the case. The worse they could say is “Yes, we’d prefer someone currently in Tokyo”.

But to both of our pleasant surprise, Drivemode was happy to let me start working remotely until I could get back to Tokyo. I had an absolutely amazing chat with all of the execs, and admired the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit they all had in spades. And when I met the CEO, I was amazed to hear we had potentially crossed paths at some of the meetups I attended when I was living in San Francisco in 2017. What a small world!

So after a bit of deliberation, Drivemode made me an offer, and I accepted! I’m starting next week; remotely from Australia at first, but I’ll be heading back to Japan as soon as it becomes possible for me to re-enter. One particular thing I’m really really happy to report: Drivemode was able to confirm that I am allowed to keep working on iComics 2 in my free time, so I won’t have to quit my side projects. I’m super happy about this, since that was always a looming prospect when applying to Google.

This year was certainly one of extreme uncertainty for me. I went from being super excited about all the exciting times ahead in 2020 in January, to having literally no idea what was going to happen beyond May. I’ve certainly learned to appreciate where I came from, and where I’m supposed to be heading this year. But in any case, I’m extremely happy how things turned out and I can’t wait to get back to Tokyo.

So, just to round everything off. I’d like to finish this blog post with a few lessons this year has taught me. I’ll be keeping these in mind moving forward.

  1. Never. Jump. The. Gun. When applying for a new job, until you have a signed letter of offer directly in your hands, you should operate under the assumption that it’s not happening.
  2. Don’t be too disappointed at job rejections. They can happen for any reason behind the scenes, and sometimes you won’t even be told why. If you know yourself that you tried your absolute best (at that time), you can be satisfied with that and move on to the next.
  3. Treat every job application as a chance to learn. Use the code challenges as opportunities to learn or create something new. That way, even if you get rejected, you still learned something.
  4. Never preemptively assume the answer is “no”. I passed on a lot of interesting looking roles on LinkedIn because I thought “Nah, they probably wouldn’t be interested in me.”. It NEVER hurts to simply try. The worst that’ll happen is they’ll actually just say no. 🙂
  5. It’s never a bad move to ask for help. Everyone’s in the same boat, and everyone understands. Just make sure to help pass that help forward in future.
  6. Always have a backup plan. No matter how set in stone something is, it’s certainly a good idea to have something else to fall back on. Because you never know when a pandemic could appear out of no where.

Anyway, thanks for reading! I’ll try and do an update post on iComics 2 next! 🙂