The people I admired, that I wished I had some sort of communication with, felt further from my reach than ever before. This happened when high-school was nearing its end.
My brother was a student of Mapua, and I wanted to go to that same school as him, as a Computer Engineer. My father always tried to push us to become engineers, and I knew Mapua is the go-to institution for aspiring engineers.
I barely passed UP. I did not make it to the cutoff for their Diliman campus. Yes, I did sort of well even though it was around the time that I was goofing around at school, skipping classes from time to time. This was mainly because I was forced to take extra studies at a training/tutoring center named MSA. I did pass for UP Los Baños, based on what my mom said... but she was against the idea of me going to a boarding house. She was sort of very protective, and feared the idea that I would end up in one of those fraternity in UP, and end up destroying my life.
I didn't mind at all on not going to UP. I wanted to go to Mapua just as my brother had.
Unfortunately though, my father couldn't afford us both going to Mapua at the same time. The tuition wasn't exactly cheap. That, and add up the fact that I almost got expelled at high-school earned me a ticket of not going to ANY decent university.
They enrolled me on a technical school... Technical, as in vocational. My brother is at Mapua, and me, I'm going to take a 2 year course. I wanted to be an engineer, and I was thrown into a vocational course.
I dropped out of that institution after 3 months. I didn't take it seriously. I didn't like it. I hated it. I felt like they did not support or did not even care. I felt like a left-over.
All my classmates from IMC went to decent universities/colleges. I was envious.
After dropping out of school, my father got a mild stroke while in Dubai. His stroke struck while he was driving, which ended up in an accident.
He survived. But his health never came back. He eventually was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a sickness he carries with him until this day.
The financial situation we had back then (ie. only being able to send my brother to Mapua) became a lot more dire with my father's stroke, and eventual diagnosis with Parkinson's. Even as an immature kid going through puberty, I was forced to see the reality of life. I cannot whine about how unfairly I thought I was treated. Looking back at those days, I was pretty much the spoiled brat that I would love to give a beating or two.
I eventually took a vocational course. I was consistently the most outstanding student there, got multiple awards and won programming competitions. I even started my freelancing career by doing other student's thesis projects (even for students from different schools), which I admit is a shady practice, but I didn't mind back then because the money was good.
My parents' financial situation never recovered even after I graduated from the vocational course. I realized that I have to work on my own to fund my education.
Into the workforce
My internship was great, to say the least. I worked with dotPH, the domain provider for the Philippines' ccTLD. I garnered experience there, and the skills I picked up are skills that I still use to this day.
As how great my internship was, the opposite could be said for my first job. My first job I got was as a graphics designer with a minimum provincial rate of less than 8 thousand pesos a month. I really had a hard time looking for a job, as I was competing with people with bachelor degrees.
People like me who graduated from vocational courses would usually end up working in the call center agency. That isn't a bad thing, but the schedule wasn't ideal. I still wanted to work on an IT related field, and graphics designing was the closest I could get.
I lasted for 3 months there, due to another opportunity: Fujitsu. I had the opportunity to work as a source code analyst for C language-based embedded systems. I was stoked. Obviously, they took advantage of the fact that I did not have any bachelors degree, and I was only offered a mere 8 thousand pesos a month... For a job at Ortigas Center.
I was worried if I could feed myself in Ortigas with such a low salary, but I still preferred a work that is very close to programming. I still have a scanned copy of my first payslip, a salary of less than 4000 pesos (4000 pesos minus taxes and benefits) for the first 15 days. I look back into days with amusement as to how I survived with such a low salary, having to go commute and work in an area where cheap food wasn't readily available.
I climbed the ladder in Fujitsu, eventually earning up a decent paycheck, and being sent to Japan multiple times with additional allowance (allowance that was considerably higher than my monthly paycheck). I was regularly promoted every year in Fujitsu, until I decided to pack my bag and leave to work for SplitmediaLabs, the makers of XSplit.
Working with SplitmediaLabs, and beyond
I'd say that the most exciting part of my career was with SplitmediaLabs. I have a complete blog post about my stay at SplitmediaLabs, on how much I learned while working with them, and the opportunities they offered me. I was able to go to the US for an actual presentation to the public (Twitch Convention) about a public project that I pioneered.
If there is anything that I would be proud of, it would be my work experience in this company.
It was also this time that I was able to buy my own car. I was 22 years old when I got my first car, without my parents help. I even had to shell out money to fix up the garage in my parents house. All this was done while I was giving money to my parents monthly, due to my Father's health. My father had to retire early, and had to spend a lot for his health maintenance... not to mention that my brother didn't fare well after college, which made me the breadwinner of the family.
Looking back, I could say that I did struggle a lot, and honestly had multiple times that I felt that I had the whole world in my shoulder. I'm not even 25, and I'm supporting my family, who had no other source of income. They did some bad investments, and thus wasn't able to get any other source of income other than me and my father's pension.
Was I ever depressed? Yeah, from time to time, I just thought of giving it all up. I did not feel any support from my family, I felt that they weren't even trying. The only thing that kept me going was my father. I owe it all to my father. He never gave up on me even though I goofed around. Yes, he wasn't able to send me to the university that I wanted to go, but he still financially supported me when I went to a vocational school even after he got a stroke.
If I didn't even get a vocational degree, I would most likely not be able to get the job that I have today due to the fact that I have to compete with people with actual bachelors degrees.
So yeah, at 22 I got my first car. At 25, I bought my first house. I also got married at 25 years old to a girl that I met in Fujitsu. She's a Computer Engineer, a course that I wanted to take back when I was at IMC looking forward to studying in Mapua. She's great at math, she's smart, career oriented, and an independent individual. She's strong, she is assertive. It's something that is unique for a girl, and I love it that I married her when I was 25 years old.
I was 26 when I got my first 6 digits salary. I was 27 when I started to donate to charity every month (UNICEF and SOS), which I do even up to this day.
I am 28 today, and I'm collaborating with a former colleague to setup our own startup while still working as a remote senior software developer.
I am honestly happy with my journey so far. As of now, I have my own baby daughter, and I feel like my whole world is starting to revolve around her... and my wife, obviously.
Life isn't a race. We shouldn't compare it with other people's journey.
But life shouldn't be stagnant either. I am happy that even though there were plenty of bumps along the way, my life is still pushing through forward, with 2 other people traveling along with me, in our own pace.
Although there were some missed chances in the past, events that I would lie if I said: "I would never wish that it went differently", I am still happy that we were able to stay on the course. We cannot turn back time, and as cliché as it may sound, learning from the past is the only thing we can do with the past. We should focus on the now, and the future, applying what we've learned from the past, and steadying the ship as we go.