Looking Back Series – Part I : The Realization


Most actions that we do or pursuits that we carry out in our lives start with a realization. Some thought forms in our hearts and for a while it lingers in our minds and one day it just starts nagging. That’s when you realize you can’t live with the status quo anymore. Things have gotta change – you have gotta change.


And that’s how I felt back in December 2014. Prior to this realization I didn’t really think much about what I wanted in life. I mean sure I wanted a good job, a promising career, a good wife, you know, all the good generic stuff in life. I didn’t really think what I wanted to specifically do in my life.  Coupled with the fact that I just got promoted my world was tinted if anything. I was savouring my moment in the sun – enjoying the hard-earned well deserved compliments from supervisors, peers and not to mention family and friends. My dad and siblings were proud of their youngest son and baby brother.

I remember enjoying those moments. But yet somehow something was adrift. Just a month prior to that I had returned from the US and Canada with my brother and while I had a good time visiting New York City for the first time and enjoying the sights and sounds of the bustling city that NYC had to offer, something wasn’t complete. I had come back from that trip with the resolution to pursue my PhD after giving my first university talk on Pursuing Consulting as a Career at the invite of my professor. We discussed at length on my academic pursuits – afterall he knew I had always the dream to pursue academia since I was an undergraduate under his tutelage – and he encouraged me to seriously consider completing my PhD and the Dean of the Business faculty also encouraged me to pursue my PhD.

And so that’s what I had settled for when I returned home after my visit. The promotion mattered little I guess in that regard because I knew where my next step was going to be. I remember in the days recovering from jetlag I would sit infront of my computer in the wee hours of the morning and research about my top 3 university choices. PhD was it for me.

Along Came Polly

I was not expecting it. At the advice of my uncle who encouraged both my brother and I to seriously consider settling down and try online dating as a viable, I decided to sign up for CatholicMatch. Afterall what did I have to lose in all of this right? In fact I was kicking myself for not considering online dating as an option. I guess it just never occurred to me now when I look back and reflect. In any case I signed up dutifully after the chat with my uncle and after about a month of being on the dating site, on a Friday morning on 24th October I saw that she had seen my profile. As a customary greeting I usually beam a smile back to anyone that views me and so when she responded to my smile, that’s where it all began. We began chatting frequently and my initial impressions of her were that she seemed like a decent and down to earth person. The funny part was that she was a Singaporean in Singapore – did I say Singapore? Yes where my heart got wounded and stabbed – I would now have to go back to the place where my heart once found love and lost it bitterly and find a potential love.

I was not looking forward to it.  And yet given the fact that I was going to be assigned to a nightmare-horrible project for the next 7 months I knew I had to make a move and at least see her in person to assess and decide what I was going to do in the coming months. If things didn’t work out I would have the satisfaction of telling myself at least I tried.

And so, with an anxious heart  I went to see her down south. Anxious because of my past, anxious because of the future and what to expect. But it turns out I had very little to be anxious about. She was lovely and somehow I managed to overcome my Singapore phobia without it affecting me too much. I remember going back that same day (it was a one day trip) thinking that she would be someone definitely worth pursuing and getting to know more in the future.

When Shit hits the fan

In every consultant’s life he or she will stumble upon good projects and not so good projects. In all my 7 years in consulting, I have done 2 crappy projects. This one was one of them. The irony of this particular project is that everyone dreads this project as it has a significant impact to the IT community and the IT systems and infrastructure for the client. The project itself is boring to say the least – a pure technical upgrade – but the impact is magnanimous – just by the sheer volume of impacted people who are involved – around the world. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to be in Singapore and I would have to prepare to work like a madman in coming weeks. And sure enough it did happen in the initial periods of the project.

Was I happy doing it? Well I can’t answer that for sure, but I do know I was prepared for it, if anything. Hence the preparations ahead of time in making my trip down to Singapore.

In the mean time my relationship with her was blooming. I would enjoy listening to her share her stories with me and her daily happenings. For some reason I was drawn to her just by the way she lived – simple, carefree and pursuing her dreams and goals. In that slowly started to dawn on me  :

  • when is the last time I pursued something I wanted?
  • When was the last time I spoke about my dreams?
  • What was even my dream?

And so the journey began. As I progressed with work and with relationship, new truths began to unfold before me. Things that I have never thought of before or were buried in the back of my subconscious mind began to surface out slowly

  • Is this the life I want?
  • What do I want in my personal and professional life?
  • What motivates/excites me?
  • Why can’t I too pursue my dreams? What’s holding me back?

The combination of the shitty project and a fresh relationship gave me the much needed perspective. And as my relationship progressed, I guess I really began thinking more about my career.

The Realization

The realization came when I made a trip down to Singapore during the Chinese New Year break. Work was taking its toll on me and as a result, it was slowly spilling over to my relationship.  The realization came (and it hit me really hard that too) when an issue at work really got me upset and riled up and as a result I couldn’t even look forward to my Singapore trip. That’s when I decided I was not going to focus on work and I put a hard stop (for the first time!) to my focus on work by removing my mobile work email sync. I had made a firm decision that day to not let work interfere with my personal life or determine my mood. She deserved better than that and the least I could do was to give her my attention while I was down with her instead of worrying sick about my work.

The second realization came soon after the first. I had returned back from Singapore and the whole episode of removing my work email account from my smartphone made a profound impact on my life. I finally had to look at my life and ask myself whether I was truly happy with my job and where my career was heading? The short answer to it was no – sure I could go on doing a good job at work and earning the praises and admiration of my clients, supervisors and peers, but just because you are good at something, doesn’t automatically mean you like doing it – and this was further affirmed when one of my senior managers recognized my professionalism that I brought with me to the workplace. While he commendation was supposed to boost my morale and recognize my efforts, it got me thinking on another thought – no wonder I have not complained about work or reflected upon it in detail – I just never allowed my emotions and feelings to have a say about how I feel about work – it was just something I did and I made sure I did it well.

 And suddenly it became clear. I had realized this is not what I wanted to do at the level I was in. I felt I had grown enough in my skills and now was the time to move. I had built enough years in consulting and the promotion to manager was my evidence of my competencies and level. However I knew I couldn’t grow further in my current environment. That too was another realization – I need to grow my leadership skills and I won’t get them here anymore

But what would I do? Where would I go next? PhD? Another job? Another industry? But first, what do I want to do? And so I began to look back and read and reflect in the midst of all my chaos. I began looking at my strengths and realized that I still had a passion and love for Organizational Development and learning. But would there be such a job? No matter, I thought to myself, all I have to do is just do my part and try to look and see what was there. I was ready for The Move.

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