6 min read

Work history learnings

It's my 32 year on the planet and I have worked since I turned 18. There were a couple of breaks here and there, but to some of our predecessors the list below looks like a made up thing - I don't think we can expect to live in a world of one profession any longer.

Admittedly before my "choices" were just the winds of change tossing me around, anyways here is the list and some of my backwards thoughts on the experiences.

  1. Warehouse - firs odd job out of high school, three things I learnt there are:- be nice to your subordinates and in general to people around you, I had the pleasure of working with one of the best managers in my life there, someone who tried to marry the business needs with the human needs of the team- dress code is codename for "importance costume" - when we've arrived there with B, still wearing our matriculation exam clothes the people that entered later on mistook us for the people running the interviews, to say we've overdressed is an understatement- even the most mundane jobs can be fun - I've ridden an electric scooter there way before they became popular
  2. Souvenir shop - coming from a city full of tourists, there was no way I could skip working in hospitality! What I've learnt there is that many parents don't teach children financial literacy, it was the first place I've seen people spending 200 like crazy, mind you the average age of customers was ~8. Don't make their mistakes, do teach your kids about the value of a buck, there are so many great resources out there today it's almost criminal not to do it.
  3. All you can eat restaurant - my first bigger fuckup, and where I learnt to take things a little more seriously. I've worked there twice, first time everything was nice and smooth, but the second time I somehow thought that going to the seaside and pretending I was sick was a great idea. If you are about to do the same don't - just be honest and accept that sometimes you can't do everything you want, the sooner you come to terms with this universal truth the better for you.
  4. English teaching - only recently my current profession has surpassed my experience in the edu sector. I absolutely love teaching and working with others (one of my favourite groups were pensioners who each day surprised me with how deep they wanted to go on the subjects - I still remember all sorts of semi-precious metals). I've seen how it works in Poland, England and Finland - and Finnish school model was by far my most favourite. It treated learners as active participants, required them to take responsibility for choices THEY had to make, rather than blame parents for choosing for them, not to mention the metric ton of extracurriculars to choose from! Sharing what you know and helping others grow is one of the most rewarding professions out there, perhaps that is why so many communities don't pay teachers enough.
  5. Den of Imagination - twice again. Initially I was cleaning the mold lines on the miniature models and assembling them for I am the WORST painter in the world. The second time I was helping with the office aspects of the undertaking - preparing quotations, learning about Space Marines and doing a little bit of social media. My first warmer look on capitalism and what you can aspire to within it. My friend runs the company, through which he can help people get back on their feet / go through university and not get into debt. Grassroots to the 42th level - thanks again D. It was also my first insightful look into properly organising processes - virtually anyone can do any job if it's processed properly - when I started I had 0 knowledge of the universes I would be dealing with, but I (hope it's true, but I was never told otherwise) managed to make myself useful very shortly.
  6. 5 star restaurant in London - soul crushing mundanity of Big Cities. Limitless possibilities when you have some buck in your pocket and limitless hours of commute and endless shifts for those who are trying to make ends meet. I initially went there to escape the low wages and my peers who have taken a detour behind the doors of perception, but stayed for a while longer dreaming of running my own indie cinema one day.
  7. Youth Circus School - the turning point for me. A friend has taught me juggling two or three years prior, I've taken the skills a little further and started applying to some offering of the Erasmus programme (if you are in EU you have to check it out, it's not for students only - there is job shadowing and international internships there as well). One of the people I've met there was a hilarious guy who discovered some of his biggest passions - hand balancing, performing and juggling - when he was ~26. He hasn't done sports before, but "WANTED TO LIVE OF HANDSTANDS". Crazy as it sounds he has seen it through. Lesson one is crazy dedication obliterates the obstacles and yields crazy results when paired with hard and regular work.  Lesson two mastery of the mundane is pivotal in almost any professions - do not dare to skip the basics as the gaps in those will make it more difficult to progress later on. I've made crazy progress that year too, it's been six year and I can still do many of the things I learnt there - much of which was thanks to the countless repetitions of the basic moves. Lesson three - it's never too late to start, so don't listen to anyone who tells you it's too late, it's so only if you think so.
  8. Cafes - I've done those part time along with the other stuff. Mostly because I was trying to save as much as I could (ok and partly because I wanted to be a coffee snob like many of the hipsters were at the time), but it turned out some of my treasured friendships started there. Don't ever undermine people working odd jobs, you never know their circumstance - your next waiter could be your lifelong friend. I haven't picked up any useful coffee related skills there though (I can't make a sick cappuccino art anymore).
  9. First job in IT - started around October 2016. The job that has elevated me from the debt into a newly found land of financial stability where I had to work odd jobs no more. This came with a price tag though and a lot of learning. First and foremost - don't be a control freak / avoid micromanagement (I was for a part of my time there), trust your colleagues to do the best job they can. Second - American job mentality is way different than European, but at the same time despite not having holidays on paper if you live well with everyone they will understand you can't be there if it's for good reasons. In hiring - team fit is one of the most important factors, no amount of technical knowledge can compensate for it. The people I've worked with there have been to my wedding (and those who couldn't make it were missed) - let this one speak for how important it is, it's been almost three years since I parted ways with that company but we still keep in touch both professionally and on a personal level.
  10. Trying to freelance - I tried two more ambitious projects with my friends. Both have backfired. For Den of Imagination (yeah the same guys again) I was working on a project management software that I was trying to build from scratch while learning Vue at the same time. I was amazed by how quickly we can create interactive apps now. The mistake I've made was we haven't negotiated the money upfront, meaning when I run out of fuel (I was doing it after hours) I had no incentive to continue and see it through. What is more I could have asked for help and I haven't - I have never made the same mistake again. The second one was a website for a media company my friend run at the time - it wasn't anything difficult, but I failed the deadlines and the delivery mostly because I had too much work at the time and didn't communicate it clearly.Ask for help, ensure incentives are there, don't take more than you can handle / don't be afraid to ask to reschedule or negotiate the deadlines.
  11. Consultancy - what I do now. The biggest takeaway is I want to have influence on the projects I am building. Not a code monkey is something I could tattoo on my neck. My hatred towards micromanagement has never been so strong any time before. Teams I want to be in are led by example not by shouting and delegation. Pushy management styles and artificial deadlines are not business needs - they are delusional and oftentimes sadistic dreams which wouldn't be possible without REMOTE only work. They would be stopped through the sheer power of empathy. Oh and besides - teams where communication is key scale well until a certain cap afterwards it goes downhill with everyone you add to the mix you get an adverse effect on the amount of work done!

Someone whose friendship I treasure a lot once told me "I don't want to be defined by one word, I want to chart my own course" and obvious as it sounds it struck me a lot. Regardless of your circumstance you are under no obligation to follow the beaten path, explore, experiment and have fun. Do the stuff doctors / teachers / parents / adults / coders don't do, make it a point to do it often. The same sentiment resonates through the work of countless scholars, artists and gurus:

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one. - George R.R. Martin

I daresay those who do may not live a thousand lives, but they definitely get a couple and it's hella worth it.