Working across companies, I have handled numerous projects. Some bear large fruits, while some were swept away.

It all brought up a big number of experiences with it, and at my current level of expertise I’d like to document them. After all, there’s a chance this might slip from our mind far in the future.

It is worth to mention, these are my experiences. I’m moulded with a different shape than yours, but hopefully you can learn something from it.

In general, this blog will be broken down into several parts:

  1. Junior tasked with a…task
  2. Upping the game with project

As a junior

This was my experience several years ago.

When I started my career, I was eager to sharpen my skills. I have a good amount of technical knowledge to start an engine, I’ve just graduated, but there’s one thing that I lacked: direction.

Give me task -> develop -> iterate.

That’s what our education taught us. Learn, and then get ready for exam and it’ll decide whether you pass or not.

(Throw that out of the window, career is much more…testing.)

On my first ever professional career footstep, I’ve already tasked with migrating legacy PHP codebase into a framework. Reading old PHP code, and migrating them into Laravel. Not only that, I was implementing proper code implementation to ensure it is maintainable (SOLID, OOP and the gang).

During that period, I’m interacting heavily with my seniors asking for guidance.

Each sprint/week, I am eagerly waiting for tasks from my manager or seniors so that I could implement what I’ve learned into the projects.

I was hungry to write code. If there was a graph, perhaps I’m at the top of the graph, only to be met with the depressing steep hill downwards.

In this stage: Project = something assigned to me as, coding task.

That was it. I was lacking initiative.

And even if there’s initiative from me, it’s usually more harmful to the company and has less benefit (read: unnecessary refactoring, overcomplicating stuff, showing off coding skills with unreadable code and etc). Having a good senior in the team will help you to filter what’s good and not, so you should be in a safe hand.

As a junior, I was waiting for guidance and appraisal from my team. After all, I want to know how much I have improved.

It’s like waiting to know how I did on an exam, did I get an A+ or B-?

When things didn’t go as planned, I would get nervous and chaotic. If I break production, I would get so stressed for days and weeks.

I needed guidance.

But the more experienced you get, the mindset will change and mature.

Upping the game

While that was a good start, I’ve always known I’m lacking something. It’s gotten stale quite quickly and I, again, asked for feedbacks from my senior and managers, a lot.

Upon reviews, guidance, mentorship and more, I’ve started to grasp a bit.

”Embrace the unkown.”

Not only that, you have to be able to navigate the unknown as well.

Consider it like this:

As a junior, you were tasked with going from point A to B, by car, and arrive by 10AM.

It is usually detailed (in a good way) to help you with your task and deter you from deviating away from main goals.

But life is not always like that. Instead of taking yourself from A to B, you now have to carry a group of colleagues to a diner after work in a country you’ve never been to before.

There are A LOT of things that can go wrong.

Diner closed. Rainy day. Global wide flu. Accidents. Riots. Whatever.

These are all unkowns.

But when it goes right, it’s a dopamine!

So…where is this going?

Taking back to our project handling, what does it mean to me personally? How can I grow?

I accepted the fact, there won’t be much “hand holding” anymore.

I have to do things on my own, to help the business.

I have to start discovering on my own. Exploring. Experimenting.

  • I need to properly understand the requirement
  • I need to figure out who to reach out to
  • I need to know when to reach out
  • I need to find what are the endgame
  • I need to know how to “evalute” whether its a success or not.
  • I need to know what happened after we “reached the destination”.
  • …and many more!

There’s a lot of “I”, as I am now taking ownership of the whole things. I need to be responsible for the whole process and journey.

And the best part is; there should not be any ‘guesswork’. You have to provide proof, datas, experiments, metrics. All of it, as best as you can.

You also now have to minggle with human as well across different team and domains; and human varies with emotions, communication and expertise.

Project handling are not just “accepting-task-and-code-and-done”.

It’s an art.

An art of survival.

An art of holding the helm.

An art to manage and navigate a project from the unknown to its’ best shape.

If I can summarise what are my next goal, it’ll be to continue embracing unknowns and navigating within it, as best as I can.

What that means is, if I were to sail on a ship into the unknown, I need as much data and experiment as I can to thread the dangerous water (map, star navigation, weather reading, food and survival preparation, team briefing etc).

We can’t prepare 100%, but coming prepared is better than nothing.

It increases the odd of success. One day you’ll come back to the shore, with great stories to tell.

Some fun take

Traveling across the globe is a big unknown for me. I’m taking with me my wife and my cat, away from our hometown towards Germany.

This is not a small feat.

I’ve traveled from West Malaysia to East Malaysia (where my wife is) across the great sea, and that was already a scary feat.

But nevertheless, we did it. We truly did.

There was nothing to brag, as this test and difficulties are not something I wish others to face, just imagine having your loved one passed away without you being near them.

But that’s life. Handling project are also part of it.

You must reach from A to B; but to ensure that you reach, and how you do that? It’s up to you.

No one’s going to hold my hand.

Sure some shared their experiences that we can learn, like me writing my experience to you now.

But ultimately, I have to take my own initiative.

Take initiative. Get things done.

Start sailing. Prepare as best as you can.

Don’t worry, you’ll meet great people and experience along the way!


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