I haven’t been job hunting as actively as I did before I got my new job last year, although I admit, I was still casually looking. I am happy with my current job though. So why, you might be thinking, am I still looking for a job? Partly because I’ve been living in Malaysia for all my life, and I would like to at least work abroad once in my life before I am too old to move about.

But wait, some of my friends might ask; Isn’t my current job a remote job? Well, yes! And doesn’t that mean I can literally work out of anywhere in the world, because I am officially a digital nomad now? True. Unfortunately, my salary is still paid at a Malaysian rate. That means, unless I am a single adult with no commitments (house/car/student loans, family responsibilities), then yes, I can get by in most parts of South-East Asia if I live like a minimum-wage earner. Emphasis on “no commitments”.

So I’ve been casually looking for jobs recently, especially ones in Japan, but as you may have guessed from this post, I have been unsuccessful. Partly because my skin isn’t white (so I couldn’t find an English-teaching job), and partly because South-East Asians are generally regarded as cheap labour (so I couldn’t find a decent programming job that doesn’t pay a junior rate despite my experience and age).

That leads me to my next thought; I’ve attended over a few dozen interviews by now, that I’ve come to realise that I either have to be Really Damn Good, or I’m just no good at all. I managed to secure my current job because my employer tested me on my skills to build an app with React from ground up, and I delivered well. However, of the companies I have interviewed from Japan so far, mostly test my ability to devise algorithms or abuse Javascript’s quirks to perform something unusual (usually involving scoping and rendering flow), which I personally think is Nice To Have but not Necessary To Get The Job Done.

And predictably, I have failed all my interviews because I have been unable to solve problems within the 15-minute window I was allotted to think on my feet. Coupled with my current colleagues’ critiques of my inefficient code (I really appreciate their valuable critique and have slowly learned from), it has made me appreciate that I had been really fortunate to have even gotten my current job. And with the regular critique I received from my smarter colleagues, I tend to second-guess my skills, which makes things worse because I never had much self-confidence in the first place, whether my skills reflect it or not.

I do however, have a positive mindset about myself. Sure, I’m not smart like my colleagues, and I’m quite forgetful, but I have long accepted those as my innate traits. I realised that I learned best when I have a mentor to guide me, and I have not had a mentor since 2009 — because from 2010 onward, I had been working completely self-taught. So I thought, hey, I’m Pretty Damn Good because I’m mostly self-taught and have come pretty far in my career. To top it off, I can read some Chinese and speak Japanese now, and my painting skills have somewhat improved (despite my lack of practice) over the years. How many programmers out there have a skill set like I do?

And I still think that when it comes to professional ethics, I am still the best (self-proclaimed) in terms of proactivity and thoroughness of my code. I’m sure that despite my not-so-clever approach to writing efficient code, I still Ask The Right Questions, and have so far written code that have (I dare say) almost no bugs — compared to my colleagues, who may be smarter, but regularly write code that needs to be fixed again and again because they overlooked some edge cases or forgot to handle exceptions.

Yet, despite such a mentality I developed and carry with me, it is not considered a valuable trait during interviews, and as such, I have been unsuccessful in impressing any of my would-be employers up until now. Nevertheless, I do my best to convince myself that I am worth something, at least to the right people.

In the meantime, I can only hope that my secondary skill (drawing) is valuable enough to generate some decent side-income. Perhaps in my future posts, I will talk more about art and less about programming. Not that it makes much difference, though; This blog has become more of a diary than a technical blog.

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