I mean, fucking 2020, amirite? It was one hell of year, or hellish, might I say. Almost every living creature on this planet was affected one way or the other. Despite all the crazy shits that happened during the year, it wasn’t all bad. I’d like to take a step back and look at things now.

I know, I know, you’re probably asking “Dude, it’s almost March 2021 now, why the hell are you looking back at 2020 now?”

Ok first of all, according to the Lunar calendar, it’s only barely 2 weeks over January now, plus prior to it I had a shit ton of work I need to get done. I don’t even like doing look back posts like this, but something just happened that prompted me.

I got a 2nd raise in a year.

Yay me, right? But that’s not what prompted me to write this blog. No, it’s a negative experience that occurred over half a year ago that just came back to haunt me as my LM mentioned it again during our talk.

I will rant about it in details later but first let’s take a look at what I actually managed to get done in 2020.

Personal Projects (DIY Builds):

  • Planned, purchased equipments and manually setup a complete home surveillance system on my own, complete with remote access on mobile devices. All for under $180 (after I was quoted $500 for the same system from a contractor) . This was prompted by my first break-in ever.
  • Recycled a tin chocolate box into a completely functional computer (which I’m in the process of turning into a Xpenology box)
  • Finished setting my own media streaming server with remote access, learned a lot about networking during the process.
  • Built a new computer (Ryzen 5 3600 + 32GB Neo Trident Z RAM + Galaxy 1070 8GB OC) – with a custom meshed front panel that I created myself.
  • Started work on the Bartop Arcade Cabinet project, hoping to have a working prototype before summer.

Professional Projects (UI/UX Designs):

  • A comprehensive media planning and management software for marketing professionals for a subsidiary of IPG MediaBrands, a giant in the media industry. A massive project which includes multi tenancy, regional reporting, online & offline media scheduling and processing system. This project turned me into a morning person after having to wake up at 6 for conference calls with San Francisco. Unfortunately it was cut short by nCoV, but it was still a pretty interesting case study, which I will definitely do a writeup when I have more time (and clearance for showcasing the works, of course).
  • A learning management system for my wife’s edtech startup: VuiHoc. A super exciting project aimed at K6 students. “Cute” & “Colorful” was never my style but I managed to help getting the company off the ground, and it is now one of the force to be reckoned with in the industry here in Vietnam (probably No. 1 if you count only the bootstrapping startups)
  • A virtual working space for a Japanese corporation, (whose name I am contractually obligated to not reveal until the product goes live). A super rushed project which I completed within a single week, but for some reason it became my most celebrated project of the year. Probably due to its sheer difficulty. The whole thing was done in a single week, designed, prototyped, and documented, in Japanese! (made possible only with Figma’s translation plugins, I will do a writeup on designing multilingual interfaces in Figma later if there’s any interest). With only me and a BrSE to support with translation, we worked around the clock and delivered a super satisfactory end product. The project implemented some very creative gamification approaches that I will document in another post.
  • A car rental service iOS app by a startup funded by Jaguar-Range Rover, whose name I won’t be mentioning since I’m about to rant about them in a sec. It wasn’t a disaster or anything, I’m just a little unhappy about the way they handle things to avoid responsibilities toward the end. Despite that, I still got to meet and work with some amazing people, especially UX specialist like Ruko Kuga, so it’s still a win in my book.
  • A bio sample management system for The Wellcome Sanger Institute, a non-profit British genomics and genetics research institute, part of the Darwin Tree of Life programme.

Now, regarding the car rental project. Here’s an oversimplified version of what happened:

– “Hey Nam, pleasure to meet you!”
– “Thanks for the quick turnover Nam, you’re fast!”
– “Wow! These looks great Nam!”
– “That’s fabulous, Nam. Let’s go with that!”
– “Brilliant! Btw, we’re letting you go today, we already got another designer. Thanksie!”

Yep, just like that, saying I was caught off-guard was somewhat an understatement. To be clear, I wasn’t at all upset that it happened, and more or less saw it coming. Their CTO had been hinting about pressure coming down from upstair for weeks. I wasn’t at all surprised that they’d replace me with a local designer who understands the local car rental market better AND can jump on a call with them during work hours. No, what pissed me off was that they actually cited poor work quality as the reason for this abrupt change.

Now before you roll your eyes, let me just stop you right there. I know I’m not the greatest UI Designer in the world, but I do take great pride in my works, and I am very VERY open to constructive criticism, which I received none in this case. The client literally showered me with praises up until the day I was released from the project. If you ever been in a situation where you don’t know what you did wrong then you’d know how irritating it is. I strive to better myself every single day, and if there’s areas I could improve on, I want to know it, no matter how hard it is. So I pushed further for answers.

And guess what?

It wasn’t even the fucking reason!

Yep, the real reason was a political one. Turns out the new designer works for Jaguar Range Rover, and they wanted him on the team. The client, knowing they’d have to fork over a chunk of dough for the abrupt severance if they couldn’t somehow point the finger at us, so they fabricate some vague reasons for it.

I mean, I wasn’t that mad, their hands were tied after all. My wife also runs a startup and I know the massive pressure they get when the suits start poking their noses in the business. Still, the way they handled it was kind of a dick move, seeing how it could’ve affected my performance assessment at my company (which didn’t happen thankfully, my bosses kind of saw right through it, that’s why I like it here. That’s a life tip right there, only work for people who are smarter than you).

But anyway, it’s all behind now. Tbh I sorta forgot about it already, but it resurfaced once again in my yearly performance review so I had to vent it.


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