Five days ago I returned to an employer sixteen months after leaving for a technology start-up in Tokyo. Typically the first week at a job is considered thesettling down period, where co-workers settle down with a new recruit, and the new recruit scrambles to learn the ropes of the organization. In my case, however, this settling down period has been a reminder of the final months I had with this particular organization early last year. While this was not unexpected, I am completely taken aback by the amount of knowledge that seems to rest dangerously in a handful of people's brains.
Several of the tasks that I was asked to do this week required that I dust off what should have been forgotten knowledge regarding the organization's myriad of confusing Excel files and internal reporting tools. Oddly enough, the brain freeze was very short lived. Within five minutes I was up and running as though I'd never left the company. Nobody could give me a refresher course, though ... I had to re-learn on my own because very few people actually know how these reports are made. Odder still is the reaction people had when I handed back the paper records and reported that all of the digital work was done; they were shocked.
Thanks for the vote of confidence! But, wait ... why so surprised? Oh ... the other people who are responsible for this task take twice as long? Well ... not everybody can type as fast or keep numbers in their head the same way I can. Oh ... they don't do the reports accurately, either? Well ... being a language instructor isn't exactly a walk in the park for most people. Oh ... making the reports is being used as an excuse to milk the company for more money and stay out of the classroom? Well ... the company could have agreed to the software proposals I pitched seven times between 2007 and 2010 and eliminated the need for humans to make these reports at all ...
Less than a week has passed and I'm beginning to see what the next few years has in store for me, and it doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to do with helping people with their language skills1.
I Came To the Fork In the Road and Went Straight
Over the last fifteen years I've done quite a bit of freelance work while also putting in the effort with a full-time employer. This is going to stop. It's time to break out on my own and use my whole ass2 to get a software company off the ground here in Japan. A business plan is in the midst of being developed. The first three clients are already lined up, one of which has signed a contract for work to be done. Other projects are coming together, namely with the wife's online revenue goals and streams. Why beat around the bush?
There is a wealth of work available for the people who want it, and I've long defined myself as a solutions provider. I find areas of inefficiency, learn the processes involved, ask people what they hate, and provide the means to reduce the inefficiency or outright eliminate the time sink. This is what I do. This is what I'm damned good at. Not every problem needs technology, either ... which is something that many people I've worked with over the years would have trouble parsing.
Carving the Path
A great deal of brainpower has been used this past week to find out what it is that I really want to do with my life. Next April I turn 33 and, while I'm not old by any stretch of the imagination, I am looking for more of a challenge. Something I can really sink my teeth into and devour. Being an entrepreneur in Japan is something I think that would keep me more than busy for the next few years.
In the next few years I have a number of goals, one of which involves hiring my first (non-family) employee before 2013. I have no intentions of seeking venture capital, as these people typically get in the way more often than not. The first few projects will be done by the end of this year and, so long as I pitch the projects just right, there will be years of solid work waiting for a small team of problem solvers.
Thanks for the push3, Mr. Jobs.
- I will still help people with their language skills, but this will not be my primary source of income
- what's left of it, anyway
- "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." -- Steve Jobs