Quitting My Job to Find Value and Purpose

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Bill grew up in Canada and moved to Tokyo after graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in computer science. He recently quit his software engineering job at a large Japanese corporation to join the first class of Code Chrysalis.

Hi Bill! So you grew up in China and Canada. What brought you to Japan?

I first came to Japan as an exchange student, and studied at the University of Tokyo. I found Japan to be a very interesting place. It’s different from anywhere else I have lived and that was very rewarding. I learned many new things and gained many new perspectives. When I finished my year of exchange, I thought I wanted to spend a few more years in Japan. I felt there was still more to explore and learn. So I applied for a job in Tokyo and came back after I graduated.

[Japan is] different from anywhere else I have lived and that was very rewarding.

You studied computer science in university — any particular reason why you chose the field?

I just really liked it. I first started coding in middle school (~13 years of age in Canada) and it’s always been my favorite subject. Choosing it as my major for university was a very easy decision.

How did you start coding in middle school?

In 8th grade, we had an information technology class. We used this program called Scratch made by MIT. It was really good for kids and I got hooked. I started building Scratch applications at home.

I got really into coding because of that. I started doing more projects and took computer science courses in high school, too, where I studied mostly Java. Ever since, the interest just kept growing.

Did you have any struggles during your learning process in the 8th grade?

Not really. If anything I would say those were the good old days when programming was just about having fun and building something cool to show your friends.

What were your experiences living and working in Japan?

Living here is great. Japan is very clean, safe, and convenient. I made some good friends here while I was on exchange too, which made coming back easier. Starting work was pretty exciting.

It was my first full-time job — I had not done any internships before. Writing production level code was a different experience from completing university assignments. There was a more standardized procedure to everything. It was the first time for me to work on something I knew a lot of people will be using, which helped me learn how to handle work that carried more responsibility than my own grades.

Was it easy to work for a large company?

It was a bit tough for me actually.

In a large company it’s kind of hard to be personal. You go in the same building with thousands of people but at the end of the day you only know and work with a handful. The rest are basically strangers.

People here seem to prefer email and messaging too, instead of walking up to someone and just have a quick chat, which I’m not very used to.

I want to work in an environment that’s relaxed, where it’s just a bunch of friends building something cool together.

Were there other reasons?

It was also hard for me to feel passionate about my work. There was a rather rigid structure that you have to follow. A lot of time was spent on meetings or dealing with formalities and procedures.

I’m a software engineer, and like all other passionate engineers, I chose this field because I loved building cool projects. I was often frustrated at my job because I knew I could be doing more challenging and interesting tasks but I had to follow a certain procedure.

I was also assigned a lot of maintenance tasks on old projects that were tedious and not fun. On top of that, not everyone at my last company spoke fluent English so that made it even more difficult.

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I was often frustrated at my job because I knew I could be doing more challenging and interesting tasks but I couldn’t because I had to follow a certain procedure.

So why did you choose to attend Code Chrysalis?

Funny story. I was looking for a way out of my previous company and I initially found out about Code Chrysalis when was looking at open job positions on Angel List.

I interviewed for the instructor position at Code Chrysalis, but then Yan [Code Chrysalis CTO] said that she was looking for someone more “senior” so I said, “Why don’t I become a student instead?”

There are many of things I can still learn about computer science and programming. There are a lot of technologies I haven’t touched before that I wanted to try and learn, and Code Chrysalis offered a program that let me do exactly that.

Through talking with Yan, I got an impression of what the atmosphere of the company and school would be like and I was thrilled, because it was the kind of environment I was looking for. The teachers might be your boss, but they are also your friends.

I also liked the Code Chrysalis mission. The mission is for a good cause, something that I believe will really benefit Japan and a lot of people in Japan, both developers and users. I thought about it and decided that I could be passionately involved as a part of this organization, to the point where I just do what I do because I like doing it.

And right now, that’s exactly what I feel. I know what I am learning is meaningful and I can see my technical skills improving. Everyday I’m motivated and excited about what’s to come next so I am certain that this is leading me onto the right path.

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Any concrete dreams right now?

Well, I want to be in an environment where I’m doing something simply because I love doing it and ideally, whatever I do there can benefit other people and generate enough income that I can sustain myself and live comfortably without too much worry about material needs.

Concrete dreams? I would love to be an entrepreneur or work with someone who is and shares the same goals as me.

I want to be autonomous and live intentionally. I want to be at a place where I can be creative, and actively contribute to a cause I believe in, not just passively receive.

A typical job is so cyclical. You are like a function [in coding]. You’re given an input, you do something with it and you give back an output. I want more than that.

Do you have any advice for future Code Chrysalis students?

If you love software, technology, and the industry and you want to learn more, become proficient in what you do, and join the community, this is definitely the place for you.

It’s intense, it’s challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding and satisfying. Every difficulty you face benefits you. Every discomfort you feel pushes you beyond your current level. If you have decided to commit yourself to this course, stick to it until the end and it might just change your life the way it did mine!

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Bill Feng is a current student at Code Chrysalis (CC1). You can reach out to him on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Written on August 3, 2017