So 2021 was over, a year I believe most of us couldn’t wait to forget. So much time staying under lockdown, so many losses. I can no longer count with my fingers the number of my friends on FB who’s using a black avatar (a symbol of grievances where I come from).

But, sad pandemic stories aside, this year also marks the 10 year anniversary of me working professionally in the graphic design field, and I guess it’s a good time as any to take a look back and see how things have changed, and reminisce about people whom I’ve met along the way, how they helped shaping the man I am today. I will not be censoring company names, as they are publicly available in my resume, as well as my LinkedIn.

2011-2013: the FiM era

So the first company I ever work for (officially), was kind of a bust. Pay was low, the daily commute was long, work was unrewarding. They were liquidated very shortly after I quit, and eventually ghosted me of my insurance benefit, I suspect they committed fraud and didn’t pay the employee insurance they were legally required to, despite deducting it from our salaries every month. I eventually had to have the next company redo my whole insurance book for me because of that. None of that actually surprised me though, having seen the head honcho guy, some real shady mofo who resided in Hong Kong, masquerading as a venture capitalist.

Point is, from a work perspective, it was kinda shit.

But from a personal perspective though, there was…quite a lot to remember. I owe a lot to my former boss, Ms. O. Before FiM, I was unemployed for over half a year, struggling to find my place in the world. When I came back from the States, I deeply regretted the decision to spend the previous 3 years in the States, achieving almost nothing. You know what I did during those years in the States? Half of it was spent indoors playing Counter-Strike: Source with my best friend, some of it was spent busing tables at Thai Son Noodles, serving along side people who couldn’t even read (that’s a true story I’d like to tell some other time), and flipping electronics on eBay, Craigslist and fucking Amazon.

During that time, my peers had moved on to work in banks and financial institutions (which is the natural career path for people with degrees like me), even though who chose a different path had at least attempted something else, something they could put down as real work experience.

Meanwhile, I had nothing in my CV despite having left college for over 3 years, who would take me then?

Ms. O took me in and offered me a place as the in house graphic designer, without even so much as asking for a CV. She heard about me from my sister, having initially tried to recruit her. And for that, I am grateful. I don’t know if she was ever involved with KS’s (the big boss) shady business practice that eventually led to everyone losing their insurance books or not, I think she might at least have some idea, given that she was the second in command, but even if she was, I’d never resent her.

Having said that though, I wouldn’t work for or with her again, not because of what happened with FiM, but because of her skills as a leader/mentor, or more precisely, the lack of it. I can tell she was really passionate about the business, and cared a great deal about building a strong team to back it up. Problem was, she didn’t possess the talent to do so. It wasn’t until I left FiM and met some really inspiring leader that I realized I didn’t learn anything during the 1 year and a half that I was there. At least nothing useful to my profession anyway.

On the personal front however, I made some major milestones during this time period. I got intimate for the first time with a girl from the office (also found out that sleeping nude with another person for a whole night wasn’t as comfortable as what the movies had led us to believe). We never made it all the way though, because we were never each other’s type anyway, it was loneliness and most likely pheromones that draw us together. But thanks to her I became a lot more emotionally mature, something that helped me greatly in later days when I meet the girl whom I would eventually marry. She also worked, albeit very briefly, at FiM. Like 2 weeks or something, but that was enough time for us to click. She was married at the time but unhappily, and I patiently waited. We’re still together now, and I can’t imagine being with anybody but her, I believe it was the most correct choice I’ve made in my life.

Toward the end of this era, FiM was stagnating. My job wasn’t largely unchanged for the last year and a half. Being the only ‘graphic design’ guy in the company, I was tasked with literally everything related to graphic. From website design, logo design for potential clients (sometime provided free of charge as an addon to attract customers), to beautifying presentation decks to account managers, to designing company catalogue. I knew the end was near, but I too, was stagnating in looking for a new job. After all, I didn’t have any experience in that front, FiM was my first job, and the experience I gathered there wasn’t enough to fill a resume page. I was afraid, but eventually pulled the trigger anyway, after many of the old people left.

2014-2018: the Punch Era (DeNA + EVA)

This transition was memorable for me, mainly because there was so many ‘first’ involved.

  • First time switching job.
  • First time experience with a headhunting agency (Harvey Nash, which as fate would have it, would become my next employer).
  • First career path adjustment (from general graphic design to Game UI Design)
  • First time having a real team (by that I mean people who also works in graphic design
  • First time working in an A-class office building (IPH)
  • First time having a foreigner as my direct supervisor (I always wanted a job where my English would be of use)
  • First time being sent to another country on a professional capacity (it was only Singapore, which was like a stone throw away, but still)

I was initially interested in Punch because its wiki entry said it was an American company. It wasn’t until I joined the company that I realized it was bought by DeNA, a rather large Japanese corporation (it was one of the better ones too, as I later found out after Punch got sold yet again).

I had the time of my life at Punch, there was no work-life balance. For the first 2 years or so, work was life, and life was work. The company would provide each employee with around $5 for dinner if they choose to stay at the company after 7pm. ‘$5 for dinner’ may not sound like much (redditards antiworkers would probably lose their mind at the sight of that), but it was actually quite sufficient for an average takeaway meal in Vietnam back in ’14. Considering how most of the young employees actually spend less than $3 for their dinners, coupled with the fact that the company didn’t specify that you have to do company works when they stay the evening, they were pretty much feeding a third of their work force and provide them with an opportunity to have LAN party, doing personal works or just generally horsing around with their friends while all the electricity and AC is paid for.

It was a great time indeed.

It was also during my stay there that I actually know what it’s like to go on a real business trip abroad. DeNA has this policy to send random people that they deem potential to their office in Singapore for…uh to be honest I still don’t know what for. But they’d routinely send people to Singapore for a 3 to 8 weeks period. I was only on my 4th day at Punch when they slapped an airplane ticket on the table and said that I’d be leaving next Monday. It was a culture shock indeed but I ain’t complaining, it was like a free traveling opportunity with all expenses paid for.

It’s not like the days we spent in Singapore was a leisure trip anyway. We were cramped into these super tiny hotel suites that you barely have enough space to put your luggage down. Also I found out the reason why Singaporeans were so much more productive than Vietnamese. I’d usually leave the office

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